State conservation grants given in Western Mass.

Recorder Staff
Friday, June 02, 2017

BOSTON — Protecting 1,972 acres in Shutesbury and Leverett was among the four conservation projects getting state grants, the Baker-Polito administration announced Friday.

The Kestrel Land Trust, based in Amherst, and the Department of Fish and Game were awarded $760,000 for their “West Quabbin Woodlands Landscape Partnership Project,” that aims to protect 1,972 acres in Shutesbury and Leverett “for sustainable forestry, conserve wildlife habitat, safeguard clean water, and guarantee public access for recreation,” according to a press release.

“Through investing in these important local projects, our administration is working to ensure Massachusetts’ ecosystems are resilient to the effects of climate change,” Gov. Charlie Baker said in a press release.

Also receiving money was the Swift River Conservation Project that looks to preserve 633 acres on the Swift River and Meadow Brook in Plainfield. The Franklin Land Trust, the Department of Fish and Game, and the Town of Plainfield received $712,500 for this project.

The Hilltown Land Trust, the Department of Fish and Game, Kestrel Land Trust, and the Town of Westhampton were presented $760,000 for the Brewer Brook Forest Preserve Project, covering 1,033 acres, while $796,000 was awarded to the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Town of Freetown, and the Nature Conservancy toward protecting 509 acres of forest land that will become part of the Freetown-Fall River State Forest.

“We are proud to work with communities and conservation groups to ensure the protection of over 4,100 acres of beautiful open space and wildlife habitat for generations to come,” Baker said.

“This grant program exemplifies how the state can successfully partner with municipalities and conservation groups to ensure the protection of large and important parcels of land,” said Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito in a release.

Area legislators also weighed in on the grants.

“We must continue to take concrete steps to protect our prized open space and advance climate change resilience in our communities to better prepare, adapt and reduce the future damages of global warming,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst, in a release. “By ensuring that we are committed to working with our communities to address the future impacts of climate change, we are doing our part to conserve our land in the Commonwealth.”

“These grants will help protect and conserve more than 1,600 beautiful acres in Hampshire County, providing outdoor recreational opportunities and conserving critical habitat,” said state Sen. Adam G. Hinds, D-Pittsfield. “I applaud the partnerships between the Franklin Land Trust, the Department of Fish and Game and the Town of Plainfield for their efforts to protect valuable open space around Brewer Brook Forest, Swift River and Meadow Brook and thank the Baker-Polito Administration for its support of these initiatives.”

“I am grateful to all of the public and private partners who worked together to preserve and protect these large tracts of land for future generations to enjoy,” said state Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington. “We are fortunate in western Massachusetts to have abundant natural resource areas that provide opportunities for wildlife and species habitats, recreation, and environmental protection and climate mitigation. I thank the Baker-Polito Administration for its commitment to this important program, and for making a smart investment in our rural region.”

Created in 2011 and funded through the governor’s annual capital budget, the Landscape Partnership Grant Program facilitates large acreage projects that sustain the integrity and resilience of ecosystems, enhance the viability of farm and forest economies, increase public outdoor recreational opportunities, and expand partnerships among state, municipal, and non-profit entities. Eligible projects must be a partnership between at least two eligible entities, including municipalities, nonprofits, and state agencies, to acquire a minimum of 500 acres of contiguous land.

“These large-scale land conservation projects will not only safeguard our natural resources, but will also provide additional outdoor recreational opportunities for the public,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “Engaging different partners to conserve natural resources, address climate change and enhance outdoor recreation opportunities is an integral part of our administration’s commitment to protect the Commonwealth’s rich natural heritage.”