Standing on Craig and Jean Twohey’s land on Phillipston’s Ward Hill you can see the steeples of two Congregational Churches in nearby Phillipston Center and in Templeton. That’s eloquent testimony to the return of local forests. A past owner of the home noted in 1900 that he could count thirty steeples from the hilltop, and see as far as Boston.
If the Twoheys have their way, those resurgent forests are here to stay. This spring, the couple transferred a conservation restriction (CR) to the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Division of Water Supply, permanently protecting 49 acres mostly within the Quabbin watershed. “We’d much rather protect the land than sell it for development,” says Craig. “The best part about the CR is we still own the land. We can get our cordwood from it and run it the way we have been.”
The couple has run Phillipston’s King Phillip Restaurant since 1983. They see their work at the restaurant and on the land as “a labor of love,” and a way to support the community and sustain local history. Craig describes working on a land conservation project as “a lot like marinating a steak. You’ve got to take the time to let it sit until it’s ready.”
Craig, an avid hunter, was able to work with a forester to create small clearings on the land to re-establish prime habitat for birds like the American woodcock and ruffed grouse. Being able to manage their land was an important factor for the Twoheys. “We looked at all the options and we talked through what we wanted to do with our land with Jay Rasku,” Craig remembers. “It’s a big decision and was kind of a moving target since we did change the plans a little bit, but Jay helped us get the land protected the way we wanted.”
The CR is part of Mount Grace’s Quabbin to Wachusett Forest Legacy Project, which, along with the Quabbin Heritage Landscape Partnership Project, involves partnerships with dozens of landowners that will permanently protect more than 4,500 acres. The projects are funded by the United States Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program and the Massachusetts Landscape Partnership Program. Additional support is provided by the Bafflin Foundation, and the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts.