Tag Archives: conservation restriction

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

Welcome Intern Mary-Ellise Schiffer

Land Conservation has a spring intern for the third year in a row, and we are very happy to announce that it is Mary-Ellise Schiffer! 

A Class in Conservation Restrictions

For this internship, Mass Audubon is thankful to have a working relationship with John Baker of Clark University who advertises it to his current students.  John teaches a class each fall on Conservation Restrictions (CRs) in which students have the chance to learn hands on about how CRs work and how to go about running a CR Stewardship program.  In a sense, this internship is an opportunity for one student to take a deeper dive into all the ins and outs of CRs (tools for conserving land that remains in someone else’s ownership, by permanently extinguishing some or all of the development that might otherwise take place there).

The arrangement benefits both Clark and Mass Audubon.  John Baker has a chance to give his students real world professional experience, and Mass Audubon has a reliable pool of good candidates.

The internship itself tends to be a varied experience.   Students typically engage in tasks as varied as record keeping, report writing, assessing ecosystems, using mapping software, navigating through swamps, and taking photos of frog and salamander eggs in vernal pools.

Mary planting trees to restore rainforests in Queensland, Australia!

About Mary-Ellise Schiffer

Mary will serve as the CR intern for the spring semester of 2019.  She is currently a senior at Clark University, and is taking this internship for academic credit towards her Earth Systems Science major. In her role, she will help Nick Rossi (Mass Audubon’s CR Steward) with all things related to CR stewardship.

Growing up in the beautiful coastal town of Narragansett, Rhode Island, Mary has always loved the outdoors – the ocean, forests and wildlife. She is creative and enthusiastic, with a deep sense of wonder about the world around her.

Although she studies Environmental Science, she also enjoys researching subjects such as psychology, art, and philosophy. She’s always been an avid reader, and can often be found curled up somewhere cozy. Her dreams include becoming a well-published author, backpacking the Pacific Crest Trail, and holding a handstand.

By choosing an internship with Mass Audubon, she continues on the path which may one day lead her to the title of “National Park Ranger who gets to be outside all day and get paid for it!”

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. 

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.

Turtles and Transmission Lines

Charlie Wyman, Senior Land Protection Specialist

Western Massachusetts Electric Company (WMECO) has proposed upgrades to their transmission lines running from Connecticut through Agawam and Chicopee to Ludlow.  Work associated with the upgrade will result in some impacts on wetlands and rare species habitat along the route, requiring that the company obtain permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Mass. Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program.  Those two agencies, seeking to mitigate the impacts that cannot be avoided altogether, are requiring WMECO to permanently protect wetlands and rare species habitat in two locations in the town of Agawam just west of Springfield.

Why are we telling you this?  WMECO has asked Mass Audubon to hold the conservation restrictions that will permanently protect these areas, a total of about 65 acres.  The properties are highly deserving of protection, with multiple designations related to ecological value and rare species.

We have had several bargaining sessions, hammering out language that will ensure meaningful protection for the land while allowing WMECO to use it for electrical transmission.  We are closing in on our goal, and if all goes well, the conservation restrictions will go to record sometime this spring.

WMECO 02-15-11


Closing the deal on 15 acres in Wendell!

Dinah Rowbotham, Land Protection Program Assistant

In Wendell, Mass Audubon is rounding the bend on a project that will protect 15 additional acres at Whetstone Wood Wildlife Sanctuary!  The soon-to-be protected land is mostly surrounded by the existing sanctuary, which is managed by Mass Audubon as a wildland and is not prepared for public visitation.  Because this land enhances the sanctuary so well, has been identified by the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program as BioMap Supporting Natural Landscape, and consists of excellent habitat for interior forest species like moose and bobcat, it has been identified as highest priority for protection in the sanctuary protection plan for Whetstone Wood.

The landowner and Mass Audubon have worked together to carefully structure this project so that both the landowner, who will continue to reside on a portion of the protected property, and Mass Audubon shall meet their goals for the conservation of the land and habitat.  Mass Audubon is purchasing 10 acres–-the northernmost 5 acres and the southernmost 5 acres–-of the property in fee to add to our surrounding landholdings at Whetstone Wood, and protecting the remaining 5 acres which will remain in private ownership and contains the landowner’s residence with a conservation restriction.  The conservation restriction on the remaining 5 acres has been carefully written to protect part of the property as undisturbed wildlands, yet specifically defines and details a residential area that accommodates the conservation-minded landowner’s home and living activities.

The photos below were taken earlier this week when I was at the property to help prepare the baseline report for the conservation restriction and complete the site inspection for the land we will acquire in fee.



Setting up to permanently steward new conservation land

John Coolidge, Conservation Restriction Stewardship Specialist

Good conservation restriction (CR) stewardship starts with good baseline documentation.  We try not to do our documentation work in the rain… but there are times when it’s just plain impossible to avoid.  Last week was one of those times because we’ve nearly completed an important project in Sharon involving conservation land owned by the Town and the new protection of land owned by the Massapoag Sportsmen’s Club.  Our goal is to complete all the baseline work prior to the CR being signed by the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs and recorded at the Registry of Deeds.

Of primary importance to the CR, and our ongoing stewardship of it, is documenting the existing condition of the property at the time of the recording.  Identifying the boundaries of the property, locating the survey monuments, and making a record of the type of terrain both with pictures and written descriptions helps in the yearly monitoring both for the landowner or future landowners as well as those that will monitor the CR. Locating the lot corners is critical to the accuracy of our shape files (the basic outline of the property).

At the Sportsman’s Club soon-to-be-protected land, the local surveyor and the conservation administrator for the town were very helpful in finding all the monuments.   Below, Bob Ford and Lindsey Sarquilla confirm that a boundary location is correctly aligned with a beautiful old stone wall assisted by Conservation Administer Gregory Meister from the Sharon Conservation Commission.

BF directing BL

Establishing the baseline

Bob Ford, Land Protection Specialist

With every conservation restriction (CR) we accept, Mass Audubon must document, photograph, and map the restriction boundaries to ensure the long term protection of the property’s conservation values and environmental resources.  This information is compiled into what we call a “Baseline Documentation Report” for each CR property.

Recently, I visited Sacred Hearts Healing Center in Wareham, Massachusetts which is at the center of a public and private conservation partnership to preserve approximately 300 beautiful acres on Great Neck fronting on Buzzards Bay – possibly the last largest assembly of conservation land to be protected in this area. The conservation partnership includes Mass Audubon, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Town of Wareham, Wareham Land Trust, and numerous private property owners who have dedicated their land to conservation.

Here is John Coolidge, our Stewardship Specialist, using a GPS device to locate concrete property boundary markers as part of creating the Baseline Documentation Report for the Sacred Hearts CR. Look for more information to follow about the opening of a new trail for you to enjoy on this spectacular property.


The scoop on “conservation restrictions”

Dinah Rowbotham, Land Protection Program Assistant

There’s a fair amount of tricky lingo that gets thrown around the conservation world. One of the confusing terms frequently used is “conservation restriction” (or “conservation easement” as is used everywhere else in the country outside the Commonwealth). In a nutshell, a conservation restriction (CR) is a tool to provide permanent protection of land while allowing that land to remain in private ownership. Land Protection Director Bob Wilber recently wrote a message to the readers of our e-newsletter, Land—For People and Wildlife, spelling out a more detailed explanation (click here) of a CR in layman’s terms. So for those of you who are still thinking “but what IS a conservation restriction??” – you’ll probably find Bob's note to be a more satisfactory response than the nutshell version above. And if you’re not yet receiving our e-newsletter, please visit our website and sign up by entering your name and email address in the column on the left.