Mass Audubon has been working for some time, in close partnership with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR), and the City of West Springfield, to permanently protect more than 1,500 acres located in the southern Connecticut River Valley.
This large-scale project seeks to conserve the spectacular Bear Hole Landscape. That extensive, intact, forested area was acquired by the City of West Springfield over the last century as a surface water supply. When the City went to a groundwater well system to fulfill their municipal water needs in recent decades, the future of the land was brought into question because it was no longer needed for the purpose for which it had been acquired.
In recent years, Mass Audubon and DCR have had the good fortune of working with two forward-thinking mayors of West Springfield – mayors who have embraced the vision of placing permanent protections on Bear Hole. In that future, the conserved landscape would be managed for powerful climate change response, as well as increased and enhanced low impact public use and enjoyment. West Springfield is to be commended for recently taking steps necessary to become one of the first municipalities to monetize the carbon sequestration services of their forests – opening up exciting reinvestment potential for the Bear Hole Landscape.
While there are a number of important milestones still ahead of us, we remain optimistic that the exciting opportunity to permanently protect Bear Hole will be fulfilled.
By Bob Wilber, Director of Land Conservation