BOSTON – July 20, 2011 – In keeping with the Patrick-Murray Administration’s unprecedented commitment to the protection of open space, Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Commissioner Mary Griffin today announced that a public-private partnership between DFG and the Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) has resulted in the permanent protection of 290 acres of conservation land in West Stockbridge. These newly protected public lands feature recreational opportunities such as fishing, hunting, and bird watching, while preserving critical habitat for waterfowl and several rare plant and animal species.
“This conservation project is vitally important for protecting wildlife biodiversity, providing recreational opportunities and conserving open space in the Berkshires, and is a prime example of the land conservation legacy the Patrick-Murray Administration is building,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr., whose office includes DFG. “Since 2007, under the leadership of Governor Patrick, the Commonwealth has taken action to permanently protect more than 75,000 acres of land across the state.”
Located in the southwest corner of West Stockbridge, the new parcel includes 273 acres just north of the Massachusetts Turnpike, which will be named the Flat Brook Wildlife Management Area. The acquisition incorporates an additional 17 acres south of the Turnpike into the existing Maple Hill Wildlife Management Area. Both properties will be managed by DFG’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife), which oversees more than 190,000 acres of conservation land in Massachusetts, all of which are open to the public for hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, and nature observation. The acquisition provides public access to Crane Lake, Flat Brook, and Cranberry Pond, which will greatly improve fishing opportunities in the area.
“Most of the acreage we purchased is core habitat for several state-listed species of rare plants and animals, and it is superb habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife,” said DFG Commissioner Mary Griffin. “The acquisition of these rich and productive lands along Flat Brook is a highlight of our land protection accomplishments this year, and we’re especially pleased to have accomplished this with the invaluable assistance of the Berkshire Natural Resources Council.”
The Commonwealth expended $1,115,800 on the purchase, using a combination of open space bond funds and Land Stamp revenue derived from the sale of fishing and hunting licenses. The BNRC served as a project facilitator for the multiple landowners and state officials and privately raised $237,200 to augment the state’s investment.
“Any project of this scale and significance is complex. This was no exception with nine entities – including landowners, trusts and private organizations – involved in working patiently and efficiently together to make this tremendous investment in the Berkshires a reality,” said BNRC Director of Land Conservation Narain Schroeder.
“This is a great day for land protection in Massachusetts. In one outstanding moment, the collective efforts of state government, private landowners, and the non-profit community have conserved a landscape having phenomenal natural resources – a pristine pond and wetland complex, a healthy cold-water stream, extensive habitat for rare and endangered species, and the opportunity to connect to other lands of environmental significance,” said George Darey, Chairman of the state Fisheries and Wildlife Board, which approves DFG agency land purchases. “The Maple Hill Farm project is an example of forward-looking partnership at its very best.”
Landowners involved in the sale are the H. George Wilde 1989 Trust, Heirs of Arthur P. Gennari, Sr., Balgen Machine, Inc., and JDL Nominee Trust. The project’s private funders include The Open Space Institute, Saving New England Wildlife Fund, the Nion Robert Thieriot Foundation, Pamela B. Weatherbee, and the Trustees of the Natural Resources Damages Fund for the Housatonic River.
The newly acquired land is open to the public for non-motorized passive recreation and will be managed by the Division of Fisheries & Wildlife’s Western Wildlife District office. DFW and BNRC have engaged in preliminary discussion of how best to install and maintain access amenities, including parking, controls against illicit use, and other improvements.
The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is responsible for promoting the conservation and enjoyment of the Commonwealth’s natural resources. DFG carries out this mission through land protection and wildlife habitat management, management of inland and marine fish and wildlife species, and ecological restoration of fresh water, salt water, and terrestrial habitats. DFG promotes the enjoyment of the Massachusetts environment through outdoor skills workshops, fishing festivals and other educational programs, and by enhancing access to the Commonwealth’s rivers, lakes, and coastal waters.