Category Archives: Success Stories

A running account of Mass Audubon’s land conservation successes, posted on the blog as they occur.

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

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.

Mass Audubon & City of Northampton Team Up to Protect Wildlife Corridor

On April 1, 2015, Mass Audubon acquired a conservation restriction on an important 48-acre forested parcel in a corridor linking our Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary to the extensive open lands in the western part of Northampton.

For years we have had our eye on a group of undeveloped properties on the west side of Route 10 across from Arcadia. Zoned by the city years ago for business park development, these parcels had languished on the market for lack of sewer access and other issues. For Arcadia, hemmed in by development and water, they’re also at the heart of one of the two best remaining corridors connecting Arcadia to large tracts of open space further afield.

So when our long-time conservation partners at city hall called to say they thought there was an opportunity to protect one of the larger properties in this corridor, we said we’d do everything we could to assist. For the city, it was an opportunity not only to protect this land for its conservation value, but also to secure the route for a spur trail off the new bike path connecting Northampton and Easthampton.

What the city needed were funds to bridge the gap between what they could afford and the minimum the owner would accept. They also needed a holder for the conservation restriction mandated by the Community Preservation Act. The city was an early adopter of CPA, which allows municipalities to levy a property tax surcharge for conservation, recreation, historic preservation restriction and affordable housing projects, provided a conservation restriction is imposed on any conservation acquisitions.

We agreed to provide $50,000 towards the acquisition costs of the property, to accept the conservation restriction, and to cover our transaction and long-term stewardship costs as well – a total package worth $70,000. We were able to do this thanks to the many friends who had generously donated funds over the years to be used at Arcadia for just such occasions, including the McCane-Chin Fund for Land Protection which provided half of the funds needed.

Wildlife tracking studies a few years ago confirmed the importance of this corridor for fox, deer, bear, and other large mammals. Now thanks to the City of Northampton and to some very generous and committed friends, a key part of this corridor is forever protected.

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.

Nasketucket-Bay-Conservation

I Can See For Miles and Miles

Every now and then, one has the good fortune to cross paths with someone truly special, someone with an unwavering commitment to do all that they can to make this world a better place – both for wildlife and for people. Such is the case in Otis, Massachusetts, where we have collaborated closely for several decades with a very generous private individual with a deep and genuine conservation ethic. What has resulted is nothing short of amazing – the future Cold Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, more than 1,000 acres of diverse habitats and intact forest located on both the east and west sides of the beautiful Farmington River. Future Cold Brook WS and Old Baldy Mountain conserved

While the accomplishments to date in knitting together this future sanctuary are indeed impressive, that progress was threatened recently when a regional landmark – Old Baldy Mountain – was scheduled to be publicly auctioned off to the highest bidder. The alarm bells went off, for conservationists and for those who reside for miles around this property. Being the highest point along this section of the river, possessing spectacular 360 degree views, and with a dirt roadway already constructed to the summit, the future of Old Baldy was suddenly quite uncertain. There was a real possibility this majestic mountain top would soon become the site of a massive trophy home, or an intensive residential subdivision.

The current edition of our own Losing Ground (Beyond the Footprint) helped us understand that such a development would have significant negative impact on in this previously highly intact natural setting – well beyond the foundations of buildings constructed on this land.

Due to the tremendous visibility of this highpoint abutting our future sanctuary, development would also permanently alter the bucolic vista from our future sanctuary – while also marring the view of the beautiful Berkshires for many miles in all directions. With a daunting projected price tag of nearly $500,000, and with very little advance notice of the auction, the quality of life of plants, animals, and humans in a wide area appeared destined to take a hit. Old Baldy Mountain

It has long been observed that trying times bring out the best in special people. All of us have seen that happen in different settings, and this case was no different. With the intensity ratcheting up quickly, and the stakes so very high, the amazing individual that we’ve been working with moved boldly forward to confront this threat. Working in close consultation with Mass Audubon, and with the considerable assistance of very talented legal counsel, this individual moved swiftly to acquire the property directly, preempting the dreaded public auction that was only a few days off. As if that were not enough, our partner then made the very generous decision to donate this beautiful tract to Mass Audubon – what an amazing outcome!

Clearly, this was a powerful demonstration of how one individual can make a real and lasting difference – we are all so very deeply indebted.

-Bob Wilber, Director of Land Conservation

Rough Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary in Rowley Continues to Grow!

Thanks to a local family committed to conservation, Mass Audubon was able to purchase an important 2.5 acre parcel of land at the entrance to the Sanctuary. Ranking as a highest priority for protection in the Sanctuary, the land presented a challenge because it was originally transferred to several descendants of the original owner, some located out of state. In order to make the land transfer to Mass Audubon possible, the Swenson family agreed to file an action in Salem Probate Court to consolidate the various family interests.

Although not large in size, this parcel along with other protected land, plays an important role in preserving the salt marsh habitat of the Great Marsh, an area of over 14,000 acres which is one of the most important salt marsh habitats in Screenshot 2013-12-31 at 11.34.57 AMthe Northeastern United States and the largest contiguous salt marsh north of Long Island. In addition to providing habitat for various salt marsh species, the land also provides opportunities for salt marsh migration in an age of climate change.

Like much of the Sanctuary, the land is identified by the state as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), BioMap and Living Waters Core Habitat, Rare Species Priority Habitat, a Mass Audubon mapped Important Bird Area (IBA), and was identified as a priority for protection in the Statewide Land Conservation Plan.

-Bob Ford, Land Protection Specialist

Small but Important Parcel Added to Worcester Sanctuary

Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, at over 400 acres, is the largest urban wildlife sanctuary in New England. While its size ensures that many wildlife populations can thrive here, their habitat remains vulnerable to development on unprotected natural lands at the edges.

So we were especially happy when Robert Dunn of Holden generously offered us a gift of two undeveloped house lots adjacent to the sanctuary. While small – these are city lots, and the two combined total just four-tenths of an acre – New land at Broad Meadow Brooktheir development could have serious repercussions, as the influence of houses (think pets, invasives, etc.) can range over a much larger area. Containing upland woods, wetlands, and a small stretch of stream, these lots offer habitat diversity and valuable buffer, and the possibility of a trail entrance someday.

We are very grateful to Mr. Dunn for his generous gift, another in a long series of remarkable acts of generosity over the years by hundreds of landowners who collectively have helped build Mass Audubon’s sanctuary system. Theirs is an extraordinary legacy that helps to protect the wildlife that share Massachusetts with us, and that enriches us all. Thank you, Bob!

-Charlie Wyman, Senior Land Protection Specialist

This Sanctuary Has Never Met a State Forest it Didn’t Like!

Bob Wilber, Director of Land Conservation
Connections, linkages, corridors, land bridges – these are all related and popular concepts in conservation science these days. With conserved lands, bigger is almost always much better – particularly when one is looking through the lens of climate change, where many plants and animals will need to move around a bit to sustain over the long term. By physically connecting one tract of existing conservation land with another, not only do both tracts become more significant, but the value of the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.

Mass Audubon recently completed the acquisition of such a critical link – 82 acres of high quality forest land from Gregg S. Whitney, connecting our Whetstone Wood Wildlife Sanctuary with a portion of the Wendell State Forest to the west. We acquired this important property for $95,000 – a bargain sale $45,000 below current appraised value.

Whetstone is unique for several reasons, including the fact that it is both Mass Audubon’s largest Newly protected landwildlife sanctuary, and the only one managed explicitly as a wildland – where human impact is minimized and the extent and function of natural communities are of paramount importance. Whetstone Wood is a terrific example of a wildland, consistent with the Wildlands and Woodlands forest conservation vision put forth by Harvard Forest and the University of Massachusetts. Whetstone Wood is also located within the multi-state Quabbin to Cardigan (Q2C) corridor conservation initiative. In addition, the land lies within an area designated by the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs as the North Quabbin Bioreserve, further reflecting its ecological significance.

Making connections between conservation lands is one of the most prominent themes underpinning the Sanctuary Land Conservation Plan for Whetstone, located in the north Quabbin region of the state. Under that plan, we have been working hard to link that sanctuary with two of the largest expanses of protected open space in the state – more than 50,000 acres surrounding the Quabbin Reservoir and its watershed to the south, and the nearly 80,000 acres of land protected by private land trusts and by state conservation agencies to the north and west as well as extending further westward to Mt. Toby and the Connecticut River corridor. The “land bridge” context of Whetstone will be particularly important in the years ahead, as the impacts of climate change become more pronounced. By connecting these lands where possible today, they will be more resilient tomorrow – a critical factor in natural communities adapting to climate change.