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June News and Views


The spring of 2020 has been a lesson in adaptation. As our nation shut down due to COVID19, we saw individuals, businesses, schools, municipalities, and service organizations develop safe systems to continue moving forward with grit, grace, and determination. Franklin Land Trust is no different. We too have continued to move forward throughout these challenging times, creatively and persistently finding ways to conserve and care for the land you love. These last few months have made it very clear that now more than ever, we need natural places for exploration and quiet contemplation. Now more than ever, we need to protect farmland, support farmers, and ensure that we have access to healthy food. And, now more than ever, we need to focus on land conservation as part of the climate change solution.

We are so grateful for you, our FLT community. So many of you have reached out in recent months to check in and offer support. We know that protecting and caring for the land matters to you. It is thanks to you that we have so swiftly adapted to a new way of doing this important work.

And adapt we have! These last months we have been busy conducting a bio-inventory on a recently donated property, conserving large blocks of wildlife habitat, protecting river corridors and farmland, and planting trees. But we miss you! As you know we have had to cancel or postpone all in-person spring and summer events. We are working on developing safe ways to offer programs to you this coming summer and fall. Stay tuned!

Read on to learn more about what we have been up to these last few months. And please keep in touch!

 


CONSERVATION SCIENCE

Bioinventory Underway in Rowe

Some of the most treasured properties in the roster of any land trust are those that come in the form of gifts by landowners who want to express their love of the land in permanent terms.  In 2018, Franklin Land Trust was honored to receive, from local resident Nan Williams, the gift of a 94-acre upland property situated remotely above the Deerfield River in Rowe, Massachusetts.

The parcel is largely wooded, with a diverse set of microhabitats that have led us to designate it as a biological reserve.  In March of this year, we were able to begin a bio inventory of the property through the field services of botanist Glenn Motskin and UMASS graduate student Sophie Argetsinger.

An extended transitional spring this year resulted in a healthy display of ramps, dutchman's breeches, red trillium, yellow trout lily, and spring-beauties, as well as cohosh, waterleaf, and other spring ephemerals.  The work of observation, mapping, and cataloging will continue throughout the year and will be the subject of a publication sent out to FLT members later this year.

Nan Williams spent many years chronicling the natural history of this special landscape. FLT is working to honor her legacy by using this comprehensive bio inventory to inform our management practices moving forward.


FOREST LAND CONSERVATION

The Warner Hill Conservation Project
The work of FLT Lands staff members Alain Peteroy and Emily Boss has resulted in the recent inauguration of the Warner Hill Conservation Project in the towns of Rowe and Charlemont.  Eleven parcels will be conserved permanently, totaling just over 1,000 acres.  Once completed, this 1,000-acre project will connect 2,000 acres of already conserved land, resulting in a 4 1/2 square mile unbroken block of protected wildlife habitat just above Route 2 and less than 20 miles from Interstate 91. About 200 acres of this land is farmland, with the remainder in upland, south-facing forest within the watershed of the Deerfield River. The total project cost is just over $2,000,000, with a combination of state funding grants and landowner donations covering all but $250,000 which must be identified to complete and steward the effort.  $75,000 of that amount has been raised to date. Conservation on this scale is a rare opportunity here in the Commonwealth, as is leverage of this magnitude.  To learn more, or to support this effort please contact Mary Lynn Sabourin at mlsabourin@franklinlandtrust.org.


AGRICULTURAL CONSERVATION

An Overview of the Year Ahead
The completion of a permanently protected conservation project is the visible “tip” of a much larger, longer, and often confidential dialogue with landowners and funding sources. Franklin Land Trust was founded more than 30 years ago largely in response to a loss of local farmland that remains a major concern for all of us who love the area. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, like the entire New England region, produces only about 10% of the food it consumes; any responsible measurement of our health, security, and self-reliance calls for skilled and sustained efforts to conserve what remains of our agricultural heritage and abilities. FLT staff members are actively working with landowners on a broad variety of agricultural conservation projects throughout our region.

Each parcel is unique, and each has its own characteristics, but there are some commonalities. Ironically, local farmers struggle economically, even as our complex national food systems continue to prove out their vulnerabilities.  As always, planning makes the conservation process easier, and lately, circumstances sometimes outpace the structure and pace of available funding.  Our job is to work with the tools we have in the interests of the long haul.

In the short run, honoring confidentiality, we hope to pass along to you our enthusiasm for the active potential in productive fields and farmlands that we are working to preserve.  These include meadows, croplands, gardens, and hayfields  along fertile river and brook courses, an old sugarbush, orchard land, and prime examples of the old hill-country farmland that has lent both sustenance and identity to our culture, to our economy, and to our pantries and kitchens for centuries.

PROTECTING RIVER CORRIDORS

More Land to be Conserved on the West Branch of the North River
The FLT Land Conservation and Stewardship team is preparing to add a 154-acre parcel in fee simple ownership to the 96-acre Crowningshield property along the West Branch of the North River in Heath that was protected in 2016.

These fields and forests are home to significant numbers of birds and other wildlife species, but the major focus of this project is protecting and improving habitat for healthy populations of brook trout by conserving an additional 2600 feet of river frontage along the West Branch of the North River.

FLT has taken the lead on this effort, which has been made possible by the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game, The John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold Foundation, The William P. Wharton Trust, and by the hard work and generosity of local and regional chapters of Trout Unlimited.

Protecting along our river corridors is more important than ever as we begin to see the effects of climate change in our region. Severe storms bring flash flooding that negatively impacts stream biology, fish populations, and riverbank stability. This underscores the need to protect our streams and rivers, and in some cases, take remedial action to see to it that these fragile habitats are restored. Visit masswoodlands.org to learn more about a new program called Forests for the Fish, designed to help landowners manage their woods and streams for fish habitat.

 

COMMUNITY OUTREACH

Tree Planting in Greenfield
Franklin Land Trust is starting its second year of a 3-year grant through the U.S Forest Service to plant 2400 trees in Greenfield, Montague, and North Adams. FLT and community partners in each city are continuing this effort even in the midst of the pandemic, finding ways to creatively and safely plant trees despite the challenges posed by COVID19. We are on track to plant over 85 trees in the three cities before the start of summer! The goal of this project is to plant trees along city streets and neighborhoods that are lacking in tree canopy cover.

Street trees provide a variety of environmental benefits. As temperatures reach record highs due to climate change, trees can cool hot city streets and reduce cooling costs for residents by providing shade to homes and buildings. Trees also reduce stormwater runoff, reduce air pollution, and even provide habitat for birds and other wildlife. There are also a lot of social and community benefits that trees bring by making streets more walkable, slowing traffic, and increasing access to outdoor spaces.

As a rural land trust, we are excited and honored to be part of a program that benefits people who live in our regional cities. This grant allows us the opportunity to work with new partners and volunteers for community-driven positive change. There is nothing more hopeful than planting trees during a time that calls for both short-term adaptation and a focus on the long view.

To learn more about this program contact FLT Director of Community Outreach and Education, Melissa Patterson-Serrill at mpatterson@franklinlandtrust.org. And check out the Greenfield Recorder’s recent coverage of the tree planting project in Greenfield!

VIRTUAL RIDE - DIYD2R2
D2R2 Ride Looks Forward 
Franklin Land Trust has had to adjust the calendar of activities that had been planned for 2020 due to COVID19. These had included a series of events, hikes, and workshops, a membership event at APEX Orchards this spring, and the 15th Annual D2R2 (Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnée), ordinarily the highlight of every August. FLT Director of Philanthropy, Mary Lynn Sabourin has worked throughout the spring with a dedicated group of D2R2 volunteers to monitor a response to the COVID situation, and early in June, made the difficult decision to postpone this year’s event. Rider response has been both generous and understanding; as one noted: “I’m sure it was a difficult decision, but we all know it was the only correct one.  You’ve done right for all of us.”

A Virtual Ride for the Land – DIYD2R2 – will take its place instead this summer, allowing cyclists to participate in their own hometown throughout the month of August. With leaderboards for distance, time, and elevation, as well as prizes and raffles for participants, it is hoped that riders will join in the fun from around the country. Learn more at bikereg.com/diyd2r2.  Plus share your adventures across social media with the #DIYD2R2 !

Planning is already underway for an August 2021 in-person event.

GIVE THE GIFT OF CONSERVATION
People like you make it possible for the Franklin Land Trust to ensure that local farms can provide you with fresh food, that our waterways are here to provide clean water, that wildlife can thrive in our woodlands, that you have natural spaces to play in, and that the land that sustains us all will be here forever.  THANK YOU!

Between now and June 30, when you renew your membership with FLT, we will offer you a second FREE membership to gift to a friend or family member.

Visit franklinlandtrust.org/donate and chose “In Honor Of” to provide us with the gift recipient’s name and email address.

We will email them a Gift of Conservation card on your behalf.  Thank you for your support!

 

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