Tag Archives: Whetstone Wood

Strengthening the Whetstone Land Bridge

Whetstone Wood Wildlife Sanctuary, Mass Audubon’s largest wildlife sanctuary at almost 2,500 acres located in Wendell, Orange, and New Salem, just added another 118 acres—home to high quality forest and vernal pools. 

The property was offered to Mass Audubon for purchase by Wendell resident Marcelle Feltman (who lives just down the road) with the understanding that it would be conserved and become part of the Whetstone Wood Wildlife Sanctuary.  The Feltman family loves living in Wendell and appreciates the wildness and unbroken nature of much of the forest there. They are very pleased that Mass Audubon was able to purchase the property to protect it forever.

Moving to Wendell

Marcelle and her husband Neal (who passed away in 2016) both attended UMASS Amherst.  They moved to Wendell in 1974 and built a house.  A forester and a teacher, the Feltmans eventually purchased an additional 136 acres, subdivided the property, and sold a few house lots along Jennison Road. The outcome for this property strikes a healthy land use balance.  The Town of Wendell continues to receive property tax revenue from the house lots while the larger community and planet receives the more intangible benefits that conservation land provides. 

Adding to a Bridge

This large conservation acreage in Wendell is a terrific example of the critically important role that strategic land conservation will play in climate change response – both now and in the important years ahead. First, it provides corridors to help plants and animals move in order to find more comfortable locations as the impacts of climate change become more pronounced. Whetstone has grown to form a “bridge” of protected lands connecting literally tens of thousands of acres of existing conserved lands. Second, the protection of the forested landscape benefits all of us by sequestering carbon, absorbing other greenhouse gases, cooling temperatures, and generating clean water and air. 

Map showing the connection between Whetstone Wood Wildlife Sanctuary and thousands of acres of conserved land.

by Kate Buttolph, Land Protection Specialist

More permanently protected wildland for Western Mass

Dinah Rowbotham, Land Protection Program Assistant

In New Salem, Mass Audubon is working with landowners to permanently conserve 98 acres at Whetstone Wood Wildlife Sanctuary, the only Mass Audubon sanctuary managed as a wildland. 

These 98 acres are high priority for conservation—the chance to protect a sizeable tract of forest adjoining the sanctuary and significantly expanding a protected wildland is a rare opportunity in Massachusetts. Conservation of this land will enlarge a substantial stretch of undisturbed habitat for interior forest species like moose and bobcat. 

The property’s northern and western boundaries are shared with our existing sanctuary.  Expanding Whetstone Wood through this acquisition helps build the bridge between the two largest areas of protected land in the state— the Quabbin Reservoir and its surrounding watershed to the south, and the nearly 80,000 acres of land protected by private land trusts and by the state in Wendell, Orange, Erving, Warwick, Northfield, and Mt. Grace State Forests located nearby and to the north. 

If it weren’t for the conservation-mindset of the landowners, this fantastic opportunity would not be turning into reality.  They have generously agreed to a bargain sale to Mass Audubon for 70 acres outright plus a conservation restriction on 28 acres containing the home and farmstead, which they will retain.  The conservation restriction on the farmstead will be structured to accommodate the landowner’s needs, while protecting designated areas as wildland.

We're hoping to close on this project within the next few months!

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.

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