State grants to protect 3,600 acres in Hampshire County towns

Monday, June 05, 2017

BOSTON — Protecting nearly 2,000 acres in Shutesbury and Leverett, more than 1,000 acres in Westhampton and in excess of 600 acres in Plainfield are among four conservation projects getting state grants, according to an announcement from the Baker-Polito administration.

The Kestrel Land Trust, based in Amherst, and the Department of Fish and Game were awarded $760,000 for their “West Quabbin Woodlands Landscape Partnership Project,” that aims to protect 1,972 acres in Shutesbury and Leverett “for sustainable forestry, conserve wildlife habitat, safeguard clean water, and guarantee public access for recreation,” the administration said in a press release issued Friday.

Kestrel, the Hilltown Land Trust in Ashfield, the Department of Fish and Game and the town of Westhampton were presented $760,000 for the “Brewer Brook Forest Preserve Project,” which covers 1,033 acres.

Also receiving money was the “Swift River Conservation Project” that looks to preserve 633 acres on the Swift River and Meadow Brook in Plainfield. The Franklin Land Trust in Shelburne Falls, the Department of Fish and Game and the town of Plainfield received $712,500 for this project.

Another $796,000 was awarded to to help protect 509 acres of forest land that will become part of the Freetown-Fall River State Forest.

“We are proud to work with communities and conservation groups to ensure the protection of over 4,100 acres of beautiful open space and wildlife habitat for generations to come,” Gov. Charlie Baker said in a press release.

Area legislators also weighed in on the grants.

“We must continue to take concrete steps to protect our prized open space and advance climate change resilience in our communities to better prepare, adapt and reduce the future damages of global warming,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst, in the release.

“We are fortunate in western Massachusetts to have abundant natural resource areas that provide opportunities for wildlife and species habitats, recreation, and environmental protection and climate mitigation,” said state Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington.

Created in 2011 and funded through the governor’s annual capital budget, the Landscape Partnership Grant Program facilitates large acreage projects that sustain the integrity and resilience of ecosystems, enhance the viability of farm and forest economies, increase public outdoor recreational opportunities, and expand partnerships among state, municipal, and non-profit entities.

“These large-scale land conservation projects will not only safeguard our natural resources, but will also provide additional outdoor recreational opportunities for the public,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton.