The rural heritage of areas of Western Massachusetts is disappearing as rapid development fragments forests and farms. To protect both the natural and human values of the region, we established loan and grant funds for expanding and connecting large forestlands and preserving productive agriculture.
Why Western Massachusetts Land Protection Fund
Rapid development threatens to fragment and disrupt the large forested landscapes and local farming communities of Western Massachusetts, a 2.8-million-acre region that includes the Berkshires, the Westfield watershed of the Connecticut River, and the Quabbin Reservoir area.
The region’s forestlands harbor significant biological diversity. They are the source of drinking water for millions of people and provide outdoor recreation and thousands of jobs. In addition, more than 6,000 mostly family-owned farms sustain a rural way of life, farm-related jobs and businesses, and locally grown products.
In 2005, we created the Western Massachusetts Land Protection Fund to provide loans to facilitate the protection of threatened landscapes, including farms. In 2009, we added a grant fund to assist land trusts in preserving the region’s forest ecosystems on a scale that can sustain wildlife, as well as maintain recreational opportunities and sustainable forestry.
Impact of the Fund
Grants and loans from the Fund provided critical and timely resources to conserve almost 9,000 acres of forestlands and river headwaters, as well as preserve prime agricultural lands at great risk of development. Projects we supported filled gaps in large protected forest networks – securing wildlife habitat, clean-flowing rivers, working forests, and outdoor recreation.
The Fund helped make possible one of the largest conservation restrictions on private land in the Commonwealth’s history – the 5.4-square-mile Brushy Mountain in the north-central part of the state. The property adjoins several other large protected areas, and is part of the largest remaining network of forestland in central New England. With this Fund and our Saving New England’s Wildlife Fund, we provided the final $1 million to match $7 million in federal and state funding.