With more than 1 million critical conservation acres still unprotected in Massachusetts and 13.5 acres being developed daily, there is an urgent need to conserve land at a larger scale and faster than ever before.
Developed by our long-time conservation partners at Harvard Forest, the vision of Wildlands and Woodlands calls for 70% of our farms and woodlands to be protected by 2060. Abiding by these guiding principles, Mount Grace has pioneered collaborative projects involving multiple partners allowing us to save land on a larger scale than when we work independently. When we work together, we can have tremendous impacts on biodiversity, watersheds, and wildlife corridors. Most recently, Mount Grace successfully completed the Quabbin to Wachusett initiative, protecting more than 4,000 acres across the towns nestled between the Quabbin Reservoir and Wachusett Mountain. This collaborative project was fueled by the interest and generosity of more than thirty private woodland owners and our partnerships with the Department of Conservation and Recreation, Fitchburg Water Department, East Quabbin Land Trust, North County Land Trust, Nashua River Watershed Association, Harvard Forest, and the towns of Phillipston, Barre, and Petersham.
Given the significant landowner interest, urgent direct threat of development, and the importance of this region scenically, we are exploring a second project in the same region. This will entail significant outreach to landowners in order to put together enough acreage to qualify for a second competitive Forest Legacy grant of the U.S. Forest Service. There are no short cuts to building these relationships, understanding the owners’ goals with their property, and crafting the right restriction to marry their needs and the conservation values of their land. This is a bold project under challenging circumstances, but the potential positive impact on our region is worth the risk.
Please contact Mount Grace if you or your friends are interested in protecting their land or helping to fund this important work.
Dexter Park and Youth Education
Protecting land for the next generation means we also have to be part of educating children to enjoy being out in nature and to love the land. This is an integral part of our mission and the work of our youth education initiative. For example, we have a long history of collaboration with Principle Chris Dodge and the teachers at Dexter Park school. In order to help encourage children to play more outdoors and connect with their natural world, we worked with students to plant pizza and pollinator gardens. Additionally, a retired teacher built a trail nearby.
Now, this trail needs upkeep and rerouting. We also want to add an outdoor education component to the trail to further engage the students. So, Mount Grace successfully applied for a Massachusetts Recreational Trails grant. Some of our staff joined up with a team of teachers and students to bushwhack through the woods to find a new route and mark it with our GPS. Now we are working with each grade to make interpretive signs covering aspects of the project: native trees, wildlife, seasonal changes, responsible use of the land. We are partnering with Dexter Park school to teach these students about the natural communities in the forest, to feel safe and comfortable in the woods, and how to be respectful visitors. This work is now continuing through virtual learning during the COVID-19 crisis. This trail will be a permanent addition to the Orange schools.
This is one example of our Youth Education prorgam. We also work with Northfield students who are learning about Native Cultures at Alderbrook Meadows. We have worked with tribal nations to develop an MCAS-compliant 3rd grade curriculum. We teach at Eagle Reserve through a 3-year partnership with the Royalston Community School. We are partnering with the Athol Community Elementary school to visit multiple different properties to study plant phenology, riparian habitat, and threatened turtle species.
Please help us continue this work of encouraging our school children to learn a sense of joy, belonging, and responsibility for the unique natural resources of our region.
Dairy Farms in Crisis
Carter & Stevens Farm is a multi-generational dairy farm that has evolved and innovated to stay viable throughout these challenging times. In addition to selling delicious homemade ice cream, raw milk, and their own grass-fed beef, they recently opened Stone Cow Brewery. They serve delicious microbrews in a 300-year-old restored post and beam barn with amazing scenic vistas of the Barre hills. While the beer is brewed using wood cut from the farm, the Carter-Stevens commitment to sustainability doesn’t stop there. They also produce electricity from their own windmill and solar.
Innovation has kept Carter & Stevens Farm in production despite huge challenges including rock bottom milk prices. More than 10,000 dairy farms have closed in the United States since 2012, leaving only 48,000. Development pressures are also increasing daily, making the need to support local farms even more urgent. Some of the corn fields that Carter & Stevens now leases are under threat. This family has put so much into saving the farm. Mount Grace wants to make sure that this valuable 90-acre neighboring property that they lease stays available and is protected from development.
With your support, we have the chance to permanently conserve these 90 acres and keep the pasture available for farming and the woods open as protected land.