Hilltown Land Trust & The Trustees Form New Partnership

Hilltown Land Trust and The Trustees of Reservations Form Strategic New Land Conservation Partnership for the Hilltowns: Combined Focus Will Protect More Land in Important Rural Region

Contact Information

Jocelyn Forbush
Regional Director
The Trustees of Reservations

Wil Hastings
Hilltown Land Trust

Hilltown Land Trust and The Trustees of Reservations Form Strategic New Land Conservation Partnership for the Hilltowns: Combined Focus Will Protect More Land in Important Rural Region

Haydenville, MA—The Hilltown Land Trust (HLT), credited with protecting nearly 3,000 acres of working farmland, woods, rivers and wildlife habitat in Hampshire and Hampden counties, and The Trustees of Reservations (The Trustees), one of America's oldest statewide conservation organizations, announce the creation of a new partnership designed to accelerate land conservation in the Hilltowns. The new arrangement will combine the efforts and resources of these two non-profit land conservation organizations as they pursue a shared goal of preserving and caring for the special places of the Pioneer Valley Hilltowns.

Over the last several years, the two groups have been partnering on land conservation efforts with increasing frequency—sometimes working together on the same parcel, as in the recent acquisition of a conservation restriction on the Merritt farm in Goshen, MA. Going forward, The Hilltown Land Trust and The Trustees will continue to function as independent entities, but the two organizations will now pool resources in order to hire staff and increase their conservation work in the Hilltowns. Both organizations will continue to rely on the generosity of local members, donors, and volunteers to accomplish their missions.

"The time to act is now, not later, if we want to hold on to our working farms and our forests, our access to those secret little fishing spots we treasure, our breathtaking rural views," says Wil Hastings, President of the Hilltown Land Trust. "Combining with the Trustees will give us more muscle and speed to save the Hilltown lands that cry out for protection as development continues to move west." Through the partnership, the previously all-volunteer Hilltown Land Trust and The Trustees will now share a part-time, professional land conservation staff person who will work on behalf of both organizations. HLT will also benefit from the administrative support of The Trustees.

“It may sound cliché, but the many advantages of the new relationship really do make it a ‘win-win’ situation,’” adds Jocelyn Forbush, Regional Director of The Trustees of Reservations. “The Hilltown Land Trust has been a terrific partner and collaborator over the years in a region where we have significant, mutual interests. We look forward to working even more closely with HLT’s dedicated local volunteers and supporters to protect and care for the land that defines the character of the Hilltowns.” Forbush explains further, “The new arrangement complements the local conservation and community preservation outreach work that The Trustees’ Highland Communities Initiative has been pursuing for the past nine years. With the impressive conservation success that the Hilltown Land Trust brings to our partnership, we are confident that we will not only accelerate our two combined missions, but also benefit the overall quality of life enjoyed by the greater Hilltown community.”

The Hilltown Land Trust-Trustees of Reservations partnership will be focused in 13 towns: Ashfield, Chester, Chesterfield, Conway, Cummington, Goshen, Huntington, Middlefield, Plainfield, Westhampton, Williamsburg, Windsor, and Worthington.

Both the Hilltown Land Trust and The Trustees of Reservations have long histories in this region. The 24 year-old Hilltown Land Trust currently owns four properties in Williamsburg, Worthington, Huntington and Westhampton, and holds 27 conservation restrictions—permanent agreements between a landowner and a conservation organization that limit development and other potentially destructive uses on the land—in perpetuity. The new partnership will not alter the conservation restrictions held by either organization and will help enhance the ongoing care and monitoring of these important properties. 

The Trustees of Reservations, founded in 1891 by open space visionary Charles Eliot, opened its first local reservation on Williamsburg’s Petticoat Hill in 1905, and has since added such beloved Hilltown treasures as the Bryant Homestead in Cummington, Chesterfield Gorge in Chesterfield, and Notchview Reservation in Windsor. The Trustees’ Highland Communities Initiative, born out of local residents’ concerns that the region’s rural character and quality of life were under threat from development pressures, has been actively providing assistance and information to empower landowners, towns and organizations to protect the Hilltowns and the broader 38 town region.

More about The Trustees in the Pioneer Valley
Since 2001, The Trustees have been working to build a stronger presence in the Pioneer Valley region though educational and grassroots community outreach programs and the pursuit of significant land conservation opportunities. Currently, The Trustees own and manage 11 properties in the Valley including: Notchview, the Bryant Homestead, Dinosaur Footprints, Chapel Brook, Bear Swamp, Chesterfield Gorge, Petticoat Hill, Glendale Falls, Little Tom Mountain (to open 2012), Bullitt Reservation (opening to the public later this year) and Peaked Mountain, with a few more reservations pending. The Trustees also operate the Highland Communities Initiative (HCI), a program created to protect the natural and cultural character of the 38 rural Hilltowns located between the Connecticut and Housatonic Rivers. To find out more about HCI, please visit www.highlandcommunities.org. To reach The Trustees of Reservations’ regional office in the Pioneer Valley, located at 193 High Street in Holyoke, please call 413.532.1631.

More about the Hilltown Land Trust
The Hilltown Land Trust is a volunteer-run non-profit organization dedicated to preserving active farmland and other working properties, saving native plant and wildlife habitats, protecting watersheds, and preserving the scenic and rural character of the Hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. HLT recognizes that local communities must balance their need to create new housing and jobs with their need to preserve critical natural resources and their rural character. HLT is committed to being an important participant in this endeavor.

More about The Trustees of Reservations in Massachusetts
The Trustees are 100,000 members, staff, donors and volunteers who love the outdoors and the distinctive charms of New England, and believe in celebrating and protecting them for future generations. Since 1891, The Trustees have held in trust and cared for special places called "reservations.” From working farms and historic homesteads to formal gardens, barrier beaches, and mountain vistas, The Trustees own and care for 101 special places in Massachusetts—nearly 26,000 acres in more than 73 communities—all of which are open to the public. 

In addition, The Trustees hold conservation restrictions on more than 16,000 acres of privately-owned land and have worked with communities and other conservation partners to assist in the protection of an additional 16,000 acres. A member-, donor- and endowment-supported organization, The Trustees also provide hundreds of year-round programs and events that inspire people of all ages to enjoy the outdoors and appreciate and care for natural, scenic and cultural landscapes and landmarks across the Commonwealth. Most events are free-of-charge or heavily discounted for members. As land is being developed and open space is being fragmented at a rapid pace around the state, time is running out to save the best of Massachusetts’ landscapes and landmarks. To find out how you can help, consider becoming a volunteer, donor and/or member by calling The Trustees at 781.784.0567 or emailing membership@ttor.org