Hilltown Land Trust harvest used to build Easthampton co-op

  • The Easthampton Location of River Valley Co-op, which uses wood harvested from a Hilltown Land Trust property in its entrance. Contributed Photo—

  • The viewshed from the latest harvest of the Stevens Property, where Mount Greylock can be seen. Contributed Photo—

  • The entrance to the new River Valley Co-op on Northampton Street (Rt. 10) in Easthampton. Photographed on Monday, June 28, 2021.

Staff Writer
Published: 1/20/2022 8:37:27 PM
Modified: 1/20/2022 8:36:21 PM

WESTHAMPTON — In 2007, the Hilltown Land Trust provided hemlock timbers for the entrance of River Valley Co-op’s Northampton location, part of the wood harvested from the nonprofit’s Stevens property.

That collaboration was renewed when, more than a decade later, the Land Trust donated wood from a harvest on that same property to the co-op’s Easthampton store.

“It just made sense,” said Sally Loomis, Hilltown Land Trust’s executive director.

The Stevens property is located in both Huntington and Westhampton. The first harvest took place on the Huntington part of the property while the second harvest, which occurred in 2019, took place in Westhampton.

The donated wood was used as part of the Easthampton co-op’s entrance, while wood from the harvest purchased from Lashway Lumber was used in the bulk area of the store.

“Working with local partners is what the co-op is all about,” said Rochelle Prunty, the co-op’s general manager.

Prunty noted that original plans for the entrance called for wood that couldn’t come from the trees the trust was comfortable with harvesting, so plans for the entrance were changed.

“You’re working with friends and neighbors that share your values,” Prunty said of the experience.

She also praised the work of Lashway Lumber, who milled the trees from the harvest.

“They’re craftspeople with milling lumber,” she said.

The wood used in the entrance is red oak, which Loomis said was donated to ensure it was used in the project. Getting wood harvested from its properties used locally is another priority for the trust.

The land trust, Loomis explained, “exists in a community where forestry is a big part of the economy.”

When the land trust harvests timber from its properties it always wants to make sure that it’s achieving “multiple objectives,” she said. In the case of the latest harvest from the Stevens property, the main reason was to improve forest health and create early successional habitat.

“It’s particularly important … for several bird species that need that kind of habitat,” Loomis said.

She pointed to several species of warbler, the American woodcock and the Eastern towhee as examples of such birds.

Loomis said the harvest also created a viewshed, from which one can see both Mount Monadnock and Mount Greylock.

The forester in charge of the harvest was Lincoln Fish, who helped found the Hilltown Land Trust in the 1980s.

Fish said that the harvest took trees from about 40 acres, and that he focused the harvest on trees that were predominately “low quality” such as trees that were damaged.

Fish said that he could tell the earlier harvest was a success because when he was doing work for the second harvest he heard all three native thrushes — another species that thrives in early successional habitat.

As for the habitat created by the newest harvest, Fish said it will be coming into its own this year, noting the germination of seedlings and the growth of blackberries there as well as its effect on bird life.

“They’ll start to use it this year,” he said. “There’ll be brush for them to hide in."

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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