Category Archives: Partners

Piece by Piece: A Long-Term Strategy for Success

Working in partnership with the City of Northampton, Mass Audubon added 5.72 acres of state-designated “Critical Natural Landscape and Core Habitat” to the Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary.  It is strategically located along the eastern boundary of the Manhan Meadows and adds to the extensive wetland systems, grasslands, shrublands and forest that make up the 730-acre Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary. 

View of meadows that provide nesting habitat for bobolinks.

The sanctuary is known to host approximately twenty state-listed rare species.  Arcadia is a designated Important Bird Area, supporting habitat for numerous breeding and migratory birds of priority conservation interest, as well as being important habitat for a wide variety of other animals and plants. 

The new acquisition is part of an old “oxbow” (a U-shaped backwater) that became separated from the primary flow of the Connecticut River long ago. Oxbow wetlands such as this provide important storage capacity for flood waters, improved water quality through filtration services, and habitat for a variety of wildlife. This particular land is part of a wildlife corridor actively used by bobcat, coyote, deer and other wildlife. 

The property also has upland areas which provide vantage points where you might catch sight of an eastern bluebird or bald eagle. 

Wayne Feiden, the Director of Planning & Sustainability stated, “Northampton is pleased to have been able to have a small supporting role in Mass Audubon’s preservation of the Singler property. This land, in the city’s floodplain and with highly productive floodplain forest, fills a hole in the Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary and preserves the same ecosystem partially protected by the City’s nearby Meadows-Historic Mill River Greenway.”

-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

Longstanding Partnership with City of Northampton Bears Fruit Once Again

Mass Audubon and the City of Northampton worked in partnership to add one and a half acres to the conserved land known as the Rocky Hill Greenway and approximately four acres to Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary (see map below). The Greenway is an active wildlife corridor that has been the focus of protection efforts by the conservation partners for much of the last decade.

The two organizations swapped ownership interests in the transactions.  In the case of the Greenway property formerly owned by “Open and Shut, LLC” located on Route 10, the City owns the land and Mass Audubon holds a permanent Conservation Restriction (CR).  The reverse is true for the four-acre parcel, formerly land of Ralph Thompson, added to the Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary.  Mass Audubon owns the land and the City holds a permanent CR. 

A Wildlife Corridor

The Thompson property has been vacant for at least the past 50 years.  The owner, a local entrepreneur, considered installing a public storage facility on the site but opted for this sale to Mass Audubon instead.  The property is within the identified wildlife corridor. The ravine on the southern side in particular shows evidence of animals crossing from Arcadia to the Rocky Hill Greenway. 

The Thompson property is located next to the wetland area of Arcadia, and provides a good vantage point to observe wildlife and also provides access for people to wander along the wetland’s edge in the woods. 

Getting More Done

Wayne Feiden, Director of Planning and Sustainability for the City of Northampton, notes that, “Partnering with Mass Audubon allows the City of Northampton to protect much more land than we would be able to on our own.  Together we have expanded the conservation land in this area by 120 acres over the past five years alone.” 

Bob Wilber, Mass Audubon’s Director of Land Conservation, comments that “while many other states are just beginning to cultivate a public/private ‘conservation community’ working regularly in partnership, it is second nature here in Massachusetts.  Each partner has unique skills and capacities that, when combined, give us the ability to do great things.  We simply get much more accomplished this way.  Our partnership with Wayne and the City of Northampton is a shining example of what a public/private partnership can achieve.”

By Kate Buttolph, Land Protection 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

Partnering to Save Nasketucket Bay

Mass Audubon is excited to report that we are partnering with the Coalition for Buzzards Bay to help support the Nasketucket Bay Land Conservation Project which aims to permanently protect nearly 400 acres of vulnerable coastline in Fairhaven and Mattapoisett, all of which surrounds Mass Audubon’s Wards Rock Wildlife Sanctuary.

The project supports numerous conservation values beneficial to the Sanctuary and its coastline on Nasketucket Bay including the protection of approximately 4,000 feet of ecologically significant coastal shoreline, wildlife habitat for rare species, and the water quality of the Nasketucket River and Bay.  The land to be protected is shown on the map below. Learn more about these efforts.


Additional Progress on Berkshires Project

Bob Wilber, Director of Land Protection

Working in partnership with the State Department of Conservation & Recreation and the Berkshire Natural Resources Council, we continue to make progress toward a long-held goal of conserving large portions of a spectacular 1,300-acre property abutting Mount Greylock in the Berkshires.

While there are many complex issues yet to be addressed before we are assured that this is “a go”, recent progress has been steady, as we continue to work with the conservation-minded owners of this land.  Reflecting the importance of this opportunity, we have been awarded a large state grant – provided that we get the project to the finish line this Spring.  In the coming months we will be trying to identify where the additional funds necessary will come from. Optimistic….but with fingers crossed!
View of land to be conserved

Fieldstone Farm, Princeton

Charlie Wyman, Senior Land Protection Specialist

For generations, passersby on Route 62 through Princeton have admired Fieldstone Farm, owned and operated by the Smith family for many years. It is one of New England’s typical iconic landscapes, a farmhouse and barns surrounded by rolling fields and forest, in this case almost three hundred acres in all. The farm abuts Mass Audubon’s Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary to the north, and contains a wealth of forested, field and wetland habitats used by a wide variety of wildlife.

Sadly Ruth Smith passed away two years ago, and like many farm families in a difficult Wetlands at Fieldstone Farmprofession, her children chose different paths and the farm will soon go up for sale. Princeton has stepped up in the past to support new conservation areas and outdoor recreation. What happens to this farmland will help further define what kind of community Princeton becomes, and whether it’s a town that can continue to find balance between housing needs and its agricultural and open space legacy.

Fortunately the conservation community has two advantages in this challenge. One is the family, which has been honest and forthright with us in sharing their plans, timetable and intentions, and has promised us every opportunity to work with them on a conservation solution. The other is the array of potential conservation partners, including (in addition to Mass Audubon) the Princeton Land Trust, the state’s Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program, the Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the town. Experience teaches us that in this 21st century, big expensive conservation projects require many partners, and we will need them all if Fieldstone Farm is to survive to grace the landscape of Princeton for another century. Stay tuned.
Fieldstone Farm


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!


Warren Woods is now protected!

Bob Ford, Land Protection Specialist

After three years of successfully working with the Town of Ashland and Northeastern University (NU) to advance the protection of the 120-acre Warren Woods land, we are pleased to report that the Warren Woods land has been successfully acquired by the Town for conservation and historic preservation purposes!  Mass Audubon helped facilitate this outcome  in a variety of ways, from pledging funds toward the purchase, pre-acquisition negotiations, planning, and appraisals, to purchase and financing meetings with Ashland and NU officials, to securing the necessary Town Meeting approvals.

Photo from Ashland Historical Commission

Henry Warren (right) with Albert Einstein (middle). Photo from Ashland Historical Commission.

If you have been following this story you know that Warren Woods is named after Henry Ellis Warren, a pre-eminent Ashland inventor, holder of 135 patents, and philanthropist who is known as the “Father of the Electric Clock”.  His numerous inventions and patents spawned modern time keeping of today, led to advancements in Timex wristwatch technology, and energy delivery systems for General Electric.  Mr. Warren is shown in the photo to the right of Albert Einstein.  He was also a lover of nature responsible for purchasing and protecting the Ashland Town Forest and donated his house and land to NU at the time of his death.  When informed that NU was considering selling the land for a large-scale residential development, Ashland and Mass Audubon worked together to develop different options for the future of the land to benefit the Town and help secure Mr. Warren’s legacy.

The land was important to the local community for many reasons, including that it represented the last opportunity to complete a contiguous corridor of highly important open space, conservation land, and trails which includes the Ashland State Forest and public reservoir, land protected by the Massachusetts Agricultural Preservation Restriction program, Town of Holliston Town Forest, Mass Audubon’s Waseeka Wildlife Sanctuary, and additional land protected by conservation restrictions held by Mass Audubon at Broad Hill.  Protecting Warren Woods creates one of the largest corridors of permanently protected open space in the metrowest area inside Route 495.

The purchase was made possible by a recent state LAND grant award of $500,000, funding from the Ashland Community Preservation Act, and the support of many residents and Town officials.  Mass Audubon has agreed to contribute $150,000 to the project and will hold a Conservation Restriction on the property.

An abutting 23-acre portion of NU land in the neighboring town of Holliston is also being considered for protection by Mass Audubon and other conservation partners.





Two important land protection projects containing critical wildlife habitat recently took major steps closer to completion!

Bob Ford, Land Protection Specialist

In Ashland

Town officials recently completed negotiations with Northeastern University to protect 120 acres of woodlands and farm fields. One key factor in moving this project forward: the Town recently received a $500,000 state grant to assist with the purchase cost.

Red-tailed hawk; photo taken by Dori ([email protected])

Mass Audubon’s role in this project has included conducting appraisals and technical assistance. We have also pledged to contribute $150,000 toward the project. It’s anticipated that 100-plus acres will be covered by a conservation restriction, meaning it will be permanently protected.  This is great news for the variety of wildlife that call it home, such as American woodcock, red-tailed hawk, fox, and barred owl.

In Barnstable

Nearly 100 miles away on the Cape, a valuable waterfront parcel fronting on Barnstable Harbor and Cape Cod Bay has taken a giant leap forward.  A generous landowner has agreed to sell to Mass Audubon (at a greater than 50 percent discount) the last piece of salt marsh and upland habitat identified in the Barnstable Great Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary Land protection plan.

After much relationship building with the conservation-minded landowners and their family, an agreement was reached where the land will become part of the Barnstable Great Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary. Protection of this key parcel would complete an assemblage of the area’s highest priority parcels, protect rare and endangered species, and provide storm surge protection to area residents and businesses.