Why I Support FLT
I was born in the middle of World War II, when most people were one generation or less from farming or logging and tall American Elm trees formed a canopy over the main streets of most towns. The freedom to roam that I enjoyed as a child is quite rare now; I was seldom in the house when I could be out, winter or summer, for hours on end.
Those years gave me a love of nature and a sense of wonder about its complexities that I have never lost. Though I lived near New York City for 23 years and learned to appreciate its amenities, I never felt at home there. I returned to Maine to work at Colby College, then moved to Smith College and settled in Greenfield.
I was attracted to this area because of the land, the way fields and woods give way to small towns, many that recall the villages of my childhood. It is a beautiful valley, and, gardener that I am, I cringe every time I see another block of rich, ancient soil covered over forever.
I am a firm believer in supporting local organizations, and I sought out the Franklin Land Trust not long after I bought my house. I do not own acreage, so access to open spaces is even more important to me. I want to know that knowledgeable professionals are working to help preserve the unique character of the countryside before it is forever altered without thought for the value it holds simply by its existence.
Each time I visit the farmers market or a local orchard or make the beautiful drive into The Patten to buy grass-fed beef, I am grateful for the hard-working people who love the land, and for the Franklin Land Trust’s efforts to conserve the fields, forests, and waterways that sustain us all.
The elm trees are lost to younger generations, but I would want every child to know the feeling of open spaces and the beauty of the natural world.
- Carole Fuller
My interest in conservation of all natural resources began in my childhood in the outback of Australia, where my family saw all the natural vegetation of our sheep station destroyed by a combination of drought and overgrazing by sheep and cattle. By the time I was 10 years old, I saw how quickly land, water resources, and vegetation can be irreversibly destroyed by unwise land use.
So, 30-plus years ago, when my husband and I bought 11 acres of land in the town of Conway, we set about being ecologically sound gardeners—no lawns, no chemicals, no invasive plants, no garden that required heavy watering. But those efforts at resting lightly on the land weren’t enough. Thirty years ago in springtime we were awakened at first light by the glorious chorus of the songbirds. Now the woods are nearly silent, except for the hawks and crows. The loss of the surrounding forest, and the destruction of habitat have already had a striking effect.
This makes me redouble my efforts to preserve the beauty of the woods, streams, fields and forests in Franklin County, before it’s too late and the changes can’t be reversed. There isn’t much time left to secure this priceless heritage. The line of development proceeding up the Connecticut Valley is only about 30 miles away from Franklin County today. With it will come pressure to sell the beautiful farmland for housing development, meaning more wells and lowered water tables, more effluents and polluted streams, more noise, more carbon emissions and forests weakened by polluted air and more erosion of the thin layer of soil left here by the glaciers, so the wild flowers and grasses which support our bees and butterflies will vanish.
But I’m convinced that we can find a better way to live in this beautiful valley. We can support our Land Trust. We can work for better environment regulation. We can try to understand how to live in this beauty without harming it. In all these endeavors we need the knowledge, the professional discipline, and the commitment of the team at the Franklin Land trust. The Land Trust is one of my primary charitable commitments. Please make it yours.
- Jill Kerr Conway
My involvement with the Franklin Land Trust (FLT) goes back many years. From my perspective the land conservation successes of the Franklin Land Trust have created a domino effect, with more and more land owners beginning to explore conservation options. Many of these landowners earn their livelihoods from their land and realize that their working landscapes will be vital for future generations.
Why is land stewardship so important? Simply put it’s the lifeblood of the future. Conserving land and using it wisely is the precursor for a sustainable planet. Since its inception the Franklin Land Trust has been a leader in the land conservation movement. From its humble beginnings in 1987 to the milestone of 25,000 + acres preserved in 2012, FLT has consistently achieved its goals and exceeded the expectations of many of its members. I’m proud to be involved with this hard working organization.
- Bill Obear, Bear Path Farm Whately
For forty years we have lived in, and loved, what we feel is a beautiful part of Conway. With each year we have enjoyed the passing of the seasons -- the fresh new growth of spring, the lushness of summer, the color of fall, and the stark beauty of winter -- and we have come to know the plant and animal wildlife with which we share this space.
It has been a long-term goal of ours to join some of our neighbors in preserving our family lands for the generations to come. The Franklin Land Trust, whose work we've admired for years, could not have been more helpful to us in accomplishing this goal.
We very much appreciate the patience, good humor, and enormous amount of work that goes into each land conservation project. The landscape of Franklin County (and beyond) has benefited greatly from their efforts, and we are pleased to be a part of that picture.
- Joanne and Roger Clapp Conway
We moved to western Massachusetts (back home for Lillian) because there is a scale and sense of community that is unique. The combination of small towns that have succeeded in retaining their character despite modernization, and a rural landscape complete with open spaces and working farms make this area ideal. We know that the FLT works hard to make this a reality.
We have supported other land conservation non-profits in the past, but feel especially drawn to the Franklin Land Trust for two reasons. First, it is a local organization. It is incredibly satisfying to see an organization we support doing worthwhile work right in our backyard. We know where our contribution is going. We can see the results. Our farmer friends benefit. We benefit.
Evidence of the Franklin Land Trust is present in our daily lives. Kristian appreciates the FLT while running on the Mahican Trail or occasionally bicycling to work from Shelburne Falls to Greenfield. Lillian sees evidence of conservation while admiring the views when driving to work in Heath, stopping by Hager’s Farm Stand, or walking to the farmer’s market in Shelburne. We have been lucky enough to attend the Farm and Garden tour, and have participated in the D2R2 and the Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon.
Our 1-year old daughter is just beginning to appreciate the value of public access to wildlife habitats. Just recently she discovered the joy of stream exploration. We feel lucky to live in an area where this is all possible.
We also strongly agree with the FLT’s approach to land conservation. We understand the importance of land protection, but are even more passionate about stewardship and providing families and individuals with the tools needed to successfully work with the land. The Franklin Land Trust maintains a unique balance between land protection and stewardship.
Though Lillian has always called West County ‘home’, we have only lived here as a family for the past four years. We already feel a deep sense of ‘place’, and are honored to be able to share the land and our experiences with our young daughter. We encourage others, and especially young families, to invest in this unique locale by supporting the FLT. We are grateful to the hard-working staff and local landowners for making this area so special. Happy Summer!
- Kristian, Lillian & Anneke Whitsett Shelburne
Suzanne and I have run Stump Sprouts Cross Country Ski Area and Guest Lodge now for 35 years. The Franklin Land Trust has done a great deal to preserve the mix of wild beauty and working farmsteads that surround us here in Franklin County. We know that these assets are what bring guests back to us year after year, providing our livelihood. On a daily basis, our guests express gratitude for simple things that are not available to them at home: dark night skies, rows and rows of receding ridgelines unfettered by obtrusive development, quiet spaces outdoors for reflection, contemplation—or simply as a backdrop for spending good times with family or friends. FLT's efforts enhance the quality of life here and increase the vibrancy of our community, and thus the ability of small businesses that depend on visitors from outside the area to thrive.
While we are both still going strong at age 60, we know that the day will come when we will need to turn the reins over to someone else. Looking forward, we imagine our situation is like what many landowners and farmers face: our children, ages 25 and 30, both have full and busy lives in other parts of the country. While they wouldn't like to see the place sold off, they are also not currently in a position to take over the operation.
We’d like to set things up to allow for continued low-impact, people-powered sports and recreation as it happens here now. One option we’ve been exploring with FLT is to place the portion of our 400 acres currently devoted to our trail system and forestry under a Conservation Restriction. A CR on the land would protect those areas from being developed and removing the option of development makes the land less expensive for prospective buyers. This means that if we ever need to sell the business, it will make transfer of the lodging portion of the business more affordable for future operators. The insight and expertise of the staff at FLT has been very useful for us in helping formulate a vision for the future of Stump Sprouts that reflects our needs, values and respect for the land.
- Lloyd & Suzanne Crawford, Stump Sprouts Cross-Country Ski Center Hawley
When our neighbor was approached by a realtor about developing a 12-acre parcel of open land into six building lots, she promptly sent him packing. She was worried, however, about how to make sure the land would be safe, and decided to entrust it to us, thinking we would keep it as a hay field for our horses.
We soon found that maintaining a hayfield isn’t as easy as it sounds. The property is in a highly visible location (on Route 112 in Buckland, across from Mohawk Trail Regional School) and several times I’ve had folks stop and ask when we’re going to get around to cutting! But we’ve managed to keep it mowed by a local farmer, and it still looks pretty much as it did in 1994, when it came into our care.
People in the community also started asking if we would consider putting the land under protection. In 2002 we looked into it, and Franklin Land Trust was the obvious choice. We wanted to work with a local conservation group that was doing good work in the community and understood the financial constraints we were under—and they did.
FLT guided us through the steps for putting the land under an Agricultural Preservation Restriction, and we decided to donate the APR to FLT. Mark Zenick, the FLT Director at that time, used our donation of the APR as an occasion for a fundraiser, not only to cover the legal costs, but as a chance to raise additional funds for FLT. He got the community involved, even students from Mohawk, and FLT was able to raise $10,000 in all.
We are grateful to FLT for helping us keep our promise to our friend and neighbor, and keep that field from being divided into house lots. Everyone can take pleasure in the beauty of the land, even just driving by on 112 it’s there to enjoy, and the kids at Mohawk use it for school sports, class pictures, and class projects. It’s a special part of the landscape in Buckland and I’m happy to know it’s protected forever.
- Polly Bartlett Buckland