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Landscape Conservation: Forever Wild in Northfield

Northfield landowners Bill and Christine Copeland helped inaugurate Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust’s twenty-fifth year of land conservation by donating a 183-acre ‘Forever Wild’ conservation restriction to Mount Grace. 

The land, called Masson Ridge after Bill’s grandfather J. C. Masson, lies west of the Connecticut River amidst more than 5,000 acres of protected land that spans the Massachusetts-Vermont border.  Protecting the land fulfilled a resolution the Copelands had long held.  “When we first saw the land, we recognized it as a long desired opportunity to bring a mildly degraded habitat back to health,” says Christine Copeland.  “On that first day seeing the property, we saw enough diversity to get pretty excited.”

Forever Wild designates land protected for biodiversity and wilderness values and managed with a minimum of human interference.  Natural disturbances like wind, ice storms, fire, and beaver activity will simply be allowed to shape the land over time, creating a diverse forest structure with both young and old growth character.

The CR protects rare swamp and forest habitats including black gum and black ash swamps and a rich mesic forest, as well as a cluster of 10 vernal pools.  Forever Wild land allows low-impact recreation like wildlife observation and hiking and the Copelands currently host events on their land in partnership with an outdoor education program.  Mount Grace has also led nature study for local classes at the vernal pools as part of the AmeriCorps service learning program. 

Mount Grace Conservation Director David Graham Wolf underlined the significance of the project.  “The property is rich on multiple scales.  It is situated in a 13,000-acre roadless area and supports moose, bear, bobcat, fisher and otter.  Raptors and interior forest songbirds nest here.  Its vernal pools, swamps and streams are teeming with vibrant amphibian populations—we’ve identified 13 of the 19 species known to Massachusetts on the land so far.”

The project was funded with assistance from the Living Lands Project of Defenders of Wildlife, Sweet Water Trust, and the William P. Wharton Trust.

NMH students at a vernal pool