the trustees of reservations
On The Land
The Trustees of Reservations

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Spring 2016 Conservation Restriction Program events - spring wildflowers, bears, and blue herons!

Don't try this at home!  Independent wildlife biologist Ben Kilham with a bear.
Photo Credit: Ben Kilham

Spring greetings from The Trustees' Conservation Restriction Program!  Much like black bears we are emerging for the Spring season, in our case from the cozy and busy office den at the Doyle Center.  We are excited for another field season working to ensure the protection of 400 CR properties around the state, and also to share some upcoming events with the public! 

Trout lilies coming in to bloom. 
Photo credit: Pete Westover
 Three public events are scheduled on Trustees' conservation restriction properties this Spring in eastern and central Massachusetts.  These are great opportunities to learn about the natural world from experts, and also meet members of our CR stewardship team to hear how The Trustees has protected land beyond its 115 reservations.

1)  Spring Wildflower Walk with naturalist Pete Westover 
Saturday, April 30th, 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM 
Holly Hill Farm - 236 Jerusalem Road, Cohasset, MA 02025
Admission: FREE to all! 
RSVP REQUIRED at or 781-383-6565

2) Ben Kilham, Bear Whisperer  
Saturday, May 7th, 1:00-2:30 PM 
Shirley Historical Society - 182 Center Road, Shirley, MA 01464
Presentation then a walk at Farandnear, a Trustees' reservation with a past life as a private CR! 
Admission - Trustees Members: $10.  Non-members: $15
Please RSVP to Margaret Moulton,, 413-298-3239 x3016 

3) Blue Heron rookery and wetland walk with ecologist Bill Lattrell  Saturday, June 4th, 12:00 - 3:00 PM 
Alder Meadow Conservation Restriction - Spencer, MA
Admission: FREE!   
Please RSVP to Sally Naser, or call (978) 840-4446 x1917 to register and
receive directions to the site. As this is private property and a sensitive ecological area, group size will be limited to 15 participants.

Blue heron at the Alder Meadow CR.  Photo credit: Ryan Pennesi Photography.

Monday, July 6, 2015

An Introduction to Conservation Restriction stewardship at The Trustees

The Trustees of Reservations boasts a long and storied history, anchored in Charles Eliot's vision of inviting public use and enjoyment of natural and historic places in Massachusetts.  Our 113 properties now include landmarks from the shores of Crane BeachLong Point, and Wasque, to shady forest hikes and views at places like Peaked and Monument Mountain, to historic houses and cultural history at Naumkeag and the Old Manse. We are a leader in the land conservation movement, actively protecting threatened landscapes over the decades, to preserve forests, farmland, and historic and natural resources without which much of a community's character may be lost. Our status as the largest private organization holder of Conservation Restrictions (CRs)  by acreage in Massachusetts is a testament to this leadership. 

The distribution of statewide CR properties protected by The Trustees!

In 1972, The Trustees accepted its very first perpetual conservation restriction (CR), which is most often a legal agreement between a land trust and a private landowner (state agencies and public municipal property sometimes, too) to permanently conserve their property.  The Trustees first CR protected 65 acres of land in Sherborn, fittingly next to our very first Reservation, Rocky Narrows.  Since then we have worked to protect over 390 parcels on about 21,000 acres statewide, making us the largest private holder of CRs in Massachusetts. This has been an integral, if not highly visible, method for The Trustees to protect land beyond our reservations.  After taking the CR, The Trustees DO NOT own the land, but we partner with the landowners to ensure permanent protection of the property.
Though it is not our goal to own CR properties, many great relationships with CR landowners have eventually resulted in generous donations of their land to become new reservations or pieces of reservations - for example FarandnearCedariver, and Rock House Reservation were first protected by our CRs before the landowner donated them to become reservations, while Crane Wildlife RefugeRocky NarrowsBrooks Woodland Preserve, and Menemsha Hillshave all been greatly expanded by contributions of CR parcels to become part of these reservations. 

The historic Brickyard site on Martha's Vineyard, long privately owned and subject to a 1990 CR, was recently generously donated to The Trustees and will soon become part of Menemsha Hills reservation
But what is a CR exactly?  And why are they important?  Why should the public care? How do The Trustees meet their stewardship responsibilities as a CR holder?
CRs, known as conservation easements (or CEs) in the other 49 states, are a legal agreement to permanently protect land, usually between a granting private landowner with a conservation organization. The landowner continues to own the land, but agrees to manage it according to certain prohibited uses and allowed activities. By law, CRs must provide public benefits. Some of these benefits may include protection of scenic views, enhancing public water supply protection, or wildlife habitat protection. CRs do not require a landowner to provide public access to their property, though a small number choose to do so in a limited capacity, perhaps by providing a trail easement to reach a Trustees reservation or other conservation land across their otherwise private land. CRs are meant to last forever, and are recorded at the county Registry of Deeds with the property's chain of title, and even when the land is sold, the future owners are bound by its terms. The importance of CRs for protecting our state's forests, farms, and threatened habitats is huge. With so many farms converted to subdivisions in recent decades, and nearly two thirds of Massachusetts forests owned by private landowners, typically in relatively small parcels compared to the land ownership pattern in western states, CRs between conservation organizations and willing forest landowners are one of the best tools to ensure that wooded and working landscapes in Massachusetts and New England remain largely intact.

Our CRs protect important wildlife habitat, including drinking water and swimming holes for the occasional bear family!

The negotiation of CR terms is a balancing act – the holding conservation organization wishes to see the most beneficial conservation outcome, but the needs of the landowner to continue using the land are also vitally important. Every CR document is different as a result of balancing landowner needs with conservation needs.
Hypothetically let's imagine a family owns a 100-acre farm, one of the last traditional farms in their community, which sits on prime agricultural soils, and abuts a Trustees' reservation. The family is generously willing to place a CR on the land to ensure that their land always remains in farming, though they need to make sure that the practical aspects of farming are allowed uses in the CR. Recognizing that their teenage daughter dreams of running the farm one day, the landowners see a possibility that she may wish to have one more house built on the property. They therefore propose that the CR allow structures for agricultural uses on a designated part of the property totaling 5 acres.  Another term allows for construction of one house in the future on a 2-acre lot on the property. After negotiation, The Trustees would recognize this as a good outcome. With no CR, there is the possibility that after the current landowners' death, the remaining family members might prefer to sell the land to become dozens of two-acre house lots. Not only would that be a sad outcome for the last farm in the community, but it would mean the waste of valuable agricultural soils, and a lost opportunity to connect conservation lands. Under the CR, one future house and new agricultural buildings would be allowed, while most of the property cannot be built upon and would remain in farming and as forest forever.

CRs on farms, such as Spring Street Farm in Millis seen here, balance permanent land protection with helping a successful community farm thrive.
The Trustees are responsible for stewarding all CRs that the organization holds. What do we mean when we talk about CR stewardship?  As opposed to direct stewardship and management of our reservations, CR stewardship involves partnering with the landowners to build positive relationships with them, promoting great land management practices, and meeting our legal obligation to monitor compliance with the CR terms and ensure permanent protection of the land. Our team of professionals in the CR Program must annually visit each and every property around the state to meet with the landowners, inspect the land, and complete reports documenting changes to the property. Other aspects of the job include:
  • serve as a resource to CR landowners for referrals to foresters, invasive plant management specialists, surveyors, and other land management professionals; 
  • negotiate certain activities on CR properties only allowed with permission of The Trustees; 
  • create and maintain a Baseline Documentation Report (BDR) of maps, photos, and resource documentation for each and every CR property; 
  • tracking changes in CR property ownership and working cooperatively to educate new landowners about the CR terms; 
  • working to resolve any violations of CR terms.
These are no small tasks for stewarding nearly 400 CRs, but the work balances working outdoors with office time, and presents the opportunity to work with fascinating landowner partners and their beautiful properties. There is rarely a dull moment! We hope you will stay tuned to The Trustees' social media each month for a featured story about some of these amazing CR properties and landowners from our CR Stewardship team!

Some members of the CR Program staff pose last year on a private CR property by a sign for public access to a hiking trail.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Trustees of Reservations Applies for National Land Trust Accreditation Renewal

We are excited to announce that The Trustees of Reservations is applying for renewal of its 2010 national Land Trust Accreditation award!  The Trustees is currently one of eleven Accredited land trusts in Massachusetts and 301 nationwide (click for list of accredited land trusts).  Accreditation renewal will provide independent confirmation of the soundness of the practices of The Trustees of Reservations and its supporting organizations.  Land Trust Accreditation must be renewed every five years, during which time the Accredited organization operates under Land Trust Standards and Practices, and works to accomplish any Expectations for Improvement for the organization set by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. 
You may have noticed the silence of this blog since last June!  Our Land Conservation and Conservation Restriction program staff have been hard at work ensuring that we complete conservation projects under the Land Trust Standards and best practices, and updating our baseline documentation reports (BDRs) - the required documentation of conservation values and property conditions for CR properties - for nearly 300 of our 390 CRs across the state.  These updates ensure that every BDR meets the current Accreditation standards.  Updating BDRs was among the single largest tasks necessary for The Trustees' Accreditation renewal over the past five years!  If you are a CR landowner, you likely received an updated BDR thanks to the tireless work of our staff.  With this herculean task nearly behind us, we hope our readership is excited for more news from out "On the Land" in 2015. 

2014 CR Program staff- L to R, Justina Smith (former BDR Assistant), Sally Naser (CR Program Manager), Jennifer Garrett (BDR Specialist), Andrew Bentley (CR Stewardship Specialist).  Not pictured: Sandy Lower (CR Program Assistant), Dani Christopher (former BDR assistant)
The following is the official press release regarding our Accreditation application.  
The Trustees of Reservations Applies for National Accreditation Renewal

Boston, MA – March 5, 2015 – The Trustees of Reservations, the nation’s oldest statewide land trust and one of Massachusetts’ largest conservation nonprofits, today announced that the organization is applying for accreditation renewal through the Land Trust Accreditation Commission.  The Accreditation Commission accredits land conservation organizations that meet specified standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever. The Trustees of Reservations was originally awarded accreditation in 2010 and is now applying for the renewal of that accreditation. The Trustees of Reservations’ supporting organizations, including the Massachusetts Land Conservation Trust and the Boston Natural Areas Network, will also be applying for accreditation concurrently.  A public comment period is now open for those who wish to contribute.

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance (LTA), conducts an extensive review of each applicant’s policies and programs. Since its founding in 1891 by open space visionary Charles Eliot, The Trustees of Reservations has served as a leader in the conservation community, striving to set the highest standards of ethics and performance in its ongoing care and maintenance of 113 reservations located on more than 26,000 acres across Massachusetts. Accreditation renewal will provide independent confirmation of the soundness of the practices of The Trustees of Reservations and its supporting organizations.

The Commission invites public input and accepts signed, written comments on pending applications. Comments must relate to how The Trustees of Reservations, the Massachusetts Land Conservation Trust, or the Boston Natural Areas Network, comply with certain of LTA’s Standards and Practices. These standards address the ethical and technical operation of a land trust. For the full list of standards see

To learn more about the accreditation program and to submit a comment on The Trustees of Reservations, the Massachusetts Land Conservation Trust, or the Boston Natural Areas Network, please visit Comments may also be faxed or mailed to the Land Trust Accreditation Commission; Attn: Public Comments: (fax) 518-587-3183; (mail) 36 Phila Street, Suite 2, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. Comments on will be most useful if received by April 24th, 2015.

The Trustees of Reservations
The Trustees “hold in trust” and care for properties, or “reservations,” of irreplaceable scenic, historic, and natural significance for the general public to enjoy. Founded by open space visionary Charles Eliot in 1891, The Trustees is the world’s oldest land trust and one of Massachusetts’ largest conservation and preservation non profits. Supported by more than 100,000 members and donors and thousands of volunteers, The Trustees own and manage 113 spectacular reservations – from working farms, historic homesteads, and landscaped gardens, to community parks, barrier beaches, mountain vistas and woodland trials -- located on more than 26,000 acres throughout the Commonwealth.

A leader in the conservation movement, The Trustees has both served as a model for other land trusts, nationally and internationally, and worked with hundreds of community partners to preserve open land and the character of local communities statewide.  In addition to managing and caring for its own holdings, The Trustees also holds perpetual conservation restrictions on more than 20,000 acres—a total larger than any other conservation organization in Massachusetts—permanently protecting scenic and natural areas from development, and has worked with communities and other conservation partners to assist in the protection of another 24,000 acres around the state. 

With hundreds of outreach programs, workshops, camps, concerts and events annually designed to engage all ages in its mission, The Trustees invites you to Find Your Place and get out and experience the natural beauty and culture our state has to offer. For more information, visit:

Monday, March 30, 2015

Wildlife Tracking Workshop, April 4 2015 - New Salem, MA - with Mt. Grace Land Trust!

Signs of Spring may not be everywhere yet, though hints like grass patches poking out beneath the glaciers, an increase in cheery morning bird songs, and an occasional day above 32 degrees sure are encouraging!  This Saturday morning, April 4th, the conservation restriction team of The Trustees of Reservations along with the Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust invite you to discover signs of spring wildlife movement with us.  We will be hosting a FREE wildlife tracking workshop led by ecologist Bill Lattrell on a wooded property under CR with Mount Grace, located above TTOR's Bears Den Reservation.  We invite you to come learn about wildlife tracking and sign, habitats for different woodland species, and tips for setting up wildlife cameras.  The different land conservation organizations at work in the beautiful North Quabbin region will briefly be discussed - Bears Den reservation and the Bullard Farm CR sit amidst thousands of acres protected forever by partners that include TTOR, Mount Grace, Mass Audubon, and different state agencies.   This is a rare opportunity to explore a protected private property and slots are limited, so please RSVP - you can click here for an online registration page or reply to the phone number or email address listed on the flyer below! 


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Wildlife Camera update - When "Mooses" Come Walking!

A handsome bull moose with velvety new antlers visited our camera!
An iconic creature of the north - New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Canada, Alaska - moose are not the animal many think of when they picture our Commonwealth.  More and more, however, moose are calling Massachusetts home!  One of our ultimate goals when we acquired several wildlife cameras a year ago was to photograph one of these elusive ungulates.  And it has taken an entire year of placing these cameras on properties near the places where we saw their tracks, scat, and signs of browse (feeding) on favored trees like striped maple.  I'm pretty certain one even made fun of our attempts a few months ago by leaving a pile of scat BEHIND one of our cameras at the vernal pool of bobcat and bear fame, then purposely not walking in front of it.  Another even showed up by our office at the Doyle Community Park and Center to snack on wetland vegetation in the pond last fall, but quickly found his way out of busy Leominster back up to the nearby state forests.  A lucky neighbor shot the photo below.  Last week, we finally captured one on a wildlife camera in the southwestern-most town in the state, Mount Washington, MA (a real town not to be confused with the famous NH mountain, or with plain old Washington, MA), bordering both Connecticut and New York. 

A moose stops by the Doyle Community Park and Center, September 2013.

Many are surprised to learn that moose are here at all, as they luckily don't show up to cause confusion and environmental police roadblocks in greater Boston very often, but prefer the forests of Central and Western Mass.  If you want to see one, your best bet is heading to northern Worcester County, and a little further west in the deep forest surrounding the Quabbin Reservoir.  A population also inhabits the Hilltowns and Berkshires of Western Massachusetts.  Moose crossing signs installed in recent years on Route 2 through Central MA warning drivers of the rare but real risk of hitting one in a car in that region!  Over the last few decades, headlines have been made when one wanders in to large Central Mass cities and towns like Fitchburg, Worcester, and one even was sighted in Wellesley in 2012 (click for story).  My high school cross country team once surprised a trio of moose (a bull and two females) on a run in Ashburnham - actually they surprised us, we turned and ran the other way, they didn't seem to care - my most memorable encounter with these giants of the wilderness besides the frightening night-time experience of nearly colliding with one when driving in the Berkshires. 

An alarming moose population decline has emerged in recent years, on which wildlife biologists are hard at work.  Moose populations in New England have recently declined, precipitously, even in New Hampshire and Vermont - nearly half the population has been lost over the last two decades.  The Massachusetts population, growing over the past several decades, has not been as heavily affected and has stabilized at around 1,000 animals.  Some have even wandered south into Connecticut, currently the southern extreme of their range, and there's a good chance our handsome bull made his way down across the border through the deep forests and high ridgelines of the Taconic Range.  Perhaps he even dipped down the mountain to visit Rene at Bartholomew's Cobble along the way. 

An irony of potential changes in climate is that moose are now returning to the great habitats that our heavy forests and wetlands provide, only to be faced with rising temperatures.  Even when the temperature rises merely into the high 60s or into the 70s, moose begin to get hot!  They tend to seek wetlands to feed in and cool off in on summer days.  Like a lot of us, they get overheated and grumpy and just want to lay down in the shade or go swimming when the mercury reaches the 90s and humid.  They already think it's a little too hot down here, so if average temperatures keep rising, they may return to points farther north, making their southern incursion to Massachusetts and Connecticut just a short cameo appearance!  Let's hope they stick around at least a little bit longer so more of us get to see them!   

Moose profile with Dewlap!  What's a Dewlap you ask?  (Click to read up on it!)

Want to look for signs of moose on Trustees' reservations?  Some decent bets are Notchview in Windsor, Tully Lake and a hike on the Tully Trail in Royalston, Bear Swamp in Ashfield, or Brooks Woodland Preserve or Swift River Reservation in Petersham!  Places to look?  They're known to enjoy feeding on wetland shrubs on summer days, and also enjoy the young growth in early successional (recently logged and regenerating) forest habitat.  Then there's the fall mating season, where the bulls begin to roam and may show up where you least expect them!  Boston Common in the near future?  I wouldn't rule it out!  MassWildlife has plenty of information and advice on co-existing peacefully with the majestic moose, so read up, and put on your high beams when possible if traveling Route 2 through Worcester County at night! 

Most importantly, and also speaking of the Berkshires, Arlo Guthrie has made it okay to use "mooses" as the plural of moose, in his children's book "The Mooses Come Walking," so feel free to do that from now on, and he also advises what to do if you find a moose staring in your window at night.  (Psst, you should probably actually heed MassWildlife on this one, particularly if you live in a heavily populated area!)  We'll leave you with the twelve lines of his wise little book -

Mooses come walking up over the hill.
Mooses come walking. They rarely stand still
When mooses come walking, they walk where they will.
And mooses come walking up over the hill.
Mooses look into your window at night.
They look to the left and they look to the right.
The mooses are smiling; they think it’s a zoo.
That’s why the mooses like looking at you.
So, if you see mooses while lying in bed,
It’s best to just stay there, pretending you’re dead.
The mooses will leave, and you’ll get the thrill
Of seeing the mooses go over the hill.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

CATerwauling bobcats and "Extra-Vernal" pools!

Our favorite ridgetop vernal pool does not in fact remain "vernal" most years - it usually holds water year-round, serving as an important water source for resident and transient wildlife - it seems almost appropriate to rename it our "extra-vernal" pool since it doesn't typically go away after spring or even summer.  Although it is not a "certified" vernal pool by the state Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program (NHESP), the obligate species' egg masses of wood frogs and salamanders that we observed during last year's exploration indicate that it is "certifiable", meeting other criteria too like having no flowing outlet and no fish population.  While winter is holding on tenaciously this year, soon it will melt down, the "quacks" of wood frogs will fill the warm spring air, and salamanders will congress soon to lay their eggs during a warm and rainy "Big Night!"

The pool is quite full in the springtime during our 2013 Vernal Pool Exploration workshop!
So what happens when you have an "extra-vernal" pool tucked into a low spot along the high ridge of a forested hill, rich with food sources too like mature mast-producing trees including beech and red oak?  Our wildlife cameras were set up to find out, and show many mammals of this forest predictably coming by for a drink and perhaps some beech nuts, but also for some unpredictable frolicking!  Our past post linked here will show you some videos of bears who came for a drink and stayed to play! 

Our vernal pool, quiet in winter except for a photo-bombing squirrel and some porcupine-chewed hemlock twigs!
Late winter is a quiet time at our pool - the surface is frozen solid, the highbush blueberry bushes stand bare and the winterberry holly shrubs are, too, stripped of their bright red late-fruiting berries by hungry birds.  At this time of year, the pool is not much of a water or a food source.  On an early February visit, we did not see signs of much action in the fresh coating of snow as we circled the pool.  One deer had ambled by and bedded just east of the pool for a cold night on the ridgetop.  We found a set of porcupine tracks coming up from the eastern face of the ridge, leading towards its favorite trees to climb - a couple hemlocks and a red maple surrounding the pond.  As we approached what appeared to be the porcupine's favored hemlock, tell-tale twigs littering the ground, another set of tracks intersected hers out of the mountain laurel - small and delicate, with clear indentations of four toe pads, a three-lobed plantar (heel) pad behind it, and no claw marks.  

Perfectly-defined bobcat tracks by the vernal pool!
Bill Lattrell was with us that day, a tracker and ecologist and friend of the CR Program (and fellow blogger! take a read by clicking!), who was helping us to scout the area for an upcoming wildlife tracking workshop, and to place a couple wildlife cameras in new places.  He confirmed that these were bobcat tracks, and some of the best he had ever seen!  If it excited Bill, we knew that we were witnessing something special.  We followed the tracks out of the mountain laurel thicket and over towards the pool - the set of tracks took a sudden bound, looking like the cat pounced toward a hemlock, perhaps after a mouse, pivoting itself back off the trunk in the direction it had come, and sliding to a stop!  Just past the tree, we realized something even more interesting was afoot- a second set of bobcat tracks joined the first!

A second set of tracks (top right!) SLIDES in to ambush the first set!
Known as solitary animals, there were only a few things this could mean.  Bill quickly hazarded a guess, as the two sets of tracks went out on the ice, danced over a log in the middle of the pool, and slid playfully out toward the middle!  The tracks doubled back towards the log, and evidence of an animal laying down and depressing the snow was visible. His guess?  That we were probably seeing the courtship dance of two bobcats about to mate!   Known for pursuing and ambushing one another, and sometimes even becoming aggressive to each other before mating, the sliding and rolling of the two bobcats, observed on the frozen pond and by the log, suggested that this was the answer!  It was early in their breeding season (most common in February through March in southern New England), but not too early - plus we were near likely resident bobcat habitat with south-easterly facing slopes with steep rock ledges and overhangs.  We decided to put the camera facing right out towards the playful felines' spot, then waited patiently for a few weeks before returning to check.  Bill even recommended camping near the pool, to hear the unearthly "Caterwauling" yowls that bobcats make - we never got around to it, but sometimes it's just better to give the wild a break from our presence.

The kitties came back!  Click for the full-size photograph.

This one in a million photograph of two bobcats was the amazing result of our previous scouting!  

We plan to leave the bobcats alone for a couple more weeks, until Saturday April 12th.  We're guessing they've moved on anyways, expecting kittens!  Please join us that day (and on the evening of Thursday April 10 for an introductory presentation on vernal pools!) for our second annual CR Program vernal pool exploration in partnership with Hilltown Land Trust.  The pool will be (hopefully) thawed and the wood frogs and salamander eggs freshly laid.  We'll be joined by Bill Lattrell to guide us in what we find.  See flyer below, and you must RSVP to register.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Trustees of Reservations and Holliston Open Space Committee's conservation accomplishment - 86 Acres adds to Holliston's Adams Street Town Forest!

A quick exit off the frantic pace of Interstate 495 in Milford brings you to Route 16 - here you have a choice - turn in to that certain sign of Massachusetts civilization - Dunkin' Donuts - and the shopping plazas next door, or turn east toward Holliston.  Unless you need a bite to eat or some retail therapy, we are proponents of the second choice (or both!), which shortly leads you to a quick, indiscrete left onto Adams Street, into a block of deep and rocky, rolling forestland where the hum of the Interstate begins to seem like an illusion.  A thick canopy of trees envelops the narrow road, punctuated by pleasant homes and horse farms, and just a mile up the road you reach a sign inviting exploration - and also commemorating the Town of Holliston's conservation-minded foresight to secure an additional 86 acres of land for their Adams Street Town Forest! An important addition to the overall protected landscape in the Charles River headwaters area of Holliston, Milford, and the river's source at Echo Lake in Hopkinton.  The Charles River headwaters is one of the largest protected blocks of open space between MetroWest and Boston, ensuring the source water quality of Metro Boston's river jewel.  This community conservation accomplishment was achieved by the Holliston Open Space Committee working with multiple tools including Community Preservation Funds, working tirelessly to acquire a state Municipal Self-Help grant, and working with Community Conservation Specialists at The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR) to ensure the land will be protected for public use and enjoyment for everyone, forever. A Conservation Restriction (CR) recently recorded on the land in September 2013 and held by The Trustees ensures just that. 

The protected land acquired from NSTAR sits in a much larger protected area of land around the Charles River headwaters. 
The Community Preservation Act (CPA) has provided Massachusetts municipalities with a unique funding source for community projects.  This Act allows towns to vote whether to opt in or not to the CPA, and if so the municipality institutes a nominal tax (1-3%) on real estate transactions, the funds from which are stored in a local Community Preservation Fund that opens eligibility to receive additional money from the state's Community Preservation Trust Fund.  Cities and towns may spend their CPA fund money in three areas - open space and recreation, historic preservation, or affordable housing projects to benefit their communities.  In 2001, Holliston voted to institute the CPA at Town Meeting, and so the town created its Community Preservation Committee to administer the local fund with autonomy.  Click here to learn more about the CPA, and whether your community has adopted it!

Wenakeening Woods, Protected in 1992, and a property under a Trustees conservation restriction!

Holliston's relationship with The Trustees stretches back to 1992 and the protection of the 100+ acre Wenakeening Woods with its trails and wooded wetland habitats.  At that time, TTOR worked with the town, local citizens, and the Avery Dennison Corporation to accept the corporation's back land as a gift, a process that resulted in the founding of the Upper Charles Conservation Land Trust, a successful regional land trust created in that year, to be the owner and manager of Wenakeening Woods.  The Trustees holds a conservation restriction over Wenakeening Woods and it remains open today for public use and enjoyment.

The protection of the 210-acre David R. Fairbanks Property was the 2nd cooperative project in Holliston with TTOR.
In 2002, another opportunity presented itself in Holliston - 210 acres of land south of the town forest, long beloved by its owner, the now late David Fairbanks, was offered for sale to the town.  Holliston was now well-equipped to meet the purchase price through several mechanisms, including their newly-adopted Community Preservation Fund, a decade-long relationship with The Trustees, and a talented and proactive Open Space Committee.  The million-dollar purchase was accomplished with CPA funds (the town's first open space use of the fund!), state Self-Help grant funds for municipal conservation purposes, and a contribution by The Trustees.  The David Reed Fairbanks conservation area sits just south of the town forest, and is permanently protected by a CR held by The Trustees and the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). 

NSTAR Electric Company had owned these latest 86 acres in question as surplus land for decades, never having found a use for them.  In 2007, NSTAR offered the land for sale.  Like much of the recreational woodland that so many of us take for granted, no formal protection was in place at that time to prevent these lands from future development.  Furthermore, these 86 acres were directly next door to the town's existing Adams Street Town Forest, and already contained some trails enjoyed by public users, such as George Johnson, at that time the chair of the Holliston Open Space Committee, who felt "they were a natural fit for permanent protection."  Mr. Johnson and the Committee sprung into action to formulate a proposal for the town to purchase the land.  Community support for purchasing the land from NSTAR was accomplished through town meeting vote in 2007, a community vote of faith that the state Self-Help Grant (now known as LAND grant,) which the Open Space Committee applied for, would come through (it hadn't yet!) to fund it! The remainder of the $1 million-plus purchase price came from the town's Community Preservation Fund and Open Space Fund.  The Trustees came through once again to hold the CR on the 86 acres of land purchased from NSTAR, while the town owns it as an addition to their popular town forest.   

George Johnson (Holliston Open Space Committee) and Andrew Bentley (TTOR) exploring the land.
Today, hikers and nature lovers enjoy this natural area, co-existing peaceably with mountain bikers - who love this overall landscape too for its steep and challenging landscape.  In fact the New England Mountain Biking Association (NEMBA) actually owns 47 acres of protected land known as "Vietnam", adjacent to the Fairbanks land.  Hundreds of acres in the area are classified as Priority and Core Habitat by the state's Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program, attesting to the habitat value of the area.  The area's natural bedrock bluffs and abrupt depressions makes it a landscape dotted with vernal pools, and a springtime visit might serenade you with choruses of wood frogs and spring peepers, and maybe even glimpses of the secretive salamanders that breed in these fascinating, fleeting pools, while you wonder - is that the hum of 495 in the distance?  It couldn't be!

Miles of trails traverse this area, and we recommend anyone newcomer to the land to take a map (click here!) - otherwise you probably WILL get lost!  Just look at that thing!  It's an absolute maze in there!  

This most recent successful project builds on The Trustees' long tradition of directly protecting or partnering with towns and other groups to protect threatened land in the Charles River Valley.  This began with our oldest reservation, Rocky Narrows, on the shores of the river in Sherborn, in 1897, and now includes 15 reservations and 2,300 acres of protected land throughout the Charles River watershed.   

The Trustees have fifteen reservations in the Charles River valley, and have protected much more than just those Special Places with land protection tools like Conservation Restrictions.