×

More land to be added to High Ledges Sanctuary

Plan calls for expansion to nearly 800 acres

  • Mette Janas, her son Peter, and husband Torben, of Denmark, take in the view at the High Ledges in Shelburne Falls Tuesday, October 13. This is the Janas' family's first visit to New England. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • A view from High Ledges in Shelburne taken in summer. Recorder file photo/Geoff Bluh



Recorder Staff
Sunday, June 19, 2016

SHELBURNE CENTER — If all goes as planned, about 168 acres of land from the Patten Hill Farm Land Trust will be bought by the Massachusetts Audubon Society, expanding its existing High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary holdings to nearly 800 acres.

“This is a good thing to do,” says David Patrick, one of the Patten Hill Farm trustees who acquired the property in 1968. “This is about preserving one of the most beautiful parts of Shelburne for future generations.”

“We’re very pleased to be partnering in this project,” said Richard Hubbard, executive director of the Franklin Land Trust, which will hold the conservation restriction for the land. “It’s kind of the hole of the doughnut of a very large block of land,” he said.

Patrick and Alain Peteroy, director of land conservation for the Franklin Land Trust, came to the Board of Selectmen seeking approval of the conservation restriction of this undeveloped woodland. Peteroy explained that the Patten Hill Land Trust is selling the land, after 45 years of ownership, and that Mass. Audubon is trying to close the sale this month, for grant purposes.

“MassAudubon (land) doesn’t have to have public access, but in this case (they) will ensure there is public access,” Peteroy said. She said trails from High Ledges will be expanded into the new property, just east of the High Ledges.

“A lot of landowners like to have that extra layer of permanence — that this will always be conservation land, and that it will be open to the public,” said Peteroy. She said the land may be used by the public for “passive recreation,” which includes hiking and bird-watching but not hunting. Snowmobiles, which are allowed there now, will still be permitted on trails only; but other motorized vehicles will not be allowed.

The new land, according to the Audubon website, is described as mixed hardwood, pine and hemlock forest that provides habitat for a variety of wildlife and plants. “It has a varied topography, including a dramatic ravine and a stream system with two beaver ponds that drain into the nearby North River, just above its confluence with the Deerfield,” says the website. In addition, the area’s calcium carbonate-rich, alkaline soil supports a wide diversity of wildflowers belonging to the orchid family, including the Northern Green, Pink Lady’s Slipper and Yellow Lady’s Slipper.

The website calls it “a spectacular hilltop property comprised of woodlands and fields with dramatic views north to Vermont.”

Selectmen unanimously agreed that the land was worth conserving. “Dave (Patrick’s) reasons for this are as noble as they come,” said Selectman Joseph Judd.

But they also questioned whether it would have any impact on the town’s tax revenues. Patrick said that the property has had a reduced tax since 1993, under state Chapter 61A laws, while the houses on the remaining acreage of the Patten Hill Farm Land Trust pay regular property taxes. He said the effect on the town’s current tax revenues would be negligible.

After their approval, Patrick thanked the board. “We do believe this serves the town and is a very good thing to do,” he said.

“MassAudubon thanks the Board of Selectmen for its foresightedness in helping to conserve this spectacular property adjacent to MassAudubon’s High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary,” said Michael P. O’Connor, a spokesman for MassAudubon. “Perhaps, more importantly, with its rich biodiversity and stream system, Patten Hill will serve to further the goal of land and water protection within the Deerfield River watershed for people and wildlife.”

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
dbroncaccio@recorder.com or at 772-0261, ext. 277.