Words of Wisdom from the Village Elder

Biologist E.O. Wilson, being interviewed by former Mass Audubon President, Laura Johnson, in low-key format.

Last Saturday in Worcester, more than 550 people attended the Massachusetts Land Conservation Conference, which Mass Audubon is a primary sponsor of, and participant in. This is the  annual gathering of the wicked-awesome Massachusetts land conservation community – private and public land conservationists, both paid and volunteer, and working at all levels. With the bay state being the place where the concept of conserving land for the common good began nearly 400 years ago, and also where the land trust movement emerged in the 1890s, this annual event is the biggest of its kind in the U.S., and almost certainly the entire planet as well.

This year’s conference was extra special, for one simple reason: those attending had the pleasure of an audience with one of their biggest heroes – biologist E.O. Wilson.  Professor Wilson is revered by this group in part because his unrelenting curiosity to  explore and understand nature inspired so many to pursue careers in the natural sciences.  His now well-known, and utterly audacious, call to conserve half of the earth’s land mass in order to preserve biological diversity on this planet has inspired and motivated nearly everyone in the audience – and thousands of others that were unable to make it to the event – to strive to have maximal impact.  But perhaps more important to this group of dedicated tree-huggers, Ed Wilson has played a key role in validating – for themselves, for their families, and for their neighbors and friends – what attendees had chosen to do with their lives.  After years of routinely getting blank stares after answering the question of what they did for work, they now answer loud and proud.  Thank you, E.O. Wilson!

Welcome Rose Watts!

The Land Conservation Department at Mass Audubon is excited to announce that Rose Watts is joining the team as our Conservation Restriction Stewardship Intern this spring. As a Clark University undergraduate student working on a degree in Environmental Science and Conservation Biology, she’s excited to see what this internship has in store. Originally from

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Vermont, she loves exploring the environment that surrounds us; luckily she gets to do just that in the spring while visiting many of Mass Audubon’s Conservation Restrictions (CR’s). Last Spring Rose went to Tanzania to study wildlife management and ecology. She was also a team member on two separate research teams; one studying native bees in Vermont, and the other looking at threespine stickleback in British Columbia.

For the next few months Rose will be busy working with Nick Rossi, the Conservation Restriction Stewardship Specialist here at Mass Audubon. As a CR Steward, he coordinates the continued stewardship of Mass Audubon’s CR’s around the state. This partially involves visiting, at least once per year, Mass Audubon’s 100+ CRs across the state of Massachusetts, protecting more than 5,000 acres of privately owned land.

Rose will be helping with all things related to CR stewards. Primarily, she will visit sites with Nick in the spring when the weather warms up, and then create monitoring reports stating what we observed during these visits. Additionally, she will be doing some digital mapping and planning work in the winter months and then she will also help gather data to legally recognize vernal pools on multiple CR’s.

CR Monitoring Tablet

Rose looks forward to being challenged by the complexities of CR Stewardship work. There will be a lot to do in the coming months–all worth it in the name of Land Conservation!

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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 TurtleJournal.com

Diamondback Terrapin courtesy of TurtleJournal.com

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 TurtleJournal.com

Baby Terrapin courtesy of TurtleJournal.com

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.

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Bluebird in Arrowwood

Barry-vandusen-female-bobolink

Female Bobolink

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Robins in Bittersweet

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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.

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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…..in so many ways.