Tag Archives: action agenda

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 >

Three Openings Worth Celebrating

As more and more people discover the power of spending time outdoors, we’re doing everything we can to offer more opportunities to experience nature. In fact, one of the main goals in our new five-year Action Agenda is creating inclusive and equitable access to nature by opening more than 50 miles trails, creating three new urban sanctuaries, and protecting and restoring 17 urban green spaces. And three recent openings are prime examples of how we are accomplishing this goal.

New Pathways in Natick 

Mass Audubon President David O'Neill speaks with sanctuary supporters on the new bridge, which is surrounded by trees and water to the left.
Mass Audubon President David O’Neill speaks with sanctuary supporters on the new bridge.

Over the years, Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary‘s well-loved trail system has been compromised by heavy use, flooding, and erosion. Many trails were old cart paths, not designed for large numbers of visitors, and others have been impacted by beaver activity. Heavy storms due to climate change have also affected many locations. 

To ensure safe, accessible, and enjoyable connections to nature for all people, while protecting the habitats for the plants and animals, we launched an effort to improve our trail system following a comprehensive study completed by Peter Jensen, a nationally recognized trail-development expert. The plan addresses all nine miles of trails making reroutes, creating scenic viewpoints, adding puncheon and bog bridges, and much more. Improvements began in 2019 engaging volunteers, school groups, Mass Audubon campers, and others in the process. 

In May 2021, we untied the ribbon on the first phase of the project, which included the opening of a new trail and scenic bridge overlooking Little Farm Pond, replacing an unsafe and often flooded plank walkway. The event, which welcomed Mass Audubon President David O’Neill, Mass Audubon Board Chair Beth Kressley Goldstein, Metro West Director Renata Pomponi, Project Lead Elissa Landre, Mass Audubon staff, Board members, volunteers, and partners, also served as a wonderful opportunity to launch the Action Agenda

Easier Access in Attleboro 

The Knoll Stroll ribbon cutting.

Oak Knoll Wildlife Sanctuary in Attleboro, located right on Park Street, has long been a center for the community. Now, with the opening of the new Knoll Stroll Trail, the sanctuary is accessible via public transportation, reducing a barrier to enjoying this nature oasis in the city. 

Connecting to the GATRA bus has long been a priority for the sanctuary. Thanks to the acquisition of the 26-acre Dorrance property in 2019, the vision became a reality. Now, visitors can walk 50 feet from the bus stop and be immediately immersed in nature via the new “Knoll Stroll” and the almost two miles of trails including a loop around Lake Talaquega.   

To celebrate the trail opening, David O’Neill joined South East Director Lauren Kras, Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux, State Representative Jim Hawkins, State Senator Paul Feeney, longtime sanctuary supporter Ted Leach, and Brian Hatch of Hike Attleboro. 

An Accessible Barn in Lenox 

Matthew Keator of Mass Cultural Council, Lenox Select Board Chair Neal Maxymillian, West Director Becky Cushing Gop, David O'Neill, Allyce Najimy of Mass Cultural Council, and State Rep. William “Smitty’ Pignatelli cutting the ribbon
Matthew Keator of Mass Cultural Council, Lenox Select Board Chair Neal Maxymillian, West Director Becky Cushing Gop, David O’Neill, Allyce Najimy of Mass Cultural Council, and State Rep. William “Smitty’ Pignatelli

For more than 90 years Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary has welcomed visitors and served the community as a vibrant hub of conservation, environmental education, and outdoor recreation in the Berkshires.  

Our creative nature-based programming is seen as a vital community resource that supports curiosity, scientific exploration, and self-discovery. But the sanctuary’s aged facilities lacked the accessibility and amenities needed to support collaboration, creativity, and expansion. 

In order to welcome and accommodate the diverse needs of modern visitors, the sanctuary launched and completed the $1.125 million Opening Doors to Nature campaign. The centerpiece of this effort, an energy-efficient and universally accessible addition to its 18th-century barn, is now open for all to enjoy.  

The opening celebration was an opportunity to thank donors and supporters, including Mass Cultural Council for their generous $300,000 in support. Also joining West Director Becky Cushing Gop and President David O’Neill to cut the ribbon were Lenox selectboard chair Neal Maxymillian and State Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli.