Category Archives: Land Protection

Looking to Land for Climate Solutions

It’s time to talk about land.

Not just about the diverse habitats, wildlife, and plants undeveloped land contains, but also the myriad of solutions land holds to our environment’s most pressing problem: climate change. When we look to land, we can see natural climate solutions that play an indispensable role in our larger, collective climate fight.

Photo © Diana Chaplin

Two Sides to the Climate Coin: Mitigation and Adaptation

In order to keep our communities and wildlife healthy while striding towards a carbon-neutral future by 2050, we need to both adapt to and mitigate climate change. Land helps us do both.

To adapt to climate change means to contend with its current impacts. Protected land boosts our resilience against these impacts we’re already seeing, right here and now, like extreme weather events and heat. For example, grasslands and farmlands can store significant stormwater from climate change-induced increased rainfall.

To mitigate climate change means to tackle the crisis at its roots. Land is home to natural tools, like trees and wetlands, that soak up carbon dioxide like a sponge, helping us remove rampant greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere. Right now, natural solutions are one of the few mitigation strategies that we can immediately and urgently utilize with large impact. Each acre of forest, for example, holds immense value in mitigation efforts by storing about 103 tons of carbon dioxide.

Paired with climate policy like An Act creating a 2050 roadmap to a clean and thriving Commonwealth (H.4912), which includes amended language to require Massachusetts to consider land’s climate impact, conserving land is one of the most tangible and powerful climate solutions in our toolkit.

Helping People and Wildlife Alike

Land provides home and refuge to plants and animals, including rare and threatened species. However, as climate change causes temperatures to rise in Massachusetts and around the world, we’re seeing wildlife forced to shift their habitat ranges to adapt.

Wildlife corridors are connected protected lands that allow plants and animals to move safely and as needed, unimpeded by human development and activity. These movements can be a part of migration, breeding, finding food, and so many more behaviors critical to the survival of our nature. Wildlife corridors are essential to safeguard our plants, animals, and nature’s biodiversity as they adapt to climate change by finding their natural habitat in new locations.

People also benefit from conserved land. Climate change aggravates public health issues, but conserving land can help us counteract some of these effects. The same natural tools that buffer the impacts of climate change and soak up excess greenhouse gas emissions also keep our communities healthy by purifying the air we breathe and the water we drink.

One Piece of the Climate Solutions Puzzle: Land Conservation

To boldly act on climate, we must turn to solutions that we can pursue right now, and conserved land is one piece of the larger, climate solutions puzzle. Mass Audubon is among the largest conservation non-profits in New England, and has conserved more than 38,000 acres of ecologically significant land.

But we need your help to maximize the climate impact of our land conservation. Join us in working towards a carbon neutral future by supporting one of our urgent land projects – you can make a difference in solving the crisis.

You can also join our climate community by signing up for our monthly e-newsletter, Climate Connection, and stay up to date on climate information, community action, and solutions.

Lime Kiln Farm

A Focus on Land Conservation

As the largest private landowner in Massachusetts, you may wonder why we continue to seek out additional open space to protect. When it comes to conserving land, we look at many characteristics of a property, especially if it contains priority habitat, acts as a wildlife corridor, or will be resilient in the face of climate change.

We also look for property that protects or enhances habitat or visitor experience at existing wildlife sanctuaries. Three recent acquisitions exemplify how we take these principles and put them into action.

Land Conservation at Lime Kiln Farm

Lime Kiln Farm in Sheffield

Priority Habitat

There are 169 species of animals and 258 species of plants that are protected under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. These 427 native species are either at risk, or may become at risk, of extinction. In order to protect these species, we need to protect the land they are found on, which is deemed priority habitat.

Success Story: The recent donation of 15 acres in Richmond added land that is deemed to be priority habitat for several Sedges (a flowering plant) and the Jefferson Salamander, and a critical connection for bears, beavers, and birds travelling to and from the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary which abuts this property on the east.

Wildlife Corridor

The linkage across open lands and occasionally through culverts under roadways that joins two or more areas of similar wildlife habitat is known as a wildlife corridor. Corridors are critical to allow for the movement of animals and survival of healthy animal communities.

Mass Audubon works to link priority habitat to support the safe passage of wildlife. The conditions and habitats that enable animals to move and thrive are the same ones that enable people to weather storms, live off the land, and enjoy a constant supply of clean water. Larger, unfragmented tracts of forests help counter global warming, absorb precipitation into groundwater reservoirs, and provide for sustainable forestry.

Success Story: We recently purchased 52 acres in Northampton that provide a wildlife corridor, connecting Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary to the Rocky Hill Greenway in Northampton.

Climate Resilience

Effects of climate change are moderated by complex topography, dense wetlands, and unpaved open spaces. Complex topography means a variety of elevations and a combination of forests, fields and swamps, buffers against climate change, giving most species a better chance to survive.

Success Story: This spring, we added 120 acres of fields, forests, and wetlands to Lime Kiln Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Sheffield. These acres add to the protected habitat and  corridors for wildlife in the Housatonic watershed.  The complex topography in this Sanctuary provides resilience against extreme changes in temperature and rainfall.

These new additions to our wildlife sanctuaries will enhance visitors’ experiences with greater exposure to natural wonders and habitats.

Learn more about Mass Audubon’s land conservation efforts >

Written by Kate Buttolph, Land Protection Specialist

Exciting News About Tidmarsh!

For the past year, we’ve been working hard to raise enough funds to acquire almost 479 acres of Tidmarsh Farms in Plymouth, land which encompasses restored freshwater wetlands and adjoining uplands. It’s been a remarkable journey and a true community effort.

Today, we’re excited to announce that we achieved our goal of raising $3.6 million! And it’s all thanks to supporters like you.

This means we can now move forward with purchasing the property later this summer. And we hope to see you this fall in Plymouth when we celebrate the official opening of Mass Audubon’s newest wildlife sanctuary!

Thank you for your commitment to land conservation, and for being a part of this important initiative—we could not have done it without your support. We are humbled by the generosity and dedication of our conservation community, and in particular, the people like you who stepped up to make this vision a reality.

We’ve Been Awarded Accreditation!

We are happy to report that Mass Audubon was just awarded accreditation by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, which supports land conservation groups nationwide.

Accreditation provides Mass Audubon the benefit of an unbiased outside assessment from other land conservation professionals as the organization seeks to maintain its standard of excellence. The designation culminates a two-year process that included submitting extensive documentation and a rigorous review of our land acquisitions and practices.

© Nathan Goshgarian

© Nathan Goshgarian

With more than 35,000 acres under protection, Mass Audubon is the largest owner of privately conserved land in the state. As such, it serves as one of the most influential land trusts in New England and helps engage the public in appreciating and supporting the preservation of significant open space.

Our statewide wildlife sanctuary system, stretching from the Cape and Islands to the Berkshires, offers extraordinary destinations for public visitation; conservation research and study; and places to engage visitors of all ages and abilities in a wide range of education programs and outdoor explorations.

“This designation enhances Mass Audubon’s reputation as a model for responsible land conservation and stewardship, not only in how we approach our own projects, but as a willing partner with other conservation groups and government agencies,” said Gary Clayton, Acting President and Vice President for Conservation Programs.

The concept of Land Trust Accreditation was first put forth by the Land Trust Alliance a decade ago as in response to IRS scrutiny of several high profile real estate transactions involving land trusts employing questionable practices. The theory behind accreditation is simple: To encourage more land trusts to put policies and procedures in place to ensure that their work is carried out at a consistently high level of quality—ethical and otherwise.

As a committed leader of the vibrant land trust community in Massachusetts (where the land trust movement began in the 1890s and is now home to more land trusts than any other state) we readily acknowledge that the rigorous framework for Land Trust Accreditation is definitely not for every trust.

That said, Mass Audubon has long advocated for trusts at all levels to pay attention to the Standards & Practices upon which Accreditation is based. Our hats are off to the Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition for their commitment to working with smaller trusts to enhance their familiarity and use of Standards & Practices for land trust operation.

Learn more about our land conservation efforts at massaudubon.org/land

Spring Street Woodlands Success Story

Spring StreetThanks to an outpouring of support, Mass Audubon has raised enough funds to conserve the 31-acre Spring Street Woodlands property in Marshfield, officially adding it to North River Wildlife Sanctuary.

Before this achievement, Spring Street Woodlands, owned by the Hale family, was the largest parcel of unprotected land adjacent to the wildlife sanctuary. The forested property is also ecological diverse, providing a home to a range of native and rare species, from the red-backed salamander to mink to ruffed grouse. Adding the 31 acres to North River will create an uninterrupted corridor for wildlife to safely travel and thrive.

Spring Street Woodlands mapThe Spring Street Woodlands property also serves as the source of Hannah Eames Brook, an important freshwater stream that flows through North River Wildlife Sanctuary and into North River, the only state designated scenic and recreational river. By protecting the land, we can help ensure the high water quality of the brook for generations to come.

This addition doesn’t just benefit wildlife and water quality. The existing informal network of well-used trails will remain open for neighbors and the community to enjoy.

“Conserving this land is incredibly beneficial to North River Wildlife Sanctuary, to the wildlife and flora in this area, and to our local community. I’m extremely appreciative that so many people acted so generously and thoughtfully to make this happen,” said Sue MacCallum, South Shore Sanctuaries Director.

To learn more about our land protection efforts like this one, visit our website.

Saving Sibley

When you’re in the business of protecting land as we are, we’re often sending out requests for help. And when it came to the Sibley and Warner Farms property in Spencer, you heard our calls loud and clear. On Monday, June 4, we permanently protected the 350-acre property for conservation, farming, and public use, for all time!

What’s so special about this land? The former Sibley and Warner Farms make up one of the most spectacular undeveloped properties in central Massachusetts. Its rolling hayfields, upland forests, and wetlands offer clean water, productive farmland, and an abundance of wildlife, including otter, beaver, fisher, waterfowl, and songbirds.

Many people know the property from hiking the Mid-State Trail, hunting its woods, snowmobiling the Snowbirds trail, or just driving past and admiring the beautiful view of the pond and hayfields along Route 9.

The property seemed lost to development forever when developers won approval for a shopping center and 300-unit condo development in 2005. But then the economy turned down, the bank foreclosed, and suddenly the land had a second chance.

Along with our partners (Town of Spencer, Greater Worcester Land Trust, and Common Ground Land Trust), we needed to quickly raise $2.91 million. A tall order, for sure. But thanks to over 400 generous donors, the residents of Spencer, the Massachusetts Landscape Partnership and Agricultural Preservation Restriction Programs, and enthusiastic 7th and 8th graders from Central Tree Middle School in Rutland, we met our goal just in time. Now the land is safely and permanently in the hands of the Greater Worcester Land Trust and Mass Audubon.

Since June, we’ve barely had time to catch our breath. We’ve been busy preparing plans, obtaining permits, and beginning construction on the new parking and trailhead on Greenville Street that will serve not only the Sibley and Warner farms but also as the new main entrance to our Burncoat Pond Wildlife Sanctuary.

The dilapidated buildings on the site came down over Labor Day weekend; trails are being improved and meadows mown. And plans are well underway for our big celebration on Sunday, October 14, at 2 pm, which is open to all. Email us for details on the event and to RSVP.

A Great Marsh Day

It’s always a special day when we open a new wildlife sanctuary to the public and Saturday, July 14, was particularly so as more than 80 members and supporters joined us for a celebration and official ribbon cutting for our new Barnstable Great Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary on Cape Cod.

The 120-acre sanctuary overlooks one of the largest salt marsh and barrier beach systems in New England. Here Cape visitors can explore a 1.5 mile trail network that winds through woodlands as well as around pond and vernal pools habitats before ending in a spectacular marsh view. Just a short distance down the road is our Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary, a destination for educational programming with another diverse trail system.

Barnstable Great Marsh was established through the generosity and vision of the Ferguson and Chase families and is largely the result of land donations over a period of years beginning in 1971, most notably a bequest of 78 acres from Georgia Ferguson in 1998. The most recent addition, the purchase of an 8.5 acre property in the middle of the sanctuary, was made possible by the continued generosity George and Jean Ferguson as well as significant gifts from the Greeley family in memory of Walter Greeley, Jr.

The gathering had the warm feel of a family reunion as members of both families were on hand for the ribbon cutting at the opening, a walk on the property, and the dedication of commemorative benches at the entrance and overlooks.

We also wanted to thank the Fields Pond Foundation, which provided grant funding to assist in the design and construction of trails and other visitor facilities.

Come by and explore Barnstable Great Marsh and let us know what you think!