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Forestland preserved in Belchertown

The Kestrel Land Trust and Belchertown Conservation Commission announced Tuesday the creation of the conservation area on Gold Street. The land, sold by the Jackson family for $500,000, extends into Pelham and is adjacent to the Cadwell Memorial Forest.

This preservation effort marks the continuation of a seven-year collaboration with Kestrel to protect a wildlife area that extends from the Quabbin Reservoir to the Mount Holyoke Range State Park.

LeeAnne Connolly, the conservation agent for Belchertown, said the land had been on the market and could have been developed into 12 housing lots.

“As our town continues to grow, it is critical to conserve natural areas like this to maintain the rural character that our community values,” Connolly said.

Kestrel Trust Executive Director Kristin DeBoer said her organization has had an eye on the property for at least five years because the land has appeal for housing development. That would have meant a loss of the contiguous block of forestland.

Through a partnership with Belchertown and assistance from numerous individuals who donated money, DeBoer said, the land will remain available for hiking, fishing and hunting.

The acquisition comes from funding sources including the state’s Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity program, town Community Preservation Act money and private funds raised by Kestrel, including the Fields Pond Foundation.

Kestrel will hold a conservation restriction on the land.

In addition, about 20 acres next to the conservation area, which were part of the original Jackson estate, are located in Pelham. This, too, will be held by Kestrel Land Trust as conservation land, though DeBoer said it may eventually be transferred to the Cadwell forest.

Other acquisitions during the seven-year collaboration have included the 290-acre Holland Glen Conservation Area, the 70-acre Scarborough Brook Conservation Area, 220-acre Topping Farm, and a 300-acre portion of Ingate Farm, which was added to the Mount Holyoke Range State Park.

The habitat protected includes woodlands, streams and wetlands with animal life including bears, moose, bobcats, deer and turkeys.

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