Category Archives: Conservation Restrictions

Better Late Than Never!

In 2000, Joan Wattman was interested in purchasing a Plainfield property.  It had a wonderful farmhouse, almost 200 acres of woods and fields, and abutted hundreds of acres of preserved land including Mass Audubon’s West Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary.

Ed Kohn, a conservation planner, moved to Plainfield in 1983 and was instrumental in helping Mass Audubon acquire the original 1500-acre property that is West Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary.  When the property Joan was interested in came up for sale, Ed made sure that conserving the land with Mass Audubon was part of the deal.  So, when Joan bought the property, she did so with a plan and a promise to preserve it.

Becoming a Conservation Buyer

Joan recalls that “after renewing my Mass Audubon membership, I noticed in the brochure of [membership] benefits a ‘Conservation Buyer Program.’  I called and Mass Audubon connected me with Ed Kohn.  The former owner, Jay Buell, had asked Ed to find a buyer who would agree to preserve the land rather than develop it.  I had been doing environmental organizing for years and wanted my purchase of ‘Skyland’ to make a long-lasting and impactful statement of my values.  I was excited to be the next steward of this beautiful property.”

View of a stonewall and field that are a part of the Wattman Conservation Restriction in Plainfield.

Years passed, Joan improved the house and managed the forests and fields with the help of several grants for landowners, including MassWildlife and Natural Resource Conservation Service.  The commitment to protect the property with a permanent Conservation Restriction remained, although on the back burner. Then, in the fall of 2016, Mass Audubon and Joan reconnected and the project moved forward.

Conservation Land Tax Credit Program

To help make this gift possible, Joan applied to the Massachusetts Conservation Land Tax Credit Program. This program provides tax credits (usually in the form of direct payments) to landowners making eligible donations of an interest in land for permanent conservation purposes. 

Funds from that program were awarded to the project this year and the closing took place in September—protecting 182 acres of Joan’s property in perpetuity. And thanks to a grant from the Westfield River Wild and Scenic Fund, most of the due diligence costs incurred by Mass Audubon were covered!   

A Connected, Protected Landscape

I finally had a look at the full extent of Joan’s property when we gathered information for the Baseline Report (an extensive documentation of the current conditions of the property).  I had an opportunity to walk around the boundaries, and see the variety of trees, the nature on the forest floor and Bartlett Brook flowing south across the land. 

Joan’s property significantly expands the protected corridor of land that runs from the Kenneth Dubuque Memorial State Forest in the north, through West Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, and on to the Deer Hill State Reservation to the south – a connected, protected landscape of more than 10,000 acres. This newly conserved addition includes over a mile of Bartlett Brook, a cold-water stream that begins on West Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary and flows south to the Westfield River.  This area provides critical forested habitat for numerous native and woodland species, and through its connectivity with other protected lands, it preserves intact ecological processes and helps nature be more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

Thank you!

Working with Joan on the conservation of her property was a pleasure, and I can’t thank her enough for making this extraordinary gift. The property remains private. However, Mass Audubon has permission to lead educational tours on occasion.  Stay tuned!    

By Kate Buttolph, Land Protection Specialist

Better Than a Birdie

On April 29, 2020, Mass Audubon acquired a Conservation Restriction (CR) on a former golf course in Northampton.  Purchased in February by the City of Northampton, the property adds 105 acres to the southwestern section of a large forested area known as the Rocky Hill Greenway.

The Greenway has been the target of a conservation partnership between the City of Northampton and Mass Audubon over the last decade. In addition to this latest success, the partnership previously protected three adjacent parcels.  The conserved area of the Greenway is currently over 200 acres.

Bird’s-eye view of the golf course and the Nashawannock Brook running through it.

Treeing it Up

Now, many of you may be wondering why Mass Audubon would be interested in a CR protecting a former golf course. We are usually involved in the protection of intact forests, rare and endangered species, or wetlands full of special plants, birds and salamanders.   In this case, Mass Audubon saw a chance to restore a stream flowing across a golf course, through the western portion of Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, and into the surrounding landscape, as well as reforest the land around it.

It is an unusual opportunity to reforest a substantial portion of a small degraded watershed and to restore the natural shape and function of the Nashawannock Brook – boosting resilience for nature and people in the process.

According to Tom Lautzenheiser, Regional Scientist for Mass Audubon: “As a golf course, a primary interest was getting stormwater off the greens and fairways and into the brook as quickly as possible, which has led to increased erosion problems downstream. The City has already taken steps to dismantle parts of the stormwater management system that contributed to this problem, but with reforestation and other work on the site, we have a great chance to further slow the flow. And by planting a wide variety of tree species chosen in part for future climate conditions, we can ensure that the future forest will thrive.”

View of a managed waterway on the course.

This ecological restoration is a clear example of a climate change adaptation project: predicted increases in the frequency of severe rainstorms will worsen Nashawannock Brook’s unstable dynamics over the coming decades; restoring the watershed now will be an investment in protecting Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary while providing additional flood storage benefits to nearby residential areas.  Plus, the reforestation and stream restoration will greatly enhance the wildlife corridor that the Rocky Hill Greenway provides.

Kate Buttolph, Land Protection Specialist

A Moment of Gratitude

During these unprecedented difficult times it is easy to slip into negative head space. A way to break the downward spiral is to pause and remind yourself of what you are grateful for. Whether it be a spouse who lifts you up or the smell of fresh coffee. Appreciating what you have allows you to see the joy in the moment.

I am Mass Audubon’s Conservation Restriction Steward. A Conservation Restriction (or Easement) is an important tool designed to permanently protect the landscape for its intrinsic natural values such as prime farming soils, old growth forest, endangered species, etc.  Each year, I visit all the properties where we hold this type of restriction, ensuring the land is not significantly impaired.

During a monitoring visit in Plymouth, I stumbled upon rocks placed in the shape of a heart and at the center was a stone that said “Thankful for nurses, Drs, EMT, FF + police”. I was touched by the note. It made me stop and think about the firefighters, police officers, and nurses in training that I know and most importantly it made me smile.

Acts of kindness and gratitude are contagious. They have the power to change someone’s day for the better. Just taking a moment to think about what you are grateful for will surely bring some light into these dark times. 

So what are you grateful for…

Olivia Barksdale, Conservation Restriction Stewardship Specialist

Another Piece of the Puzzle Conserved in Holliston

On April 22, 2019 a new Conservation Restriction (CR) was acquired in a joint effort between the New England Forestry Foundation, Mass Audubon, and the Poitras Family (longtime conservationists and supporters of Mass Audubon).  The property includes 60 acres of lovely fields and woodlands along Highland Street.

Mass Audubon has been busy in Holliston over the past few years.  It is all part of a long term effort to knit together a large natural landscape for the benefit of Holliston and neighboring communities. 

Altogether, Mass Audubon has played a role in protecting over 360 acres in Holliston since 2005.  This CR furthers the connection to hundreds of acres of existing protected land.  The mosaic of connected, protected lands will facilitate wildlife movement and increase nature’s resilience to the impacts of climate change, in addition to providing cleaner air and drinking water for these MetroWest communities in the years ahead.  A large portion of this land will eventually become a new Mass Audubon property called Broad Hill Wildlife Sanctuary.

A mossy stone wall on the recently protected 60-acre Poitras property

The People Making It Possible

It is hard to talk about our work in Holliston without mentioning the Poitras Family.  Without them, this work would not have been possible.

The Poitras family are the ones who first envisioned the protection of this historic and scenic section of Holliston. Largely with their own resources, they have gradually been purchasing land and then donating CRs on that land to Mass Audubon and the New England Forestry Foundation.

It is difficult to find better supporters of land conservation anywhere.

A Team Effort

We also need to give credit to the New England Forestry Foundation for all their help in making this work possible. 

In the conservation community, it’s important to remember that we all think of ourselves as “playing on the same team” with many other talented, dedicated “players”.  So much more conservation gets done when we work together.

New England Forestry Foundation has been working with Mass Audubon in Holliston for quite some time, and we are grateful to have them as our partner.

by Nick Rossi, Land Protection Specialist

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.

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 Whole Lot of Land Protection Goin’ On!

By Bob Wilber, Director of Land Protection

As we say here in the Bay State, it has been a “wicked busy” spring and summer! Following a relatively quiet period at the beginning of the year, a number of important projects recently came to fruition during a flurry (can we use that word in this weather?) of activity as the warm weather set it. Now that the dust has settled a bit, it is fun to share all of the good news. 350+ acres in Spencer (Sibley Farm) were protected in perpetuity, along with 50 acres at our Rutland Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Barre (Patterson), 100 acres in Wendell, Orange and New Salem (Fisk) at our Whetstone Wood Wildlife Sanctuary, and 9 acres in Barnstable Village (Ferguson) at our Barnstable Great Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary. During this whirlwind of activity, we also celebrated a Conservation Assist – helping to Everyone is ecstatic about all the newly protected land!achieve an important outcome by the Town of Ashland, in which they successfully protected the 120 acre Warren Woods property in that community. And, if that’s not enough, we also succeeded in obtaining the final $800,000 in grant funds from NOAA to deliver the final payments to the Sacred Hearts Healing Center, wrapping up the very successful Great Neck Conservation Initiative in Wareham. These projects succeeded by working in partnership with our valued public and private conservation partners, and through the invaluable support of people like you. Wicked good job!


Up on the Rooftop

John Coolidge, Conservation Restriction Stewardship Specialist

As the year of monitoring winds down and we frantically try to complete all our visits by year’s end, occasionally I’m caught totally off guard by the unexpected. And this year was no exception.

Being one who puts off the best for last, monitoring that is, I saved my visit to Gosnold until now.

Gosnold is a small town located on Cuttyhunk Island, at the end of the Elisabeth Islands, off the tail of Cape Cod. The island has less than 20 permanent residences and a school age population that currently  stands at two—brother and sister ages 8 & 6. Mail comes twice a week along with general supplies to the island, depending on the weather. Winters tend to be very long, cold, and a bit windy (to say the least).

In the summer months (July & August) the population quadruples with summer residents and that doesn’t count the many pleasure boats that visit, passing through on their way to the Cape & Islands.

My visit to Cuttyhunk earlier this week was beautiful, pleasant and cold. But let me back up…

Until age 3 or 4 I’m told I was a real believer in the jolly old man in the red suit, until one day when I discovered my parents wrapping a lump of coal…

Well, yesterday my belief was restored. Shortly after the ferry docked on Cuttyhunk, I was finishing a hot cup of coffee with the Captain & crew (after all it was quite cold, and none of us wanted to leave the warmth of the ship’s galley), when all of a sudden  there was quite a clatter on the upper deck! We all jumped  with wild expectations of what could possibly be going on. We rushed on deck thinking the ship was headed down! And who, to our surprise, was standing there on a pre-Christmas visit to the children of the Island?…. Old Saint Nick!

And I have the picture to prove he is real:

Santa with Lynch Family

Photo of Santa making a special trip to see the Lynch Family on Cuttyhunk Island!

Tying up loose ends

Dinah Rowbotham, Land Protection Program Assistant

Three land protection projects featured on this blog, our project in Norfolk, the Valencia project, and the Almy project, have closed and are now permanently protected! To refresh your memory on which land parcels I’m referring to, here’s a quick run-down on how these three projects enhance Mass Audubon’s sanctuary system:

Our project in Norfolk has brought 7 additional acres to Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary. The land was given to us by the developer of an adjacent parcel, who was motivated by the Planning Board and their new Open Space Subdivision rules. The newly protected land is upland pine-oak woods which partly surround Bristol Pond.

The Valencia project was a gift of 0.70 acres of wetlands mostly surrounded by Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary. The parcel was created when a house was built on an adjacent lot, and this piece was left over as a remnant. The little parcel of land fits beautifully into our sanctuary, and we’re very grateful that it’s former owner donated it to become permanently protected habitat.

Lastly, the Almy project is a new 5.7-acre conservation restriction adjacent to Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary. The protected land consists of upland pasture that was identified as a priority for protection by Mass Audubon in our sanctuary protection plan and consists of both high quality habitat and a scenic landscape.

Adventure to Elizabeth Island

Lindsey Sarquilla, Land Information Systems Assistant

Recently on a beautifully clear and sunny day, two intrepid stewardship staff members (John Coolidge, CR Stewardship Specialist, and I) crossed the waters of Spy Pond in Arlington to reach the shore of one of Mass Audubon’s newest CRs, Elizabeth Island.  The 1 ¾ acre island is owned by Arlington Land Trust, and Mass Audubon co-holds the CR with the Town of Arlington (check out our previous blog post on this project).

With the sun at our backs we ventured out to the island with the help of a canoe borrowed from a local friend of Mass Audubon and the Arlington Land Trust.  We gathered baseline documentation (photos, GPS locations of trails and landing areas, etc.) by water and land to help inform future monitoring of the island.  We were delighted to see that the island is undoubtedly well-loved by the public, with no recent evidence of trash or other abuses found.  It really is no surprise that this lovely oasis of natural habit is a beloved landmark in Arlington—and we’re very proud to help protect it!

John Coolidge, CR Stewardship Specialist, taking in the property conditions (and the sunshine).

Swan sunning on northwestern point of Elizabeth Island, now dubbed “Swan Point.”

Taken from the canoe; the same view of the island as you see from Concord Turnpike.