Kestrel Land Trust interested in 120-acre Whately parcel

  • A topographical map of the Dauchy property, being referred to by the Kestrel Land Trust as the Whately Center Woods Project, in Whately. CONTRIBUTED IMAGE

Staff Writer
Published: 7/30/2019 5:56:02 PM

WHATELY — Kestrel Land Trust hopes to receive state money to offset the cost of purchasing a 120-acre parcel co-owned by two former western Massachusetts residents.

The Amherst organization is trying to secure a Conservation Partnership Grant for the property owned by husband and wife Charles Dauchy and Judith Weinthaler and encompassed by Westbrook, Chestnut Plain and Haydenville roads near Whately’s center. The $85,000 would come from the Division of Conservation Services at the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Mark Wamsley, conservation and stewardship manager at the land trust, said what is being called the Whately Center Woods Project would place onto the land a conservation restriction prohibiting infrastructure development. He said the property is a wonderful size and rich with natural resources.

Wamsley said Dauchy approached the land trust about conserving the territory, and Wamsley soon spoke with neighbors and learned locals have an affinity for the well-used site. He said the land trust would, under a conservation restriction, own the land. Whately Conservation Commission member Montserrat Archbald said the commission would hold the restriction, which she described as being similar to an easement, and monitor the property.

“It has a high level of ecological value,” she said. “It has a lot of wetlands and species diversity.”

Conservation Commission Chairman Scott Jackson has recused himself from discussion of this subject at commission meetings because he is also chairman of Kestrel Land Trust’s board of trustees.

According to information from Kestrel Land Trust, small streams run through the property and provide a cold-water habitat for brook trout. These streams feed water to the Mill River, which is considered by The Nature Conservancy to be perhaps the most significant river in the state for rare and endangered species. At least one classic vernal pool on the property supports healthy populations of spotted salamanders and wood frogs.

The land also sports many tree species associated with northern forest types (such as sugar maple, American beech and basswood) that intermix with species like tulip poplar, Sassafras and black gum, which are characteristic of southern forests.

Archbald also said certain areas of the property are resilient to climate change and there are trails popular for hiking, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. She mentioned trail maintenance is the only work that would be allowed under the conservation restriction.

Wamsley and Archbald said a local funding match is required and voters at the 2020 Annual Town Meeting will decide if they wish to spend the money. Kestrel Land Trust will know whether it will receive the state grant in November or December.

Dauchy said he and his wife, who now live in Hopkinton, have owned the land since roughly 1980. They used to live in Amherst, and then in Leverett.

“The (property) is significant as an open space because of its location,” he said, adding that he hopes to recoup the value while also preserving it. “People use it now and we’re glad to see that.”

Dauchy said the land has a variety of soils. And at one point, he said, the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife was monitoring a bear that was denning on the property.

Wamsley noted a 171-acre parcel just south of the Dauchy property is owned by the Franklin Land Trust, based in Shelburne Falls.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.




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