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During this quiet time it is easy to forget the biodiversity and value of the species that inhabit the land around us.
Did you know that statewide, The Trustees protect more than 130 rare species on our properties? Our protection supports species ranging from the tiny, federally threatened Small-Whorled Pogonia to federally threatened Piping Plovers and state-listed Wood Turtles. In fact, almost half of our properties, including our coastal gems like Crane Beach and Long Point and our in-land properties such as Bartholomew’s Cobble and Field Farm, provide habitat for rare plants and animals.
It is no coincidence that many of these species are located on our reservations. Some of our oldest properties were acquired to protect special places of statewide significance. Although the significance at the time of acquisition may have been scenic or recreational, the characteristics of these properties often also contribute to their capacity to support rare species. Monument Mountain, for example, was donated to The Trustees in 1899 (our 4th reservation) by Miss Helen C. Butler in honor of her late sister in “fulfillment of a wish of Rosalie Butler that such portions of this mountain might be preserved to the people of Berkshire as a place of free enjoyment for all time.” The Butler sisters were aware that the mountain was a significant spot for the people in their local community and were eager to preserve its recreational accessibility, but its dramatic rock outcrops and wooded slopes were and remain habitat for at least half a dozen rare plants and animals. The existence of rare species on a property is now one of several factors that the Trustees weigh when deciding to take on a new property. For instance, the Bullitt Reservation, best known for its sustainable building project and local trail connectivity potential, has also added another four rare species to our portfolio.
Our property management is another reason why rare species continue to be found at many of our reservations. Many people have participated in our efforts to control the invasive plant Garlic Mustard at Notchview, but some might not realize that partly why it’s important to do so is to protect a rare species. Notchview is home to the Mustard White Butterfly and Garlic Mustard can be toxic to that species’ caterpillars. At other reservations we maintain grasslands for declining populations of grassland breeding birds, create vital nesting habitat for wood and box turtles, and open up the canopy of our forests for plant species that can’t survive in deep shade.
So as you venture out to discover the winter world at your favorite reservation, take a second consider that the land you are looking at may well be a home to rare plants, bugs, fish, turtles, birds or other creatures. Keep that thought in mind as we head into spring and perhaps one of these days you’ll grab your favorite field guide or work gloves and join us in caring for these special treasures. We would love to share with you the thrill of finding a rarely seen flower or butterfly or the satisfaction of clearing an invasive species in order to protect a rare one. Check our events listings or give us a call to see how you can be a part of these efforts. We are all Trustees and together we really can protect the special places in Massachusetts for everyone for ever.