Acquisitions protect critical habitat for rare species and other wildlife
More than 485 acres of land and water have been purchased at a price of $1.41 million in Berkshire County for the purpose of protecting habitat, water sources for wildlife and outdoors people.
The acquisition is in Egremont, Mount Washington and Sheffield, according to state Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Mary Griffin.
Continuing the Patrick-Murray Administration’s commitment to environmental stewardship, Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Commissioner Mary Griffin joined conservation partners to celebrate the completion of three land conservation projects protecting 486.5 acres of land in Egremont, Mount Washington and Sheffield.
The partners – including The Nature Conservancy, the Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC), the Sheffield Land Trust, and the Egremont Land Trust – worked with state officials to protect an 85.5-acre property in Sheffield and Egremont, a 319-acre property in Mount Washington, and 81.5 acres in Egremont.
“The acquisitions add to a block of more than 17,000 acres of forests, mountain ridges and wetland habitats in Western Massachusetts and New York that are home to more than 20 rare plants and animals, as well as more common wildlife such as bear, moose, fisher, and bobcat, and neo-tropical migratory songbirds such as thrushes and wood warblers,” said Commissioner Griffin. “Our conservation partners really stepped up to the plate to help make protection of this land possible.”
Funding for DFG’s land acquisition program comes from a combination of federal and state funding including the Environmental Bond signed by Governor Patrick in 2008 and state land stamp fees collected from fishing, hunting and trapping licenses.
“These collaborative efforts add to a broader patchwork of protected lands that have been conserved over many years, and cement a long-time partnership in the management of this delicate ecosystem,” said Wayne Klockner, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts. “Keeping these forests and wetlands intact and healthy truly contributes to our global conservation goals.”
The first property, the 85.5-acre Dolomite Ledges Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Sheffield and Egremont, was purchased in fee by DFG for $735,000 and will be managed by the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) Occupying the same ridgeline as MassWildlife’s Dolomite Ledges Natural Heritage Area, the property abuts the Appalachian Trail Corridor, the Jug End State Reservation and WMA – which is managed by MassWildlife and the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), and property protected by conservation restrictions held by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The acquisition was made possible by the Sheffield Land Trust, which acquired the land and conveyed it to DFG once state funding became available.
“It is these kinds of partnerships that make it possible to bring together enough resources to protect the land and heritage that is so important to our communities,” said Kerry Douglas, Vice President of the Sheffield Land Trust.
“We were happy to be able to help the family and the Commonwealth protect this mountainside. And it acts as a wonderful anchor for the western side of our Sheffield-Egremont Corridor project with the Egremont Land Trust where we are jointly working with families in our communities to protect a tapestry of over 2,000 acres of working farms and wildlife areas in the two towns.”
The second property, 319 acres in Mount Washington known as the Mount Darby Wildlife Conservation Easement (WCE), is currently owned by The Nature Conservancy. It will later be conveyed to the Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) when BNRC completes fundraising efforts for this project. DFG purchased a conservation restriction on this property, which includes 2,300 feet of frontage along Karner Brook, a MassWildlife-identified Coldwater Fisheries Resource occupied by coldwater-dependent fish such as native brook trout, long-nosed dace and slimy sculpin. The upland habitats along Karner Brook have been identified by MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program as Priority Habitat for rare species. Listed as a Class A Outstanding Water Resource by the state Department of Environmental Protection, Karner Brook also serves as a public water supply for the town of Egremont.
“Mount Darby was one of the last unprotected summits surrounding the Jug End State Reservation,” said Narain Schroeder, director of land conservation for the Berkshire Natural Resources Council. “Now, it is part of a conserved landscape that defines the Southern Berkshires. It is also a testament to conservation partnerships.”
The Mount Darby WCE abuts DCR’s 4,169-acre Mount Washington State Forest, the 1,233-acre Jug End State Reservation and WMA, and nearly 600 acres protected by The Trustees of Reservations and the Town of Egremont. The property is also in close proximity to thousands of acres protected by the Commonwealth, including MassWildlife’s Jug End Fen Natural Heritage Area and DCR’s Mount Everett State Reservation, as well as lands owned by the U.S. National Park Service, The Nature Conservancy, and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. Altogether, a block of approximately 17,000 acres of forest and wetland habitat has been protected in the region.
The third project, the Jug End Fen WCE in Egremont, consists of five separate parcels totaling 81.5 acres owned in fee by The Nature Conservancy. State-listed endangered species protected on these properties include three marsh birds, seven types of plants, one butterfly and two other vertebrates. The Egremont Land Trust assisted in this land protection effort by acquiring one of the five parcels before conveying it to The Nature Conservancy.
“We have been concerned about this parcel for several years and we are delighted that this cooperative effort to preserve it has at last succeeded,” said Ursula Cliff, president of the Egremont Land Trust.
Most of the Mount Darby and Jug End Fen WCEs are located within the Karner Brook Area of Critical Environmental Concern designated by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs for exceptional wildlife values, including habitat for over 20 state-listed rare species, three significant natural communities including calcareous wetlands and acidic rocky summits, and critical coldwater fisheries habitat.
DFG invested $1,410,000 for the protection of the 486.5 acres in the three towns. Contributions by the other partners were essential in ensuring the Commonwealth’s participation and the success of the conservation effort.