Donation Fills a Gap

The Fischer family has generously donated their 3-acre property in Sandisfield, along the western side of Cold Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, to Mass Audubon. 

Steve, Douglas, Cynthia, and Janet Fischer are part of an extended family, the Johnsons, who have owned this land for almost 100 years.  This parcel in Sandisfield was originally part of a larger land holding that the Johnson family purchased in 1922.

The Johnsons lived in Connecticut and used this property primarily for logging.  According to the Sandisfield Times (Dec. 2014): “Alvin Johnson, a Swedish immigrant then living in the New Haven area, acquired from Edmund Strickland two sprawling former farms on Beech Plain Road.”  The Johnsons added two small cottages across the street from each other—one in 1924 and the other in 1930.   

The donated land is located on the easterly side of Beech Plain Road and fills a gap in the protection of the wildlife sanctuary (as shown in the map below).  

Douglas Fischer wrote,

“The land holds so many memories for my mother, Eleanor Viola Johnson Fischer. She lived in the two-story white farm house across and down the street from the land we donated…Her mother was a homemaker and her father was a lumberman. In the histories of the area, their home is sometimes referred to as The Strickland Farm. It was built in 1785 and was a stopover for the Underground Railroad. She remembers going to school at The Little Red School House, harvesting blueberries, caring for their two dairy cows and playing with her older sister Evelyn. This donated piece of land was a gift to her and Evelyn from their father. It was passed on to myself and my brother, Steve. As we live in the Midwest we are unable to use it and are delighted that it will be preserved. We trust that under Mass Audubon’s stewardship many future generations of birds and animals will enjoy the same wild blueberries and protected environment that brought joy to our mother’s heart.”


Additional 5 Acres Preserved at Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary

A Conservation Restriction (CR) adjacent to Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary was expanded to permanently protect an additional five acres. The donation was made by the Hunnewell family and it preserves a section of Glen Street in Natick from further development. It also helps ensure the integrity of this natural corridor along the Charles River.

View of the newly protected land

Gradual Land Conservation

The expansion of this CR is another gift in a remarkable set of 5 separate donations from the Hunnewell Family to Mass Audubon dating back to the 1970’s.  The total amount of land they have protected with Mass Audubon is now roughly 137 acres—an impressive achievement from a conservation-minded family.

The story of the Hunnewell family is not entirely unusual; although, the number of donations does demonstrate a particularly remarkable generosity.  Many people decide to preserve their land gradually over a period of time.  The reasons for this are numerous.

Some families reserve a small portion of their land to sell as a house lot in case they find themselves in financial need later.  Then, in the future, they may realize that they do not need this financial insurance so they choose to conserve the rest of it.

Others choose to conserve part of their land during their lives, and then gift the remaining interest upon their passing.

With a bit of thoughtful flexibility, we can preserve more land than otherwise possible.

If you are thinking about conserving your land, remember that land conservation is not always an “all or nothing” proposition. You can make some arrangements to protect your land now, and then build on that in the future if you like.

23 Acres Preserved in Petersham – Adjacent to Rutland Brook Wildlife Sanctuary

Along Loring Hill Road, 23 acres of field and forest has been permanently protected with a Conservation Restriction (CR) donated to Mass Audubon by the Sinclair family. 

It is one of the last steps in a project envisioned by Fraser Sinclair in 2014.  His neighbor George Butterworth (a former Mass Audubon trustee) passed away that year and the heirs were hoping to sell the land for conservation – over 200 acres. 

An intermittent stream on the Sinclair land.

A Plan to Protect 200 Acres

Sinclair quickly put in motion a preservation plan that ultimately called for:

  • Mass Audubon to purchase 84 acres.
  • Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation to acquire a CR on 84 acres.
  • Harvard Forest to purchase 103 acres. 
  • The Sinclairs to purchase 16 acres (adjacent to their 13 acres) and then donate a CR to Mass Audubon.

Now all but the Harvard Forest purchase has been completed, and that is expected to happen within the next two years.  In the end, this addition of protected lands will further promote a healthy environment for a wide variety of plants and animals, as well as humans.

Clean Water and Clear Views

This 23-acre CR donated by the Sinclair family strengthens the connection between Rutland Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, neighboring Harvard Forest and the Swift River Reservation, and protects the Quabbin Reservoir which provides drinking water to over 2.5 million people.  

You can visit Rutland Brook Wildlife Sanctuary and enjoy hiking, bird-watching, and nature study.  While there take a moment to appreciate the scenic landscapes and watersheds this 23-acre CR protects and the donors who made it happen. 

60 Acres of Farmland Protected

“Pretty darn amazing and cool—truly a dream come true for so many of us in Princeton and the surrounding region—this farm was absolutely the iconic farm to protect!”

This was Deb Carey’s reaction upon hearing the news that the transfer of 60 acres of the former Fieldstone Farm to Hubbard’s Farm had been completed.  Deb is the Director at Mass Audubon’s Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary and was a member of the Town of Princeton’s Open Space Committee when the 300-acre Fieldstone Farm came up for sale in 2015.

Growing a Family Farm

As part of a larger, coordinated effort to preserve the land (approximately 230 acres were ultimately protected), Mass Audubon purchased 60 acres—the agricultural core of the farm—with the intention of restricting the use of the property to agriculture (using the state’s Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) Program) and then selling the property to a local farmer.

Now that transfer has taken place.

The Hubbard Family

Hubbard’s Farm couldn’t be a more perfect fit.  A local, family owned and operated business, Nancy Hubbard’s late husband Brad was the third generation on this farm that Brad’s grandparents founded in the 1920s.  And the family roots here go back to the 1700s! Nancy’s kids and grandchildren also live and work on the premises, providing meats and eggs, among many other products, to the community.  The addition of this 60 acres gives them room to grow in response to the local food movement.

Getting to this point took assistance from both state and federal agencies who were happy to work on a project that protected so much farmland.  “We are delighted to have worked with Mass Audubon, our federal partners the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Hubbard family to protect this property in Princeton.  Preservation of this farmland will allow the Hubbard family to raise additional crops for their local farm operation which will improve the viability of another Massachusetts family farm,” stated John Lebeaux, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.  Lebeaux’s colleague Christine Clarke at the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service added, “We’re pleased to have partnered with the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources and Mass Audubon on the preservation of Fieldstone Farm. Protecting working agricultural lands and prime farmland soils provides many benefits for the Commonwealth, including environmental quality, historic preservation, wildlife habitat and protection of open space.”

Continuing to Provide Access

The Hubbard’s new farm straddles Hubbardston Road, so finding a location for a connecting trail that permitted both agriculture and public hiking was a challenge.  That challenge was quickly met by Mass Audubon, Princeton Land Trust, the Hubbard family, and the state APR program.  In keeping with the conservation plan for the larger Fieldstone Farm landscape, Mass Audubon conveyed a trail easement on a segment of the 60-acre property to the Princeton Land Trust.   Hikers will be able to make their way along a designated trail from Hubbardston Road to Mass Audubon’s Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary.  Princeton Land Trust has plans to extend trails from Hubbardston Road to the town-owned land south of the farm.

One Family’s Proud Conservation Legacy at Allens Pond

On December 11, 2018, Mass Audubon was given a 7-acre Conservation Restriction near our Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary in South Dartmouth.

Salt marsh on the newly protected land.

This land is one of the last remaining pieces of unprotected shoreline along the sanctuary’s namesake pond. And it was protected by the children and grandchildren of the woman that first started conserving land in this area some 50 years ago.

Continuing a Conservation Ethic

We owe the start of conservation around Allens Pond (the water body and surrounding sanctuary) to Angelica Russell. Angelica first came to Mass Audubon back in 1971 with an interest in protecting her substantial property at Barney’s Joy Point, which borders Allens Pond.

Photo of Angelica Russell
Angelica Russell © Deedee Shattuck

After some negotiations, she ultimately donated Mass Audubon’s very first Conservation Restriction (CR). This was at a time when CRs were a brand new concept in Massachusetts. It was also the first piece of land that Mass Audubon protected in South Dartmouth.

 The scale of Angelica’s donation is noteworthy.

  • Her first donation protected 156 acres of coastline, grassland and sand dunes.
  • Then in 1986 Angelica and her family added to this by protecting another 88 acres of important habitat. 
  • Including this new property, the entire area protected by Angelica and her descendants totals about 250 acres—truly a remarkable act of conservation for coastal Massachusetts.      

Pieces of a Puzzle

After Angelica’s first donation, Mass Audubon worked for decades to protect the rest of the area around Allens Pond. Bit by bit we worked with dozens of private landowners and supporters to conserve one piece of land at a time—filling in a conservation jigsaw puzzle. 

This newly conserved land can be seen then as a further fulfillment of Angelica’s intent to preserve Allens Pond and Barney’s Joy.   

Mass Audubon is grateful for Angelica Russell’s vision of preserving this beautiful landscape, and we are happy to work with her family members and others to continue it today.


By Nick Rossi, Mass Audubon’s Conservation Restriction Stewardship Specialist

Giving Thanks in 2018

Many Americans gathered with family and friends to give thanks last week.  Earlier this month, many of those who play a role in Mass Audubon’s land conservation efforts gathered to give thanks for the land.  Almost 100 people attended our eleventh Giving Thanks for the Land event, and nature smiled on us with a rare (this year) sunny fall day.  After chatting and enjoying some refreshments outside, we gathered inside the Great Room at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln.

Judy Williams shows the barn where she and her husband "camped out" the first few years after they bought their property.

Judy Williams shows the barn where she and her husband periodically “camped out” the first few years after they bought their property. The porcupine living there at the time was a somewhat reluctant but gracious host.

What does “Giving Thanks for the Land” mean?

At Mass Audubon, it means an annual event where we gather and celebrate the conservation of key pieces of land by those who help make these projects happen—financial supporters, partner organizations, conservation-minded landowners and the Mass Audubon Board, staff and members.

Sharing personal stories is at the heart of the day.

Among those that spoke to the crowd was a retired school teacher named Judy Willliams.  Thirty years ago, Judy saw a small notice in Mass Audubon’s Sanctuary magazine looking for conservation-minded buyers for a property in western Massachusetts. She spoke of jumping in the car with her husband Dudley, driving out to Plainfield, and immediately falling in love with the property and the area.  Turn the clock ahead to the present day and find the Williamses have been responsible for the protection of almost 350 acres of land linking West Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary and Hawley State Forest.

David Gould, a self-proclaimed “Fish Nerd”, told of a career dedicated to protecting our natural resources.  The Director of Marine and Environmental Affairs for the Town of Plymouth, fishing with his grandfather hooked David on the outdoors at an early age.  Without someone to guide him and easy access to a river, David may have chosen a different career and never gotten the opportunity to protect that special fishing spot he shared with his grandfather.

Do you feel a strong connection and love for the land in Massachusetts?  Then we hope you will join us at next year’s Giving Thanks for the Land celebration and swap stories with others who share that passion.

 

Partnerships Across Town Lines

 

After a great deal of persistence and anticipation, Mass Audubon has recently added a new 23 acre Conservation Restriction in Holliston, Massachusetts.

This represents the final piece of the Warren Woods project—a joint effort undertaken by Mass Audubon and the Towns of Ashland and Holliston to protect a roughly 140 acre property formerly owned by Northeastern University.

Since this land straddles the boundary of two towns, the project was undertaken in two cooperative phases.  First, Mass Audubon and the Town of Ashland worked together to raise money to purchase the Ashland side of Warren Woods (the bulk of the property) with The Town of Ashland purchasing the land (with help from Mass Audubon) and Mass Audubon holding a permanent Conservation Restriction to best ensure that it remain in conservation over the long-term. This phase was finished in 2016.

Then Mass Audubon worked to repeat this success by partnering with the Town of Holliston in a similar arrangement: the Town purchases the land and Mass Audubon then holds a permanent Conservation Restriction to protect it.

This is not the first time Mass Audubon has worked with local governments to preserve land. By pooling our resources, this project illustrates how so much more conservation can be accomplished when we work together, especially in regions of the state like Metro West where land is relatively expensive.  Without the joint effort of Mass Audubon and these local governments, it’s likely that this would have never happened.

As for this new property in particular, it may be relatively small, but it provides a truly key link of woods and wetlands (see map) in a large corridor of protected land in Metro West, totaling over 1,000 acres – no small feat in a densely populated and growing part of the state.

– Nick Rossi, Conservation Restriction Stewardship Specialist

Plymouth Partnership Protects Entire Tidmarsh Landscape – Forever!

Big news – yesterday, we completed the second and final phase of protecting the 610-acre former Tidmarsh Farms property in Plymouth!

Mass Audubon acquired a permanent Conservation Restriction (CR) to ensure the perpetual conservation of “Tidmarsh West” – 129 acres of land located on the west side of Beaver Dam Road, across from the 481 acres of “Tidmarsh East” that is now Mass Audubon’s Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary.  Reflecting our ongoing partnership with the Town of Plymouth, “Tidmarsh West” was acquired by the town for conservation purposes, and is now known as the Foothills Preserve.  Similarly, the Town holds a permanent CR on our sanctuary land.

Importantly, the Foothills Preserve will undergo an extensive wetlands restoration, as our new wildlife sanctuary did – the largest ever in the northeastern U.S.  It is anticipated that the small unrestored section of our sanctuary will also be restored at that time, including the critical connection under Beaver Dam Road, which will hydrologically reconnect the two restored properties.

Five years ago, I first met with David Gould, Plymouth’s Director of Marine & Environmental Affairs, at “Tidmarsh East” (pre-restoration).   As we walked around the property that day, we discussed a shared vision of the entire 610-acre property someday being legally protected by Mass Audubon and the Town, working in partnership.  Perpetuity is indeed a long time – that mind-bending time horizon began yesterday, when our perpetual CR was recorded at the Plymouth County Registry of Deeds.

Bob Wilber, Director of Land Conservation 

Key Link in Climate Change Wildlife Corridor Protected

O’Brien – Plainfield, MA – West Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary

On June 15th, Mass Audubon has protected a spectacular piece of land in Plainfield, MA. This ecologically rich 110-acre property is adjacent to our West Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, and is part of a large network of significant wildlife corridors extending north all the way to maritime Quebec – as highlighted in the Berkshire Wildlife Linkages initiative that we are active participants in.

Thanks to a grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Conservation Partnership program, foundation grants, and the generous donations of individuals, we were able to acquire this land 6 months earlier than anticipated.  The sellers, cousins who inherited the property, were pleased to see the land protected and under the care of Mass Audubon.

On the wildlife front, one of the most exciting aspects of this property is the recent tracking of a moose directly through the property! We suspect the use of this property by numerous large mammals is common, and cannot overstate the importance of maintaining this wildlife corridor.

Wildlife corridors will play a particularly important role in the age of climate change, where many species of plants and animals will need to shift location to find a more comfortable setting. West Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary is such a land bridge, linking the Kenneth Dubuque State Forest to the north with the Deer Hill State Reservation to the south – creating more than 10,000 acres of connected conserved land.  The map demonstrates these connected wildlife corridors as “conductance,” and West Mountain is on the eastern side of an area of very high conductance.

 

 

 

This critical addition to the West Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary will help ensure that this wildlife corridor remains intact for the important role it will play in sustaining nature.

– Kate Buttolph, Land Protection Specialist

Tidmarsh Sanctuary Land in Plymouth Purchased!

Congratulations – and many, many thanks – to all who helped Mass Audubon successfully complete the purchase of 450+/- acres of land in the Manomet section of Plymouth that will soon become our newest wildlife sanctuary – the Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary!

For many of us, the effort has been nearly all-consuming, as we pulled on the oars together to bring about this long-sought conservation outcome.  From the hundreds who generously donated funds to help reach the somewhat daunting fundraising goal, to the Mass Audubon Board, Council, and staff that worked so diligently for several years, to our valued partners – particularly at the Town of Plymouth, MA Division of Conservation Services and Department of Conservation & Recreation and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – everyone played important roles.

I am well aware that others, who may not yet have visited Tidmarsh, or know much about it, may be wondering, “Why is this such a big deal, what’s all the fuss?”

Here is my best answer:

  • Demonstrating Strategic Land Conservation for Climate Change Response: At a critical juncture, when the sobering realities of climate change are becoming broadly known, and when there are virtually no tangible, “on the ground” examples of meaningful human response, our Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary will be a shining and hopeful example of actions that humans can take to help nature be more resilient to the impacts of climate change – so that it can, in turn, help all of us withstand the impacts of climate change in the important years ahead. To me, this is the reason Tidmarsh is such a big deal – pure and simple.
  • Feature Ecological Restoration: The property has recently undergone a state-of-the-art ecological restoration – the largest freshwater wetlands restoration ever completed in the northeast. Our new wildlife sanctuary will showcase this amazing restoration (implemented masterfully by the very capable Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration), helping all better understand the important role that ecological restoration will play in conservation going forward.  Due to restoration, the property is on a trajectory of change that will fascinate sanctuary visitors for many decades to come with the spectacle of “nature’s return”.

From Bog to Restored Cold Water Stream

  • Conserving Big Property Near People: With Mass Audubon acquiring/protecting “Tidmarsh East”, and project partner the Town of Plymouth acquiring/protecting “Tidmarsh West”, 600+/- acres, located in the eastern (most populated) part of the third most densely populated state in the country, less than a mile from the current ocean edge, has now been conserved for all time. That alone is hugely important.
  • Living Observatory: Acquiring Tidmarsh Farms also opens a pathway for Mass Audubon to collaborate with the Living Observatory, a non-profit learning initiative that has roots in the MIT Media Lab. The initiative documents and reveals the changing Tidmarsh landscape, illustrating the relationships between ecological processes, human presence, and climate change response.  This collaboration has tremendous potential for Tidmarsh to be a sanctuary with deeper applied science and for presenting interesting citizen science opportunities for sanctuary visitors on any given day.
  • Establish a Mass Audubon Sanctuary in Plymouth: With this acquisition, Mass Audubon has established a land base for people to connect with nature in the Town of Plymouth. This has been a long-held goal in the fastest growing, and arguably the most biologically diverse, municipality in the commonwealth.  Importantly, Plymouth (“America’s Hometown”) is celebrating its 400th anniversary in just two years, and has embraced an ecotourism future – we are very excited about establishing a beautiful large wildlife sanctuary in that setting.

    Tidmarsh River Otter

    For more information, please go to: massaudubon.org/tidmarsh

Bob Wilber, Director of Land Conservation