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Amherst, Belchertown win grants to protect watershed areas

  • Belchertown landed a $243,636 grant from the state this week that will help it buy 86 acres of forestland for conservation, including the Don Mader Town Forest and parts of the Jabish Brook and Holland Glen, all pictured. SUBMITTED MAP



Staff Writer
Thursday, December 07, 2017

Belchertown and Amherst landed a combined $438,000 in state grant money this week to help conserve about 116 acres in both communities.

The Belchertown Conservation Commission received $243,636 to purchase 86 acres of forestland for conservation.

In Amherst, $194,285 went to the Amherst Conservation Commission to purchase 30.4 acres, including the 7-acre Epstein Pond.

The two communities were among 12 across the state that received a total of $2,546,923 from the Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity Grant Program, an initiative of the state Division of Conservation Services that aims to advance the commonwealth’s goals of addressing climate change and preserving biodiversity. Over 660 acres of combined land will be protected with the help of the grant money.

In Belchertown, the money will be spent to purchase the Mader Town Forest. The purchase also will protect parts of the Jabish Brook, a water source for Springfield and Belchertown.

“Money is so tight right now for environmental protection,” said LeeAnne Connolly, conservation administrator for the Belchertown Conservation Commission. “It doesn’t seem like a priority in the world of politics right now, so it’s important to protect land for our water supply, wildlife habitats, forestry and future generations so they have a place to go to enjoy the outdoors.”

The town plans to buy the parcel from Mary Mader, who wanted to preserve the land in memory of her deceased husband, Don Mader, a former head of the University of Massachusetts Amherst forestry department.

Connolly said the commission has been working for over two years to acquire the lands. This is the third time the town has applied for the grant.

“If we didn’t get the grant I assume the property would have become house lots,” Connolly said.

The LAND grant will cover 68 percent of the cost of the $357,000 parcel, with an additional $70,000 provided through the Community Preservation Act and the rest to be raised from private donations.

The Mader Town Forest will connect the Mt. Holyoke Range to the Quabbin Reservoir, preserving an essential wildlife corridor between the protected lands. Sustainable timber harvesting will continue within the protected area. The nearby 290-acre Holland Glen and 150-acre Jabish Brook conservation areas are popular for hiking and recreation, featuring steep hillsides, scenic views, waterfalls, and a plethora of wildlife.

“This grant adds to a number of exciting development projects happening in Belchertown,” state Sen. Eric P. Lesser, D-Longmeadow, said in a statement. “The Holland Glen Conservation Area is a beloved spot for family hikes and picnics, and this conservation grant will help preserve it for generations.”

The Belchertown Conservation Commission has partnered with the Kestrel Land Trust to provide preliminary assessments and it will manage the land.

Amherst grant

In Amherst, the grant will help expand the Sweet Alice Conservation Area, opening the land for public recreational use, according to Elizabeth Wilson, wetlands administrator for the Amherst Conservation Commission. The land is being purchased from the Seymour and Alice Epstein trust. “Our natural spaces are some of the most important resources we have in western mass, and Amherst has always prioritized the protection of and access to such spaces,” state Rep. Solomon Goldstein-Rose, D-Amherst, in a statement. “I’m happy for the town’s receipt of this LAND grant and the support the state is showing.”

Sarah Robertson can be reached at srobertson@gazettenet.com.