February 23, 2013
The Massachusetts Forest and Park Friends Network
Principles of Operation
The Massachusetts Forest and Park Friends Network serves as a resource to help strengthen friends groups to better protect and enhance Massachusetts’ state forests and parks.
A friends group:
Represents the interests of all legal visitors to respective forest or park properties under the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation
Friends groups form to preserve and protect our forests and parks while helping to promote sustainable recreational use
Friends groups work to build a core of volunteers who donate their time and expertise to enriching our forests and parks and enhancing the experience of sanctioned visitors
Effective stewardship of public forests and parks requires cooperation and the combined efforts of many individuals, organizations and state agencies.
Friends groups play an important role in stewardship because they focus on a particular forest or park, which the members of the group know well and love. However, organizing and building a friends group can be challenging.
Each forest and park is unique with its own set of user groups and it own set of issues. But much can be learned from the shared experience of friends groups and others that can make the job easier, more efficient and more effective.
By sharing information, helping one another, and working together on statewide issues of concern we can grow our membership and increase our potential to help protect our forests and parks, insuring that these lands will remain wonderful places to visit for generations.
What will the Friends Network do?
1. Support Friends Groups
The Friends Network will:
- Maintain the Friends Network web site (www.networkingfriends.net)
- Help friends groups get started and help existing groups expand their reach to build capacity
- Facilitate sharing of ideas between friends groups on such topics as building membership, setting up a non profit, creating programs, beginning projects, finding speakers and making the right contacts
- Share information about programs, grant programs and other available resources
- Inform friends groups on issues of interest or concern through e-mail, the Friends Network web site, and an online discussion forum
- Foster discussion on issues of interest or concern through e-mail, the Friends Network web site, an online discussion forum or meetings
- Facilitate communication between the Friends Network and environmental agency leaders, the press, municipal and state legislators, and officials
- Coordinate with friends groups to increase friends groups’ representation at statewide events, such as, Volunteer Expo, Mass Outdoor expo, etc., and give feedback to groups unable to attend
- Coordinate with friends groups for representation at DCR Stewardship Council meetings and State House hearings
2. Cooperate with Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR)
The Friends Network will:
- Facilitate communication between DCR and friends groups
- Partner with DCR to carry out public programs and conferences
- Help DCR build volunteer programs and advertise public programs
- Help DCR raise funds for forests and parks
- Advocate for balanced state and urban forests and parks funding across the Commonwealth
- Support DCR budget and funding requests, advocate for sustainable funding of forests and parks at local and regional levels—be a voice for the agency
- Acknowledge DCR policies and programs which foster good stewardship
- Work to insure that Friend’s groups are represented on ad hoc DCR committees which involve concerns of friends groups
3. Strengthen friends groups advocacy
The Friends Network will:
- Foster communication among friends groups and other advocates on behalf of our forests and parks
- Collaborate with friends groups to identify issues affecting Massachusetts’ forests and parks
- Issue alerts regarding friends groups’ concerns through the Friends Network
- Work with friends groups to develop positions on matters of mutual concern
- Provide information for effective action on statewide issues whether its writing a letter of thanks or confronting an issue of concern
- Circulate written public statements or documents carrying the names of individuals and organizations in agreement with the position
- Advocate for adequate funding for Massachusetts’ forests and parks and the Department of Conservation and Recreation
- Promote programs that encourage Massachusetts residents become stronger stewards of public lands
The Friends Network will never attempt to direct the activities or actions of any individual or friends group. The Friends Network exists only to facilitate the effectiveness of friends groups’ efforts for the betterment of Massachusetts’ forests and parks.
How will the Friends Network be organized?
The Friends Network is an informal communication network and has a non-incorporated structure.
Initially, the five-member facilitator team will oversee the start up of Friends Network. The facilitator team will:
- Identify established friends groups and DCR properties lacking friends support
- Invite friends groups’ leaders, friends groups’ members and other interested parties to join the Friends Network
- Identify advisors and resources pertinent to friends groups
- Set up a web site
- Promote the Friends Network
- Carry out the Friend’s Network mission
Within a year the Friends Network will convene a meeting of its members. At the first meeting, members will confirm the final configuration of the facilitator team. Annually thereafter, representatives of friends groups will elect a new facilitator team within the twelfth month anniversary of the initial facilitator team being confirmed. Members identified as representatives of friends groups will have one vote.
The five-member facilitator team will designate a Director and a Secretary.
How does networking work?
The facilitator team will create an e-mail list to receive and disperse information through the Friends Network. The Friends Network will also use the web site (www.networkingfriends.net) to disseminate information. The facilitator team will determine what information and issues the Friends Network will distribute to its members.
Members and others may submit issues of interest or concern to the facilitator team for consideration for network posting and/or action.
Each person receiving information through the Friends Network will decide what information to pass along to other individuals or to members of their friends group.
The Friends Network will work with member groups to develop positions on issues of concern. After careful consideration and with the acknowledged support of individual groups, the Friends Network will issue alerts as needed.
Based upon input from Friends Network members, DCR, other individuals or groups and its own research, the Network facilitator team may from time to time develop positions that come under the Friends Network’s “key issues” designation (see “key issues” below). The facilitator team may occasionally create statements on key issues to distribute to Friends Network member groups or parties of interest for their consideration and possible support. Any and all Friends Network public statements on key issues will denote members and/or group agreement in particular and will not necessarily represent the Friends Network in general.
Any written public documents generated by the Friends Network regarding individual issues will carry only the names of those individuals and organizations that have agreed to support the position.
Key issues are those that involve the integrity of our state park system, the experience of legal users, and protecting and preserving the environment and wildlife, including but not limited to:
- Enforcement of park regulations
- Funding for public forests and parks
- Forest and Park management
- Preservation (land and historical)
- Sustainable use
- Threats to the integrity of public forests, parks, and parkways
The facilitator team will decide if an issue fits into one or more of the above categories and whether or not the issue is relevant to friends groups statewide. When appropriate, the facilitator team will e-mail information through the network, post selected items on the friends Network web site, organize an action team, do what we can to raise awareness and find a solution.
The Massachusetts Forest and Park Friends Network is open to friends groups as described above; i.e., a group formed to support a particular DCR property.
Friends Network membership is achieved by a friends group designating a representative to serve as the liaison between the friends group and the Friends Network. The representative will supply an e-mail address to the Friends Network and agree to receive e-mail information from the Network. The representative will control what information to share with his or her friends group.
All e-mail addresses and all communications received from Friends Network members, DCR staff, and other groups or organizations will be held confidential within the facilitator team. No information will be shared beyond the facilitator team without prior permission granted to the facilitator team by the Friends Network member, DCR staff or any other party sending communication.
All members will have one vote on any issue that arises.
A member may withdraw from the Friends Network at any time by requesting that their e-mail information be deleted from the Friends Network database.
Introduce the Friends Network
Meet with DCR and potential partners
Create a Friends Network web site, to include:
- Identify resources for friends groups
- Provide information for beginning a friends group
- List forests and parks in need of friends
- Develop a "Current Issues" page
- Set up an online discussion forum with a member password protected section
- Submit "action issues" to friends groups when needed
- Link to friends group members, DCR agencies and partnering organizations
Create a grassroots effort to educate the public about the legal use of off highway vehicles (OHV) and help curtail illegal OHV use in Massachusetts (release before the start of the OHV season 2008)
Encourage and help, if possible, DCR develop current Resource Management Plans for all forests and parks, including Forest Management Plans
Monitor the Blue Hills—Lantana MEPA Environmental Impact Review process
Provide information about the Massachusetts Public Lands Protection Act (PLPA)
Help friends groups understand and monitor Green Certification
Initiate discussion regarding proposal to create a special license plate for benefit of State parks and forests
Join DCR in encouraging friends groups to honor the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) legacy during the 75th anniversary year of the founding of the CCC and beyond.