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$1.9 Million Awarded to Protect Land from Development in Western Mass.

Lucas Willard

Governor Deval Patrick’s administration recently awarded nearly $2 million in grants to preserve large tracts of undeveloped land in Western Massachusetts.

Last week Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan announced the Landscape Partnership Program is supporting two projects to protect thousands of acres of agricultural and wooded land from development in Franklin and Berkshire Counties.

Stephanie Cooper, Assistant Secretary for Land and Forest Conservation at the EEA, said that the Landscape Partnership Program works with private landowners, municipalities, and land trust organizations to incentivize the protection of the land with several goals in mind…

“It’s about wildlife habitat, it’s about preserving working farms and forests, it’s about adapting for climate change,  protecting drinking water, “ said Cooper. “It’s an investment we were happy to make.”

In the Berkshire County towns of Otis and Tyringhamn, $850,000 was granted to the Long Mountain Conservation Project, partnering with the Berkshire Natural Resources Counil, and the state Department of Fish and Game.

The funds will allow the Department of Fish and Game to permantly protect a 905-acre parcel of land owned by the New Hampshire-based Lyme Timber Company as a Wildlife Management Area.

According to Cooper, the forest land will continue to be properly managed.

The money is also incentivizing a donation of an adjacent 597-acre area of land from a private land owner to the Berkshire Natural Resources Council.

Narain Schroeder, Director of Land Conservation at the BNRC  ays that parcels similar to the largely untouched area of land being considered for protection in this particular program are increasingly rare in the commonwealth.

“One of the things that makes this unique is the unfragmented nature of this area,” said Schroeder.

In nearby Franklin County, more than $1 million will support the Leyden Working Farms and Forests Project.

Emily Boss, of the Franklin Land Trust, said her organization will work with the Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust to assist several area farmers and landowners to place conservation restrictions under the Department of Agricultural Resources on undeveloped land.

“All the land continues to be owned by the private landowners, but each entity would hold a restriction which would mean the land couldn’t be developed in the future,” said Boss.

The town of Leyden would also be involved in the conservation process.

Boss said that conservation restrictions on the parcel would protect scenic value, plants and animal species, and also drinking water in the Leyden Glen reservoir.

To qualify for the state funding, the different agencies at each project must finalize agreements by June 30th, 2014.

Since 2006, land conservation has been a focus of the Governor’s administration as part of its goal to fight climate change. The Landscape Partnership Program formed in 2011 has assisted the administration preserve over 100,000 acres of land across the state. 

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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