Category Archives: Land Protection

Protected! Three Critical Land Successes Including 1,400 Acres

Mass Audubon’s recently released Action Agenda highlights the importance of protecting land and the ecological services it provides to people and wildlife. The Resilient Landscapes goal specifically focuses on working with partners to conserve an additional 150,000 acres of the Commonwealth’s most important and biodiverse habitats, bringing the percentage of protected land in the state to 30%.

Three recent land conservation success stories, including the remarkable protection of the 1,400-acre Bear Hole Landscape in West Springfield, are great examples of this goal in action.

1,400 Acres at Bear Hole Landscape  

Bear Hole Tree Canopy

The 1,400-acre Bear Hole Landscape, a critical link in an extensive wildlife corridor that extends from central Connecticut to the Holyoke Range, is now conserved forever.

After years of working with many partners across the state, Mass Audubon and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation purchased a Conservation Restriction (CR) from the Town of West Springfield that permanently “retires” the potential for the land to ever be developed.

With this land protected, it also creates more access to nature (Goal 2 of the Action Agenda) by providing endless opportunities to explore the trails on this land. Learn more >

20 Acres at Whetstone Wood

Looking west from the highest point on the newly conserved property

Whetstone Wood Wildlife Sanctuary, Mass Audubon’s largest wildlife sanctuary at over 2,500 acres, just added another 20 acres of prime forest and wooded wetlands that connects the wildlife sanctuary from west to east across New Salem Road in Wendell.

Whetstone Wood forms a “bridge” of protected lands connecting more than 50,000 acres dedicated to conservation. The sanctuary is unusual for Mass Audubon because public access is quite limited. It was the vision of the original donors and founders of the sanctuary, Ina and Mason Phelps, to create a wildlife refuge where human impacts are deliberately kept to a minimum. Learn more >

16 Acres at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary

Map of Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary

Preserving critical flood storage capacity and protecting important habitat for a variety of species, Mass Audubon added 16 acres at our Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary with support from our long-time partner the City of Northampton. It is part of the same ecosystem partially protected by the City’s nearby Mill River Greenway.

The entire area is part of an old “oxbow” (a U-shaped segment of water) that became separated from the primary flow of the Connecticut River long ago. Oxbow wetlands such as this provide excess storage capacity for flood waters, improved water quality through filtration services, and habitat for a variety of wildlife. This particular land is part of a wildlife corridor actively used by bobcat, coyote, deer, and other wildlife.  Learn more >

Protecting a Home for Herons in Worcester

Once a rare sight in the northeast US due to hunting pressure and pollution, Great Blue Herons have staged a staggering comeback in the past few decades. Now, these statuesque wading birds can be seen at ponds, lakes, and rivers of all sizes, often in surprisingly urban areas. Their impressive size and graceful flight have won them many admirers. 

Great Blue Heron with fish in mouth flying to nest with three young Great Blue Herons. Copyright Joe Howell
© Joe Howell

While spotting a heron on its own is a sight to see, it’s nothing compared to coming upon herons standing over their just hatched fuzzy-headed young, in what is known as a “heronry.” 

These communal nesting grounds can contain up to 50 herons and there’s one in Worcester that could use your help to protect it. 

Saving Heron Pond 

Adjacent to Mass Audubon’s Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife SanctuaryHeron Pond is a 17-acre urban wetland that features not only a heronry but an active beaver colony. Mass Audubon is partnering with the City of Worcester to purchase a permanent Conservation Restriction (CR) on the land. A CR is a legally binding agreement that permanently protects certain conservation values of a property while allowing the land to remain in private ownership. 

Located within a state designated Environmental Justice Population and upstream of a federally designated high-risk area for flooding, protecting this land will provide opportunities for more people to connect with nature and bolster the climate resilience of the neighborhood by providing flood storage. 

We just need your support to raise the final $36,000 to make this happen. Please consider making a gift today! 

Donate now >

— Nancy Cowan