Western Massachusetts Projects

Photo Credit: Jerry Monkman

Western Massachusetts Projects 2014

Hawley Wildlands and Woodlands

Western MassIn remote and rural Hawley, Massachusetts, Franklin Land Trust teamed up with five generous landowners, the state, and New England Forestry Foundation to conserve 748 acres. This steep and rugged landscape contains bogs, mountain streams, and dense forest. Franklin Land Trust and the town now co-hold conservation restrictions that will forever protect these woodlands and their wildlife habitat, clear-flowing streams and productive timber resources. The properties, which are adjacent to the state’s Dubuque Memorial Forest and Hawley Natural Heritage Area, as well as other privately conserved lands, help knit together thousands of acres of conserved forestland. OSI’s grant for the project was matched by donations from the landowners and a significant grant from the state’s Landscape Partnership Program.

Projects 2008 - 2013

Brushy Mountain, Leverett and Shutesbury, MA

Brushy Mountain, MA

The Brushy Mountain project encompasses the largest block of previously unprotected land in the Commonwealth.  Thanks to the leadership of the Kestrel and Franklin Land Trusts and landowner W.D. Cowls, Inc., this highly strategic property is now subject to a state-held conservation easement.  Indicating the significance of this project, in 2011 OSI made grants from both Saving New England’s Wildlife and Western Massachusetts Land Protection Fund.  The conservation easement will enable W.D. Cowls  – Massachusetts' largest private landowner which owns and manages timberland in 28 Western Massachusetts towns – to continue sustainable forest management while permanently precluding residential or commercial development.

Brushy Mountain is located between several large reserves, including Mount Toby, the Quabbin Reservoir, and Montague Plains, and therefore provides a critical core and corridor for wildlife living and moving through these protected areas and larger forested regions. Biologists with the state’s Natural Heritage Program have classified Brushy Mountain as Core or Supporting Habitat because of its scale and diversity.  The property also provides habitat for two state listed turtle species, wood turtle and eastern box turtle, and contains vernal pools likely to support breeding habitat for other sensitive amphibians.  Documented wide-ranging mammals on the mountain include moose, which are returning to this area of Massachusetts, black bear, otter, bobcat, fisher, and mink.

East Ashburnham Reserve

view from the summit of Mount Monadnock monkman In 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 Darby

Mt. Darby Berkshires The 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

Western Mass Grant_Hoosac, Kelly, panorama

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.

OSI grants helped to conserve the last two parcels in a continuous corridor from Route 2 to the Savoy State Forest.  With the purchase of these parcels, BNRC’s Hoosac Range Preserve now totals 760 acres, which abut 12,000 acres of state-owned forestland.  This area offers prime wildlife habitat for a diversity of animal and plant life including the state-threatened species of Bartram’s Shadbush, Large-leaved Goldenrod, and Mourning Warbler.   The project included frontage on Route 2, which will enable public access to a new and expanded network of trails.

Westfield River Highlands,Middlefield and ChesterRed-Spotted Newt Monkman Westfield River MA

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, Northfield

Brush Mountain

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.

Cold Spring Farm, Sheffield


Sheffield.Griffiths. View North

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.


Egerton Family Farm, Sheffield

Egerton MA

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.


Hadley Farm, North Hadley

Connectict River Farmland, Hadley Mass, Monkman photo

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.

Great Meadow, Hadley 













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. 

Porcupine Hill, Holden

Porcupine Hill pool

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.

Lower Spectacle Pond, Sandisfield 


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, New Salem

West Hill

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.

Wiater Farm, HadleyKestrel sign Great Meadows

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.

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