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Goshen, MA – In the days just before Christmas, longtime Goshen resident Floyd Merritt, 81, joined forces with The Trustees of Reservations and the Hilltown Land Trust (HLT) to protect the farm that’s been in his family since 1897. The farm, which straddles Route 9 in Goshen, close to the Cummington town line, is plainly visible to passersby, with historic barns and sweeping views of rolling meadows that rise to the north. Merritt protected the family land by donating a conservation restriction to The Trustees and HLT that prohibits future development of the property while allowing forestry, agriculture, and other uses that will not harm the land.
Merritt’s 83 acres of fields and forests are traversed by Stone’s Brook and the Swift River. Both streams, together with their adjacent forests and grasslands, provide important habitat for Wood Turtles, Jefferson Salamanders, and the Endangered Harpoon Clubtail dragonfly. Not far downstream, the Swift River joins with the East Branch of the Westfield River, a federally-designated Wild and Scenic River popular for trout fishing and other forms of recreation. The conservation restriction helps to protect these rivers and their surrounding habitats by ensuring that the working woodlands and meadows of the Merritt property remain working woodlands and meadows.
Asked what made him want to preserve his family land, Merritt answered, “I think it was the rivers, really. I’ve been tramping around this place for years, and I could sense that it might have some ecological importance.” He added, “It’s also really important to me that this land can continue to be farmed long into the future.”
The Trustees and the Hilltown Land Trust, both non-profit conservation organizations active in the Hilltowns, will collaboratively ensure that the terms of the conservation restriction are upheld in perpetuity. The two groups have been partnering on land preservation efforts with increasing frequency – sometimes on the same parcel, as with the Merritt farm, and other times by sharing support and resources more broadly.
“I’m delighted,” said Eric Weber, Vice President of the Hilltown Land Trust. “This is one of the most attractive and most visible properties in the Hilltowns. The Swift River and Stone’s Brook are so gorgeous - anyone who drives by or fishes in them will likely be thrilled to know that they will stay that way.”
Also last week, The Trustees of Reservations accepted the donation of a conservation restriction on another property, at the junction of Nash Hill and Depot Roads in Williamsburg, MA. Peter and Elizabeth Thomson and John and Carol Gabranski jointly protected seven acres of woodlands that include a 1,000 foot section of Potash Brook. Potash Brook supports populations of Spring Salamanders, a species of “Special Concern” in Massachusetts. The newly conserved seven acres fills in a gap in 260 acres of surrounding protected lands that were previously preserved by the Thomsons, the Gabranskis and several other neighbors. Both The Trustees and the Hilltown Land Trust were involved in those prior conservation efforts.
“It’s amazing what we can accomplish by working together,” remarked Lee Alexander, Community Conservation Specialist with The Trustees. “When multiple neighbors and multiple conservation groups pool resources to preserve the character of the places we all care about, there’s no limit to what we can achieve.”
Landowners who choose to protect their privately owned lands by donating a conservation restriction to a conservation organization are often eligible for a generous federal income tax deduction. Special tax incentives enacted as part of the 2008 Farm Bill are set to expire at the end of 2009, but bills now before the US Congress would make those incentives permanent, if enacted. For more information about land conservation, including potential tax incentives, call The Trustees of Reservations at 413.298.3239 x3015.
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 (not yet open to the public) 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’ Pioneer Valley regional office, 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 and/or member by calling The Trustees at 781.784.0567 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos available upon request.