Western Massachusetts Projects: Grants and Loans
East Ashburnham ReserveIn June 2009, The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR) received grants from OSI’s Western Massachusetts Land Protection Fund and OSI’s Saving New England’s Wildlife initiative for the purchase of conservation restrictions in the Eastern Ashburnham Reserve Conservation Corridor of Western Massachusetts. This complex project encompasses the Department of Fish and Game’s purchase of a conservation restriction on 1,750 acres of the City of Fitchburg watershed lands, the City of Fitchburg’s purchase of a conservation restriction on 165 acres, and the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s purchase of a conservation restriction on 840 acres.This project protects over 2,700 acres of forest land at the eastern edge of the Worcester-Monadnock Plateau eco-region and state designated Ashburnham Habitat Reserve. Comprised of upland forest, wetlands and cold-water streams, the lands expand conservation of the north-south corridor from Fitchburg Massachusetts to New Hampshire’s Wapack Range and provides important wildlife habitat for state-threatened species, such as Blanding’s turtle and the Incurvate Emerald dragonfly. The conservation of the Ashburnham lands will also improve protection of Fitchburg’s water supply and increase recreational opportunities in Western Massachusetts by providing the public with access to miles of trail networks.
Mount DarbyThe Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC), The Nature Conservancy and the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game (DFG) partnered to preserve 326 acres in the Taconic Range of western Massachusetts. With support from OSI’s Western Massachusetts Land Protection Fund, BNRC now owns the property subject to a conservation restriction that will forever protect the property’s productive woodlands, wildlife habitat and scenic resources. The property lies within a 17,000-acre block of forest and includes the 2,031-foot summit of Mount Darby and frontage on Karner Brook. The now-preserved property was an unprotected donut hole amidst state conservation lands and was a priority for preservation because of its strategic location and because of the presence of a rare reptile species. In addition, approximately half of the property lies within the Karner Brook Area of Critical Environmental Concern, which was designated for exceptional wildlife resource values and provides habitat for whitetail deer, wild turkey, snowshoe hare, black bear, ruffed grouse, coyote, weasel and bobcat.
Hoosac Range Preserve, North Adams
In spring 2009, the Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) received grants from OSI’s Western Massachusetts Land Protection Fund and OSI’s Saving New England’s Wildlife initiative for the purchase of two parcels in the Hoosac Range in North Adams, Massachusetts.
This working woodland project lies within the Westfield River watershed, an area of intact forestland that offers one of the last and best places for large-scale forest conservation in southern New England. Identified as a high priority for protection, according to its location within the Commonwealth’s BioMap 2, the Westfield River Highlands project conserves substantial forested acreage and provides vital habitat for wildlife species. The Nature Conservancy worked with private landowners and the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game to conserve this productive forestland. Conservation Restrictions (CR) now forever conserve two key properties, 117 acres in Middlefield and 171 acres in Chester. These CR’s will ensure that ecological functions and biological diversity are maintained while also allowing for sustainable forest management. In addition to the CRs, the Department of Fish and Game has also acquired 55 adjacent acres. OSI provided a $134,500 grant to the Nature Conservancy in support of this effort.
Brush Mountain II, a 123-acre parcel located in Northfield, Massachusetts, was the first project to receive funding through OSI’s Western Massachusetts Land Protection Fund. The parcel is part of a habitat and recreational corridor known as the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, which is a long distance hiking footpath. Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust acquired this tract in late fall of 2005 and eventually plans to transfer the land, along with an adjacent tract, known as Brush Mountain I, to the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation as an addition to the Northfield State Forest, which is located near by.
OSI lent Mount Grace the entire project cost of $250,000 to protect this parcel. Development pressures from second homes threaten to fragment these contiguous protected forest lands.
In December 2006, with a loan from OSI and private donations, Sheffield Land Trust (SLT) purchased an Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) on the 52-acre Cold Spring Farm in Sheffield, Massachusetts.
The farm, along with the Egerton dairy farm protected in 2007, are part of SLT’s larger Housatonic River Agricultural and Ecological Corridor. The Sheffield Land Trust has helped purchase APRs on eight other farms in Sheffield, protecting more than 1,200 acres since 1994, and is currently working on a number of others.
OSI’s Conservation Finance Program lent $610,000 to the Sheffield Land Trust for the $1.2 million project.
The Egerton Family Farm is located on the highly developed Route 7 corridor of western Massachusetts, in the small town of Sheffield. Nearly forced to sell the farm in order to equally divide the equity amongst four siblings, only one of whom was still farming the land, the Egertons found out about the Sheffield Land Trust (SLT) and discovered they had another option aside from selling the land.
In June 2007, SLT borrowed funds from OSI to purchase an Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR), a type of conservation restriction that allows owners to realize equity by selling the development rights to the property without losing the land.
The 67 acres of the farm that were protected are a mix of prime agricultural fields, wooded wildlife habitat and rich floodplain forests, in several parcels. Development surrounds the farm, which has been in some form of agricultural use since the mid-1700s. Billy Egerton and his wife Donna raise cows and hope to revive the family’s traditional farm stand in front of the house, and the rest of the farm will continue to be rented to neighboring Pine Island Farm to support its dairy operation.
OSI’s Conservation Finance Program lent $90,000 to the Sheffield Land Trust for the $572,000 project.
In June of 2008, The Kestrel Trust and The Trustees of Reservations worked together to secure a $375,000 loan from OSI in order to preserve the Hadley Farm for active agricultural use.
The Hadley Farm is one of a few agricultural parcels located in the Connecticut River Valley that has been a focus for land protection activity in recent years. The threat of development was particularly acute for this North Hadley 33-acre plot, which consists of flat, prime agricultural soils and is a very visible part of the larger scenic landscape. A number of rare species inhabit the area, which is traversed by two small streams and includes rolling farmland, the Holyoke Range, and the Connecticut River. These species will be protected under the terms of an agricultural and conservation easement.
Located in Hadley Township, the Great Meadow lies on a historic flood plain peninsula formed by a bend in the Connecticut River. Considered some of the richest soil in the state, the Great Meadow has been continuously farmed for over 350 years and is a priority for protection by both the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture and PreservationMass, a statewide historic preservation group, which named the Great Meadow one of the “10 Most Endangered Historic Resources.” Additionally, the Great Meadow is part of the Connecticut River Valley, identified as one of the nation’s top 20 agricultural areas most threatened by development, according to American Farmland Trust. In December 2005, OSI lent The Kestrel Trust $100,000 to protect 6.5-acres in the Great Meadow.
Great Meadow was the first project that utilized OSI’s Capacity Grant Fund which provides funding to loan applicants for transactional costs and baseline monitoring. A grant was provided to Kestrel for a third party Environmental Site Assessment.
In June 2008, the Open Space Institute made a $60,000 loan to White Oak Land Conservation Society for acquisition of the Porcupine Hill Project. Porcupine Hill is a 50-acre wooded parcel in Holden, MA that forms an important link connecting hundreds of acres of preserved land to both the north and the south of the property.
The name, Porcupine Hill, comes from the caverns where a number of porcupines spend their winters. Comprised of mixed hardwood and white pine forest, the tract is mostly upland with dramatic rock ledges and pristine vernal pools. The tract is vital to water quality protection as it drains entirely into the nearby Asnebumskit Reservoir, which is a reserve drinking water supply for the towns of Paxton and Worcester. It also provides important wildlife habitat as well as a migration corridor between the preserved lands to the north and south. The project property contains its own established trail system, there are also more trails located in the adjacent 200‑acre publicly accessible state‑owned tract.
The Trustees of Reservations, The Nature Conservancy, and the City of Taunton have partnered to protect an ecologically significant 54-acre property in Taunton. With almost a mile of frontage on the Three Mile River. It contains seven of 22 habitat types in the Massachusetts SWAP plan and habitat for two rare turtle species.
The Three Mile River property conserves, in conjunction with nearby existing protected areas, landscapes large enough to help ensure the viability of wildlife species and connect and buffer habitat to facilitate the movement of wildlife.
Although portions of the surrounding landscape are fragmented by roads and development, the river connects over 700 acres of protected open space within 1.5 miles of the property. Blanding’s Turtles will travel considerable distances (up to 1.25 miles) between feeding, nesting, estivating, and over-wintering habitats. The river and adjacent floodplain provides relatively safe passage for turtles and other wildlife (e.g., mink, otter, and beaver) to extensive protected riverine and palustrine habitat within 0.5 miles north and south of the property. Further, the Three Mile River property represents 3,000 feet of the corridor connecting two A-ranked globally rare communities on the river – a silver maple floodplain forest to the north and a freshwater tidal marsh at the confluence with the Taunton River to the south. The Nature Conservancy’s goal is a fully protected corridor to maintain this vital habitat.
Located in Sandisfield, Massachusetts, this 900-acre project protects one of the largest unprotected parcels of old growth forests in the state. The parcel, sandwiched amidst more than 5,000 acres of public and private conservation lands, contains rich woodlands and includes all the lakefront of the Lower Spectacle Pond. It was identified as “providing some of the most pristine freshwater Core Habitat in the state” by the Living Waters assessment conducted by the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program.
OSI lent $500,000 to Massachusetts Audubon Society for the $5.2 million project.
West Hill, a 137-acre parcel located in New Salem, Massachusetts, is valued both for its location in the Quabbin Reservoir Watershed and its contribution to the rural character of New Salem’s historic district. Buffering a state owned property, the tract is located with in the Quabbin Reservoir Watershed, which provides drinking water for half the population of Massachusetts. The property which is located adjacent to New Salem’s historic districted has been a high priority of local residents.
OSI lent Mount Grace the entire project cost of $775,000 to protect this 137 acre project.
The Open Space Institute awarded a $275,000 loan to The Kestrel Trust to protect a working farm in Hadley, Massachusetts.
The Wiater Farm is one of the largest unprotected parcels in the 350-acre Great Meadow, a flood plain peninsula formed by a bend in the Connecticut River. Considered some of the richest soil in the state, the Great Meadow has been continuously farmed for over 350 years and is a priority for protection for both the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture and PreservationMass, a statewide historic preservation group. The Connecticut River Valley has been identified by American Farmland Trust as one of the nation’s top 20 agricultural areas most threatened by development.
This loan from OSI’s Western Massachusetts Land Protection Fund will bridge state and local funding of an Agricultural Preservation Restriction. OSI has also worked with The Kestrel Trust on past projects including; the Great Meadows and Hadley Farm.