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Forest Legacy Project Knits Together Thousands of Acres

MA - Mount Grace Land Conservation helps protect over 1,000 acres of corridor
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Forest Legacy Project Knits Together Thousands of Acres

Mount Grace Land Conservation helps protect over 1,000 acres of corridor

The Quabbin Corridor Connection, with 1,865 acres of conserved land, protects corridors of mostly forested land to allow wildlife to move between the protected woodlands and wetlands.

To complete this project, landowners, local towns, project partners, and the state put up more than $1,500,000 through money raised by nonprofits, in-kind donations of legal and stewardship work, and donations and bargain sales of some of the conservation restrictions and land.

With the project now finished, the over 1,000 acres of new protected lands in the Quabbin Corridor Connection contribute to an interconnected network of 80,000 acres of protected habitat interlaced among the rural homes and farms of Phillipston, Petersham, and Barre.

Corridor lands are 90% forested, with numerous foot trails, logging roads, and small clearings. Wildlife ranging through these woods includes bear, moose, fox, deer, porcupine, fisher, mink, otter, bobcat, coyote, and numerous songbirds, waterfowl and birds of prey. Eight documented rare species live within the overall project area, including the American Bittern and the Harpoon Clubtail dragonfly, both endangered in Massachusetts. Existing trails are used by hikers, birdwatchers, and cross-country skiers.

The partnership helping to protect these lands involved private landowners, Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, Harvard Forest, the Massachusetts Audubon Society, two towns, two state agencies - the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game, and the United States Forest Service, was funded in part by a $3,000,000 grant from the federal Forest Legacy Program. Forest Legacy underwrites up to 75% of project costs, and requires that at least one dollar for every three federal dollars be funded locally.

These lands are well suited for recreation because of the large amount of open space, their contiguity with other protected forest, and the variety of terrain, from the hilly slopes leading to the summit of Prospect Hill to the lower lands along Moccasin Brook. As participating landowners Charles Buell and Abigail Rorer describe the land “We can go out our back door directly to land we know will never be despoiled and walk for hours. It was our privilege to play a small part in adding to this gift to the future and we would like to thank everyone involved for making this happen. There is nothing more important in this day and age than protecting the land.”

On Phillipston’s Lincoln Road, Karl Lindblad protected his 83-acre property, which sits atop the aquifer that feeds Big Oak Brook and, eventually, the Quabbin, while Mount Grace added a CR on to its own Fox Valley Wildlife Sanctuary.

In Barre, 133 acres of upland pine and oak woodlands as well as wooded swamp were added to MassAudubon’s Rutland Brook Wildlife Sanctuary. MassAudubon helped fund its purchase of land previously owned by George Yonker and Raymond Alexandrovich by selling CRs on both properties to the Town of Barre, with funding provided by the US Forest Service. The Barre Conservation Commission, with training and assistance from Mount Grace, will monitor the land to ensure that the terms of the CRs are respected.

The bulk of the protected land, over 1,500 acres, is in Petersham, where MassWildlife completed the first of QCC’s twenty projects in 2007. This year, in addition to the protection of Davenport Pond, CRs were filed on land near the town center owned by Charles Buell and Abigail Rorer, and on a 53-acre woodlot of mixed hardwood, hemlock, and pine owned by Wanda Dickson. In addition on East Street, Mount Grace helped conserve John Ewing’s 80-acre homestead and over 200 acres of land formerly owned by George Reid, Sr., and now split among four families of heirs, all of whom joined together to permanently protect their properties from development by transferring the land to the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game.

From the top of Prospect Hill in Phillipston, the view today is largely of intact, un-fragmented forest. This forest, based around the Quabbin’s “accidental wilderness,” helps define the character of central Massachusetts. By moving forward with a planned conservation strategy, Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust and the other partners of the QCC project hope to add an “on purpose” group of protected lands to link the original Quabbin Reservation to the forested lands around it, and foster a mix of towns, fields, woodlands, and wilderness that can endure in perpetuity.

Photo of the view from Prospect Hill in Phillipston Massachusetts courtesy of David Foster.

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