Caroline and Verne Fellows have lived at the end of Murdock Hill Road since 1955 on land that has been in Verne’s family for a century. Formerly a farm, the pastures and fields have now largely grown back to forest, but the cleared space around the house offers views south to the Millers River valley and north to Mount Monadnock. After five decades on the land, the couple realized a long-held dream by legally protecting 132 acres of the 135-acre property with a conservation restriction this April with the help of Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust.
“This was a big decision,” says Verne, speaking to a group of neighbors at a tour of the property, “almost like deciding whether to have another child. Now that we’ve come this far I think we’ve done a really good thing for the land.” A conservation restriction is a voluntary agreement in which landowners permanently set aside land for conservation. The town of Erving will hold and monitor the conservation restriction.
Conserving the Fellows’ land is part of a local initiative supported by the federal Forest Legacy Program to protect land around the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, which has now been designated the New England National Scenic Trail. The Metacomet-Monadnock Forest Legacy project brings Mount Grace together with local landowners, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Bureau of Forestry, the United States Forest Service Forest Legacy Program, and local towns to protect 1,180 acres with help from a $1,400,000 federal grant. The effort builds on past conservation projects, like the protection of Northfield’s Brush Mountain Conservation Area in 2005.
Verne and Caroline Fellows’ property lies further south, along the same ridge that makes up Brush Mountain, over the town line between Jack’s Brook and Keyup Brook, near the Erving State Forest. Speaking of the filing of the conservation restriction last week, Fellows adds, “Ever since last Friday I feel a change in myself when I look out over the hill. I see the deer and the birds coming in and I know we’ve made our decision and we’ve made a difference and nothing’s going to happen to the land now.”
Verne (in green shirt) leading a tour of the woods during the Mount Grace Annual Meeting in 2010.