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In the news: Environment

TRANSACTIONS EXPAND CONTE REFUGE: Recent deals have added land to the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, which is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Hadley:

• On June 28, the agency acquired 12 acres in Hadley for the refuge’s Fort River Division, paying the land’s appraised value of $65,000 using money from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Kestrel Land Trust helped by working with the landowners, the Niedbala family, for several years. The area lies amid farmlands and grasslands extending north from the base of the Mt. Holyoke Range to the Fort River in Hadley and Amherst.

The Fort River is the longest free-flowing tributary to the Connecticut River in Massachusetts. The river and nearby land provide habitat for the federally endangered dwarf wedge mussel and rare bird species. The property will be used in part for the mile-long wheelchair accessible Fort River Birding and Nature Trail, now under construction.

“Kestrel had been in conversations with the Niedbala family for many years about conserving this parcel,” Kristin DeBoer of Kestrel Land Trust said in a statement. “With its critical location in the heart of this protected natural area, this parcel was key to conserving the Fort River watershed.”

Since 2005, seven other projects have been completed protecting more than 249 acres as part of the Fort River Division.

• In Becket, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service joined with the Nature Conservancy to acquire 125 acres for the Conte refuge. The parcel becomes part of the Westfield River Division , conserving more than 1,000 feet of key habitat along the West Branch of the Westfield River.

Officials note that this area of the refuge features high-quality intact forestland, coldwater stream habitat, freshwater wetlands, an extensive connected river network and more than 78 river miles that have received National Wild and Scenic River designation.

“This investment in the larger conservation mosaic is a wonderful outcome that will benefit wildlife and people for generations,” said Andrew French, project leader at the refuge. “The Nature Conservancy’s efforts are key to these successes which enhance the accomplishments of the state and other members of the conservation community in this watershed.”

Bald eagles nest along the main stem of the Westfield River. American shad and sea lamprey spawn in the river and American eel inhabit most of the watershed. The Westfield River is particularly important habitat for shad, hosting one of the largest runs of any Connecticut River tributary, officials say.

AN APPEAL TO ENFORCE WASTE BANS: Despite laws on recycling in Massachusetts, almost half of all waste dumped in landfills or burned in incinerators should not have ended up there. The Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group is pressing for change.

In the past month, the group says it has collected over 12,000 signatures calling on the Department of Environmental Protection to halt the flow of recyclable materials into landfills and incinerators. The group says available data shows that close to two million tons of materials like paper, cardboard, glass and metal are incinerated or buried. That’s a problem because it drives up disposal costs, wastes energy and threatens public health.

It is asking Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell to pledge to improve the record on recycling. The group says it got its campaign in gear after the DEP announced in May that it will change its 23-year ban on construction of incinerators.

The DEP says the change is spurred by the loss of landfill space, but MASSPIRG counters that if more materials were recycled, the demand for landfill space would decline. Using DEP data, the group said that enough cardboard will be tossed away this summer, rather than recycled, to fill Fenway Park to the Green Monster seats.

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