(This is a 2012 archive page. Both these protected properties are now threatened by the proposed Tennessee Gas Pipeline)
Directly across Gulf Road from the Northfield Town Forest, New England’s National Scenic Trail heads east to climb Mt. Grace before heading on to Mt. Monadnock.
Northfield Mount Hermon School has now protected this section of the trail, selling 117-acres of land, including ¾ miles of trail, to Mount Grace as part of the Metacomet-Monadnock Forest Legacy Project.
“Northfield Mount Hermon School and Mount Grace Land Trust have been collaborating on this effort for over five years,” explained Bob Macomber (NMH ’60), a former trustee of the school who helped negotiate the sale. “It became clear that this land could be a central piece to the Northfield section of the National Scenic Trail because it provides a more direct and more attractive hiking connection for adjacent sections of the Trail. With the opportunity to participate in both a healthy recreational use and a long term conservation effort, the NMH Board readily approved this conveyance.”
“Northfield Mount Hermon is very pleased to have worked closely to support the excellent work and land stewardship of our neighbors at the Mount Grace Land Trust,” added NMH Head of School Charles A. Tierney III. “Their important efforts continue to produce lasting value for all of us and future generations.” Situated along a ridgeline known as the Bald Hills, which includes the popular hiking destination Crag Mountain, the protected land runs east toward the Warwick town line and includes part of Northfield’s Great Swamp and several unnamed tributary brooks that feed it.
Mount Grace plans to transfer the property to the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) in 2012, when it will be added to the Northfield State Forest. “This land gives access to the Northfield State Forest and the Great Swamp from the west,” said Mount Grace Conservation Director David Graham Wolf. “We have a truly awe inspiring wetland system and wilderness back there. The property is part of a nearly 8,000-acre roadless area, making it a very significant biodiversity hot spot for our region. This is a big win for land conservation in Massachusetts.”
This is the seventh property protected through the Metacomet-Monadnock Forest Legacy Project, a conservation effort three years in the making that will protect approximately 1,200 acres in six towns. Partners in the project include local towns, Mount Grace, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Greater Northfield Watershed Association, and the USDA Forest Service, which provided a $1,645,000 grant to conserve the land. Northfield Mount Hermon's decision to join in the Forest Legacy application was a major factor that played into the award of the grant. DCR’s Bureau of Forestry serves as the lead agency to administer the Forest Legacy Program in Massachusetts. Other grants in support of the project were provided by the Bafflin Foundation, the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, and the Fieldstone Foundation.
Earlier this year, as part of the same Forest Legacy Project, Mount Grace helped the Town of Northfield and local landowners Sam and Barbara Richardson protect 188 acres of land along the 215-mile New England National Scenic Trail, which runs from Connecticut to New Hampshire along a mix of private and public lands. Those properties included the Northfield Town Forest. Parking for access to the trail is at the Brush Mountain Conservation Area off Gulf Road. Metacomet-Monadnock Forest Legacy funding also helped Mount Grace protect land on the Tully Trail in Warwick and Royalston and protect a 130-acre property in Erving this spring.
The United States Forest Service conducts a nationwide search for worthwhile forest conservation projects each year as part of the Forest Legacy Program. Projects are proposed by each state and compete for a limited pool of Forest Legacy funding which can be used to purchase either land or conservation restrictions on privately owned land. Mount Grace has had many successful collaborations with Forest Legacy, including the 2006-2009 Quabbin Corridor Connection Project, and has conserved more than 4,000 acres in Franklin and Worcester Counties through the program.
“Over the years, Mount Grace has done an exceptional job of securing parcels that exemplify the natural beauty of the region in order to protect it for future generations,” said Congressman John Olver. “This acreage is located in the heart of a region with strong economic ties to forestry, recreation, and tourism. Conserving this land protects not only this unique economic asset but also critical habitat for forest interior species and the viewshed for the New England National Scenic Trail.”