Author Archives: Land Conservation

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

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.

beaver2

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.

beaver1

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 

 

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.

Barry-vandusen-bluebird

Bluebird in Arrowwood

Barry-vandusen-female-bobolink

Female Bobolink

Barry-vandusen-robins

Robins in Bittersweet

Barry-vandusen-woodduck

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.

land-conference

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.

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 massaudubon.org/land