Saying Goodbye to a Friend of Us All

Special note: the image above, in our Gaining Ground banner, of my then-six year old daughter Lindsey, was taken at Sacred Hearts Healing Center on Great Neck.  


Father Stan Kolasa

Father Stan Kolasa

Special people leave a lasting impression.  That was certainly the case a decade ago, when I had the great pleasure to meet Father Stan Kolasa – the dedicated Vicar Provincial for the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts – owners of 120 acres of beautiful, and ecologically important, land on Great Neck in Wareham.  The property had been used for decades as a Healing Center – a place where cancer survivors, substance abusers, and those who had experienced domestic violence firsthand could be rejuvenated by the healing powers of the spectacular coastal landscape.

Up until that point in time, land conservation interests – both private and public – had relatively little interaction with religious entities owning important land in Massachusetts – or elsewhere, for that matter.  So after an introduction by longtime conservation partner, Mark Rasmussen of the Coalition for Buzzards Bay, Stan and I knew that we were breaking new ground for others to follow in the years ahead.

Statue of Saint Damien at Sacred Hearts

Statue of Saint Damien at Sacred Hearts

We each did a lot of talking, and a lot of careful listening.  I learned that the Congregation of  Sacred Hearts was part of a global entity, delivering their mission to far reaches of this planet. Similarly, I learned that the sale of the entire property at Great Neck for top dollar for the funds it would yield was being considered by Sacred Hearts simultaneous with our “conservation conversation”.

As we talked, and built important and lasting trust between us, it became very clear that there was considerable common ground under our feet – likely more than either of us realized going into it.  Stan spoke eloquently about the importance of “preserving God’s creation”, and I would profess the importance of “protecting biological diversity” as an unintended echo back to him.  The language we each used was clearly different, but the realization of shared values was powerful – and highly motivating.

Father Stan (with former Mass Audubon President, Laura Johnson immediately to the right, at Great Neck Wildlife Sanctuary Sanctuary ribbon cutting.

Father Stan (with former Mass Audubon President, Laura Johnson immediately to the right, at Great Neck Wildlife Sanctuary Sanctuary ribbon cutting.

When the fate of the property was determined at a large gathering of decision-makers within Sacred Hearts some months later, conservation prevailed.  Stan no doubt played a key role in the deliberations leading to that favorable outcome.  Sacred Hearts’ property at Great Neck, abutting existing Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuary land on two sides, was legally protected with Stan Kolasa playing an absolutely central role.  The plants and animals that thrive there, and all of us, owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude.



Father Stanley J. Kolasa died on Friday, December 2nd following an heroic bout with cancer.  Please remember him as you walk the trails at the beautiful Great Neck Wildlife Sanctuary.   

Most of the Sacred Hearts property was protected through the acquisition of a permanent Conservation Restriction. In total, nearly 300 acres was protected at Great Neck, in a successful partnership involving Mass Audubon, the Wareham Land Trust, the state Department of Conservation & Recreation, the Town of Wareham, MA CZM, NOAA, and the generosity of many conservation-minded neighbors, several of whom conserved their own land at that time.    

A Successful Volunteer Clean-Up Day

By Nick Rossi, Conservation Restriction Stewardship Specialist

In Land Conservation, protecting a piece of land is often just the first step.

On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, well over 30 volunteers came out to help clean-up old debris and trash on the Handy Street Conservation area in Attleboro, MA.  The Attleboro Conservation Commission ran the event in a collaborative effort with the Mass Audubon and the Attleboro Land Trust.garbage-pile







The Handy Street Conservation Area was protected last year in close
cooperation with Mass Audubon, the Attleboro Land Trust, and the City of Attleboro. The land is owned by the City of Attleboro, but directly connects to Mass Audubon’s Attleboro Springs Wildlife Sanctuary.


Less than two miles from Downtown Attleboro, this ecologically rich property with winding streams and numerous wetlands serves as vital habitat, particularly for amphibians.  The City of Attleboro is a hotspot for vernal pools, which are important breeding grounds for frogs and salamanders.

However, the land also suffers from an overabundance of dumped garbage, trails, and other issues. Last Saturday though, our hard working volunteers lugged many pounds of scrap metal, tires, and other refuse out of the woods.  For a couple hours, the property buzzed with activity. Nearly all of us felt a general sense of accomplishment by the end of the day.clean-up-volunteers

Their help has made a huge difference, and is a great first step towards restoring this property to pristine condition.

A Nice Hike at Lime Kiln Wildlife Sanctuary

Lime Kiln Wildlife Sanctuary, November 13, 2016
By Kate Buttolph, Land Protection Specialist – Western Massachusetts

It was a balmy November afternoon at Lime Kiln Wildlife Sanctuary.  A group of Berkshires Wildlife Sanctuaries supporters met with Sanctuary Director Becky Cushing, Education/Program Director Dale Abrams, and Land Protection Specialist, Kate Buttolph, for a walk and talk about Mass Audubon’s future land protection efforts at Lime Kiln.  We are excited to be working on an addition of approximately 100 acres, using a special grant dedicated to protecting the Housatonic watershed.

If you have never been to Lime Kiln, it is worth a visit.  The trail is an easy walk, with a visit to the old Lime Kiln, and two points with scenic vistas.  The lime kiln was used for the calcination of limestone to produce quicklime, which is used as a main ingredient in cement and in paper mills.  It was once used in stage lighting because when heated it emits a bright glow, called a limelight.  The lime kiln is located here because of the presence of calcareous bedrock.  This area is one of the most limestone-rich regions of the state.


Later in the trail you will pass a memorial plaque for the donor of this remarkable place, Edna Sheinhart.  This spot overlooks a field where, in the summer, you will see many butterflies and birds.

Even in the fall, there was evidence of wildlife activity and habitat, as well as the opportunity to hone our tree identification skills!


When you are finished walking, adults may head over to the Berkshire Mountain Distillers, or down the road to Big Elm Brewing for tours, or visit neighbor The Magic Fluke for a ukulele.

Busy Day on a Beaver Pond

By Nick Rossi, Conservation Restriction Stewardship Specialist

Even on a hot day in a dry summer, beaver ponds remain a wet and bustling oasis for wildlife.  Mass Audubon has many beaver ponds within its sanctuary network, and we may have another one soon. We anticipate adding roughly 86 acres to Rutland Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in central Massachusetts within the next year or so. This pristine patch of woodland has many desirable natural features. However, the beaver pond on it may be the most valuable.

Beavers build dams to flood sections of forest using mud, sticks and small trees. This creates a watery safe zone from predators and habitat for the aquatic plants that make up a large part of their diet. In the process, they also build habitat for a variety of other species.


On my visit to this beaver pond last week, the air filled with the chatter of tree swallows, quacking of ducks and the buzzing of dragonflies. Along the banks I found numerous trees gnawed at their base—a sign of a healthy and industrious beaver colony.  I couldn’t help but admire their handiwork.


Learn more about beavers >


High Summer Sanctuary Jaunts in Pioneer Valley

View from High Ledges

View from High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary

It is high summer in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts.  It’s a great time to be out on a trail, hot days in the shady woods, enjoying the smells of pine and balsam and the cool sounds of small brooks running.  Visit Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary (Easthampton), Conway Hills Wildlife Sanctuary (Conway), Graves Farm Wildlife Sanctuary (Williamsburg) and High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary (Shelburne Falls).  Each has a unique character.

Arcadia gives you grasslands and wooded paths along a river.  Conway Hills has shady woods, a stream and a short loop trail just off of Route 116.  The wooded trail through Graves Farm is a quiet and lovely antidote to the hubbub of Route 9.  Spot the disappearing white tail of a deer, and admire the rock formations and old stone walls.

Path through split rock - Graves Farm

Split rock – path at Graves Farm Wildlife Sanctuary

For a wooded walk to a dramatic overlook, head to Shelburne Falls, High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary.  The view over Shelburne Falls and the Deerfield River is breathtaking, and you might spot an eagle soaring through the updrafts on a breezy day.

By Kate Buttolph – Land Protection Specialist, Western MA 


Saving Terrapins, One Acre at a Time

Diamondback Terrapin courtesy of

Diamondback Terrapin courtesy of

Great news! We received word yesterday that the Town of Eastham has recorded the Conservation Restriction (CR) that will be co-held by Mass Audubon and our local land trust partner—the Eastham Conservation Foundation—to protect Terrapin Cove in Eastham.

CRs are tools for conservation organizations to protect land when owning it is not possible, by permanently restricting its use. This CR enables Mass Audubon to continue to manage this land for terrapin nesting, and play a role in ensuring that the property remains in conservation use forever!  Terrapin Cove is a hugely important area “discovered” by Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary volunteer extraordinaire, Bill Allan.  Bill was a storyteller at last year’s Giving Thanks for the Land event.

Below is the story of Terrapin Cove, which appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of Connections

Sometimes it’s not the number of acres, but what’s happening on the acres, that makes a project important for land conservation. Terrapin Cove on Cape Cod is a prime example. Located at the edge of Eastham’s Herring (Bee’s) River salt marsh, this 1.6-acre site has become a critical nesting spot for a threatened turtle species, the diamondback terrapin. We’re happy to report that the land will now be protected in perpetuity.

A Species Under Pressure

Nearly 15 years ago, you would have been hard-pressed to find a diamondback terrapin in Eastham. These turtles face a host of challenges. Uniquely adapted to salt marsh conditions, they have lost much of their habitat in recent decades due to waterfront development. Roads often bisect the remaining land. Predators such as raccoons, bolstered by food from residential trash, are also threats.

A Turtle Nursery

In 2003, a resident and Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary volunteer made an exciting discovery at what we now call Terrapin Cove: four nesting terrapins and eight nests. In conjunction with the landowner, Wellfleet Bay staff and passionate volunteers began managing the property and protecting the nests with wire cages called exclosures. The result: 3,000-plus baby terrapins have hatched, representing more than half of all known hatchlings produced in the Herring River marsh area.

Baby Terrapin courtesy of

Baby Terrapin courtesy of

Partners in Protection

Earlier this year, Terrapin Cove’s future was in jeopardy: the landowners needed to sell. They graciously agreed to a bargain sale for conservation. Mass Audubon partnered with the town of Eastham, the Eastham Conservation Foundation, and The Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts to raise the funds. Town residents strengthened these efforts by voting for Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds. Donations from generous individuals put us over the top.

Protection of this small spot is a huge win for turtles. It allows us to keep working on restoring the local terrapin population, giving these creatures a fighting chance for survival.

Princeton Artist Barry Van Dusen Donates Prints to Help Save Fieldstone Farm!

Princeton artist Barry Van Dusen is so enthusiastic about protecting the 270-acre Fieldstone Farm property, he is donating limited-edition prints to encourage leadership gifts to the initiative. These prints will only be available to supporters of the Fieldstone Farm project.

  • Donors of $2,500 may choose a 9” x 12” print from two images selected by the artist – Wood Duck Drake or Bluebird in Arrowwood
  • Donors of $10,000 or more may choose a 13” x 17” print from two images selected by the artist – Robins and Bittersweet or Female Bobolink
  • Donors of $25,000 or more will be invited to the artist’s studio where they can choose from a larger selection of offerings.

Get more information about Fieldstone Farm or make a gift.


Bluebird in Arrowwood


Female Bobolink


Robins in Bittersweet


Wood Duck Drake

Spending a Saturday with 500 of My Closest Friends

By Bob Wilber, Director of Land Conservation

April 2, Worcester Technical High School, 26th Massachusetts Land Conservation Conference (convened by the Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition and sponsored by Mass Audubon and others): the largest annual statewide gathering of land protectors in these United States. They come together once each year to learn new things, share ideas, and feel a powerful sense of community.


The energy in the Plenary Hall is palpable, as we await the talented keynote, Conservation International’s M. Sanjayen, who will infuse us with the optimism and hope of how nature—the very thing that the collective “we” have been striving to protect all these years—will in turn save humans in a climate changing world. Powerful stuff.

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The gang’s all here—from those creating invaluable pocket parks in urban settings like Chelsea and Somerville, to those preserving pristine wilds in the Berkshires—and everything in between—these are the land savers, the union of earnest women and men whose combined efforts are quite literally making the world a better place… so many ways.

We’ve Been Awarded Accreditation!

We are happy to report that Mass Audubon was just awarded accreditation by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, which supports land conservation groups nationwide.

Accreditation provides Mass Audubon the benefit of an unbiased outside assessment from other land conservation professionals as the organization seeks to maintain its standard of excellence. The designation culminates a two-year process that included submitting extensive documentation and a rigorous review of our land acquisitions and practices.

With more than 35,000 acres under protection, Mass Audubon is the largest owner of privately conserved land in the state. As such, it serves as one of the most influential land trusts in New England and helps engage the public in appreciating and supporting the preservation of significant open space.

Our statewide wildlife sanctuary system, stretching from the Cape and Islands to the Berkshires, offers extraordinary destinations for public visitation; conservation research and study; and places to engage visitors of all ages and abilities in a wide range of education programs and outdoor explorations.

“This designation enhances Mass Audubon’s reputation as a model for responsible land conservation and stewardship, not only in how we approach our own projects, but as a willing partner with other conservation groups and government agencies,” said Gary Clayton, Acting President and Vice President for Conservation Programs.

The concept of Land Trust Accreditation was first put forth by the Land Trust Alliance a decade ago as in response to IRS scrutiny of several high profile real estate transactions involving land trusts employing questionable practices. The theory behind accreditation is simple: To encourage more land trusts to put policies and procedures in place to ensure that their work is carried out at a consistently high level of quality – ethical and otherwise.

As a committed leader of the vibrant land trust community in Massachusetts, where the land trust movement began in the 1890s, and is now  home to more land trusts than any other state, we readily acknowledge that the rigorous framework for Land Trust Accreditation is definitely not for every trust. That said, Mass Audubon has long advocated for trusts at all levels to pay attention to the Standards & Practices upon which Accreditation is based. Our hats are off to the Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition for their commitment to working with smaller trusts to enhance their familiarity and use of Standards & Practices for land trust operation.

Learn more about our land conservation efforts at

Mass Audubon & City of Northampton Team Up to Protect Wildlife Corridor

On April 1, 2015, Mass Audubon acquired a conservation restriction on an important 48-acre forested parcel in a corridor linking our Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary to the extensive open lands in the western part of Northampton.

For years we have had our eye on a group of undeveloped properties on the west side of Route 10 across from Arcadia. Zoned by the city years ago for business park development, these parcels had languished on the market for lack of sewer access and other issues. For Arcadia, hemmed in by development and water, they’re also at the heart of one of the two best remaining corridors connecting Arcadia to large tracts of open space further afield.

So when our long-time conservation partners at city hall called to say they thought there was an opportunity to protect one of the larger properties in this corridor, we said we’d do everything we could to assist. For the city, it was an opportunity not only to protect this land for its conservation value, but also to secure the route for a spur trail off the new bike path connecting Northampton and Easthampton.

What the city needed were funds to bridge the gap between what they could afford and the minimum the owner would accept. They also needed a holder for the conservation restriction mandated by the Community Preservation Act. The city was an early adopter of CPA, which allows municipalities to levy a property tax surcharge for conservation, recreation, historic preservation restriction and affordable housing projects, provided a conservation restriction is imposed on any conservation acquisitions.

We agreed to provide $50,000 towards the acquisition costs of the property, to accept the conservation restriction, and to cover our transaction and long-term stewardship costs as well – a total package worth $70,000. We were able to do this thanks to the many friends who had generously donated funds over the years to be used at Arcadia for just such occasions, including the McCane-Chin Fund for Land Protection which provided half of the funds needed.

Wildlife tracking studies a few years ago confirmed the importance of this corridor for fox, deer, bear, and other large mammals. Now thanks to the City of Northampton and to some very generous and committed friends, a key part of this corridor is forever protected.