Mass Audubon has received a generous donation of a 50-acre property on the former Grass Hill Road in Whately, near the Graves Farm Wildlife Sanctuary. It is a forest habitat type known as hemlock-hardwood-pine. White pine and eastern hemlock are predominant with hardwoods such as red oak and ash mixed in.
This property abuts private lands on its northern and western boundaries that are protected through Conservation Restrictions held by the Hilltown Land Trust. In addition, the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game has a Wildlife Management Area off the northeastern corner, and the City of Northampton owns watershed lands further north and east of the land.
The donors owned this land for 60 years. It was originally part of a much larger land holding of the Graves family after which the Wildlife Sanctuary is named. Thaddeus Graves conveyed this particular parcel to the New England Box Company, which owned it from 1909 to 1955
Historically, the property was used primarily for timber, but it has not been logged in the past 20 years. Signs of bear and moose were found during a recent walk. These 50 acres add significantly to the connection between protected lands in the area thereby preserving the integrity of the natural landscape. This in turn assists wildlife movement—a critical need in the age of habitat-altering climate change. A walk in these woods provides a sense of awe at the resilience of nature, and the peace of the natural world.
-Kate Buttolph, Land Protection Specialist