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Healthy Soils Action Plan: Updates

Healthy Soils Action Plan: Updates

We’re a few months into the planning process for the Massachusetts Healthy Soils Action Plan and wanted to give an update on the work so far. For more background on this initiative, check out an earlier blog post here.

Assembling a Work Group

One of our first tasks, with the help of the The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA), was to assemble a Healthy Soils Action Plan (HSAP) Work Group, comprised of people working in agriculture, forestry, wetland and soil sciences, academia, advocacy, and conservation.

At our kickoff meeting in May, we developed a shared understanding of healthy soils, discussed soils based on broad land use types, and introduced our initial thinking on a soils assessment framework. Eric Toensmeier, an advisor on our project team offered a global perspective on nature-based solutions for carbon sequestration, and what that means for Massachusetts. Dr. Kristen DeAngelis, of UMASS, gave a regional perspective, reporting on her research on experimental warming on forest soils in the state. Together, the presentations summed up the complexity, challenges, and urgency of conserving and enhancing soils in a time of climate change.

This summer we’ve held two additional work group meetings that, in addition to further clarifying the purpose, audience, roles, and deliverables of this process, have laid the groundwork for final recommendations. One dug into healthy soils policy, programs, and legislation (the Healthy Soils Bill {H.3713}, currently in Ways and Means, was instrumental in spurring the RFP process for a Healthy Soils Action Plan). The other covered defining actions for supporting healthy soils based on land type.

 

Listening Sessions

We’ll be taking a break from in-person Work Group meetings throughout the Fall and Winter, to focus on Listening Sessions. The main goal for these sessions is to hear from key stakeholder groups about issues around soil health related to their sector. With help from the Work Group, we’ll review takeaways, finalize key issues, and develop feasible actions. We held our first test-run listening session at the NOFA Country Fair this summer, where a good-sized crowd of farmers, home gardeners, and soil advocates assembled to offer their experience and insights.

We’ll aim to periodically update you on this process over the next several months. Meetings will also be posted on EOEEA’s website and be disseminated through social media, listservs, and the NOFA/Mass newsletter.

Questions about the planning process and timeline can be sent to Genevieve Lawlor, RDG Associate Designer and Outreach Coordinator, at genevieve@rdgland.com

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