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Poplar Mountain: Rising to a Stewardship Challenge

Posted Wednesday, May 20, 2015
— News

Since 2006, when Erving voters established their first Town Forest, Mount Grace has been working with the Town to protect Poplar Mountain.

Erving purchased 125 acres on the mountain from the estate of John Giniusz in 2007. That land was originally thought to be about 185 acres, however the summit actually belonged to the late John Mackin who passed away at the age of 98 before the Town was able to trace the ownership.

In 2014, Mackin's heirs contacted Mount Grace and proposed donating the land that includes the summit to the trust. Mount Grace would ensure that the land remain open to the public in perpetuity and accessible from the Town Forest, where two trailheads on Old State Road welcome visitors to well-used trails designed and maintained by local volunteers.

Signs of deer, coyote, bear, and other animals are evident to hikers and hunters who venture up the mountainside, which provides a spectacular view of the Millers River Valley.   The steep mountain is also crossed by power lines, providing a dramatic example of what Tennessee Gas calls "co-located" siting of their proposed gas pipeline route.

Current proposals for the Tennessee Gas pipeline follow existing power lines but add new, separate easements for the pipeline, which when combined are approximately 200 feet wide.  Because gas pipes cannot be run too close to high-tension wires, the proposed easements are actually parallel to, not "co-located" with, the existing easements.

Pipeline construction would thus clear just as many miles, and acres, of forest as a route that was not "co-located." On Poplar Mountain, the steep, rocky terrain would also require blasting to bury the pipeline, exacerbating the environmental impact.

Poplar Mountain is one of nearly one-thousand parcels which would be crossed by the pipeline.   Statewide, the proposed pipeline would run through (or within 200' of) 148 permanently protected parcels, including 19 conserved farms; 6 state forests; 5 state wildlife management areas; 26 town forests, conservation areas, or CRs; 10 protected watershed areas; 5 sections of National Scenic Trails; 12 land trust properties; 6 sporting clubs; a municipal playground; and a YMCA Camp and under numerous waterways including the Connecticut River, the Millers River, and the Deerfield River. 

Allowing the pipeline to cross the most rural parts of Massachusetts runs against years of strategic conservation and habitat investments put in place for the benefit of all of the citizens of the Commonwealth and for future generations.  A full listing of threatened conservation areas is below.

“Thanks to the generosity of the Mackin family, Mount Grace will conserve this land and will work to complete the original vision of a fully-protected mountainside open to all,” says Mount Grace Executive Director Leigh Youngblood. "From this newest conserved parcel, across the state to Andover’s Shawsheen River Reservation protected more than 50 years ago, conservation land must be defended for its original public purpose, especially when threatened by projects designed to serve private interests."

Since 2006, when Erving voted to create a Town Forest, Mount Grace has worked with the Town to protect Poplar Mountain. Now, the Mountain is in the proposed route of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline.