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Land trust gets $247K grant

ORANGE — Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust has received a grant of $247,000 to support 20 AmeriCorps members serving in its Massachusetts Land Initiative for Tomorrow program. The AmeriCorps members will serve from September 2013 to August 2014, the program’s fourth year.

Mount Grace initiated the program in 2010 with a goal of increasing the capacity of conservation groups across the state to meet critical community and regional needs for land conservation. Members serving with this program engage municipal boards, community organizations, volunteers and youth in a variety of land protection, land stewardship and conservation education activities. In the program’s first two years, MassLIFT members assisted 42 communities with land protection projects, organized 400 outreach and service events and engaged more than 4,100 volunteers in 21,000 hours of community service. Several alumni have found jobs with land trusts throughout New England.

“MassLIFT is a unique land conservation program,” says Mount Grace Executive Director Leigh Youngblood. Because of MassLIFT more people are personally experiencing the benefits of conservation, like learning about farm operations on the self-guided interpretive trail at Red Fire Farm in Montague, Youngblood said.

“Sarah Wells is a great example,” said Youngblood. “She grew up locally in the Town of Orange, received a degree in natural resource conservation from UMass Amherst, served for two years as a MassLIFT AmeriCorp volunteer, and is now a very effective, full-time land conservation associate at Mount Grace, protecting the place she is from.”

“My experience with AmeriCorps as a regional conservationist reaffirmed my belief in the importance of applied conservation,” Wells is quoted as saying in a press statement from Mount Grace. “It’s a privilege to help landowners think about the future of the land they care so deeply for. Having grown up in the area, it’s both professionally and personally rewarding to help conserve this landscape for future generations.”

Thirteen organizations will host MassLIFT AmeriCorps members in the coming year. In addition to Mount Grace, they include: East Quabbin Land Trust, Kestrel Land Trust, and the North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership.

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