the trustees of reservations
On The Land
The Trustees of Reservations

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Three CR Staff Speaking Engagements in Winter 2012

The Conservation Restriction team at The Trustees of Reservations are busy year-round.  Three seasons of monitoring leads to a winter of paperwork processing, followup communications to landowners, gearing up for next season's field work, and completing our last few monitoring visits.  However, it is our quietest time of year, and so has left some time to present several seminars on our work.  These will cover CR Stewardship and Defense of CRs.  Two of these events are free, and all are open to the public. The third is part of the 22nd Annual Massachusetts Land Conservation Conference, and so requires event registration and fee.  See below for details on all three!

CR Stewardship and Defense in action during last year's very different winter!

The first presentation, titled "Defense of Conservation Restrictions," takes place on Tuesday, February 21, from 4:00-5:15 PM at UMass Amherst's Holdsworth building, featuring CR Program staff Sally Naser and Andrew Bentley.  This is hosted by the UMass Department of Environmental Conservation, part of Professor David Kittredge's "Case Studies in Conservation" graduate seminar.  Weekly speakers from conservation organizations around the state will speak about challenges and successes in private land conservation.  Though it is a UMass class, Dr. Kittredge encourages and welcomes the public to attend, so don't be shy!  This is a series not to be missed, if you're within range of Amherst.  Other weekly talks include another TTOR staff member Wendy Sweetser of the Highland Communities Initiative, (HCI), and speakers from Mass Audubon, Mass Wildlife, New England Forestry Foundation, and many others - the speaker schedule can be seen by clicking here.

The second is entitled "Introduction to CR Monitoring and Stewardship," and also takes place in the Pioneer Valley.  The workshop takes place at 7pm on Wednesday, February 29, at the South Hadley town hall - 116 Main St, South Hadley, MA.  It is sponsored by the Highland Communities Initiative, and will be co-presented by CR Program and HCI staff, along with the Amherst-based Kestrel Land Trust.  The presentation is free and open to all, but please RSVP by calling or emailing HCI- see the flyer below.

Last but certainly not least is a workshop entitled "Effective Enorcement of CR Violations," at the 2012 Massachusetts Land Conservation Conference (MLCC), which takes place just past the Vernal Equinox, on March 24 in Worcester.  CR Program Director Chris Rodstrom will co-present with colleagues Sally Naser and Andrew Bentley, joined by Sudbury Valley Trustees Stewardship Director Laura Mattei.  MLCC has three sessions throughout the day, with over 30 workshops to choose from, and is the premiere gathering of conservation professionals and supporters in the Commonwealth.  Click here or the conference link above to find out how to register for this exciting conference, now in its 22nd year.  Be sure to register before March 10, to save money on the registration fee!  Even better, volunteering to help out on conference day will earn free registration, in exchange for six hours of volunteer time!  Check out the conference brochure for a listing of all workshops.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Land trust census results -- 47 million acres, and counting!

The Land Trust Alliance recently published the results of its 2010 national trust census. The report describes how land trusts continue to make gains in conservation, despite the recession and cuts to government funding. See the full report HERE. The Trustees of Reservations and our affiliate Hilltown Land Trust both participated in the survey. Key Findings of the 2010 National Land Trust Census include:
  • Total acres conserved by state, local and national land trusts grew to 47 million as of year-end 2010—an increase of about 10 million acres since 2005 and 23 million since 2000.
  • The number of active land trusts has leveled off at 1,723 organizations since the last Census. This includes 1,699 state and local groups and 24 organizations. categorized as national land trusts. California has the most land trusts with 197, followed by Massachusetts (159), Connecticut (137), Pennsylvania (103) and New York (97).
  • The number of active land trust volunteers increased by 70% since 2005, while the number of paid staff and contractors increased by 19%.
  • On average, a land trust with a strategic conservation plan guiding its land or easement acquisition conserves twice as many acres as a land trust without such a plan.
  • From 2005 to 2010, state and local land trusts more than doubled the amount of funding they have dedicated to monitoring, stewardship and legal defense. They also nearly tripled their operating endowments.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Amphibious winter monitoring

Sometimes the best way to see a property, especially one that has a scenic shoreline enjoyed by the public, is from the water. Recently we carried out one such monitoring visit for a conservation restriction located on Buzzards Bay, and even had to break through some ice with our canoe paddles in the process. Luckily nobody ended up in the water, and the views of the shore were well worth the effort.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Two Winter CR Walks on the Vineyard!

The Trustees of Reservations are well known on the island paradise of Martha's Vineyard for our seven Reservations.  These include the breathtaking dune cliffs of Menemsha Hills, the birder's and bather's paradise along the wind-battered coast and salt ponds at Long Point Wildlife Refuge, three beaches and rare shorebird habitats at our Chappaquiddick Island coastal properties, and the Mytoi gardens.

 Walkers ford Roaring Brook at its Vineyard Sound outlet.
(Photo by Allison Colarusso of TTOR, 2011)

Unknown to the public at large are the Trustees' CRs on over twenty properties on the Vineyard, which help protect rare habitats from Edgartown to Chilmark.  These private properties are not open to public visitation, and so are seen by few eyes.  However, each winter, thanks to generous landowners and the effort of Vineyard Trustees' staff as guides, walks on two CR properties are organized - free to TTOR members!

These two walks, billed as the "Saving Special Places Walking Series," take place on Sundays - January 29 and February 26, from 1-3 PM.  Come (bundled up!) to enjoy beautiful views during the peaceful Vineyard off-season, and to learn fascinating details of the Vineyard's natural and human histories!  Always popular is the tour of the historic brickyard site on the north shore of Chilmark, slated this year in the 2/26 slot.  Click the link above on the tour title, for more details and to find out how to reserve your spot.

The Brickyard in its heyday.
(Photo courtesy of P.G. Harris, via the Martha's Vineyard Times, "Exploring the Brickyard in Chilmark," 1/26/2011)

The present-day Brickyard site.
(Photo by Chris Rodstrom of TTOR)

Friday, January 13, 2012

State acquires 3,500 acre conservation restriction

Congratulations to the MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, their land trust partners, the Open Space Institute and the federal Forest Legacy Program, all  involved in acquiring a conservation restriction on 3,500 on Brushy Mountain in Leverett and Shutesbury. Over the past four years, the Patrick-Murray Administration has conserved 85,000 acres of land across the state and the conservation restriction acquired by MassWildlife is the largest on a contiguous block of privately owned land in Massachusetts' history! Read more here

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Seals off coast of Cape Cod CR

A recent monitoring visit to Great Island, Yarmouth in December was observed by two harbor seals perched on rocks just off shore. It is nice to have some  help keeping an eye on if we can just teach them to fill out a monitoring form!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Number One Private Holder of CR Acreage Statewide!

The National Conservation Easement Database (NCED) is an exciting new initiative.  It is the first national database of Conservation Easement information - an effort by five leading private organizations with three federal agencies, to provide the best available information from both public and private agencies who hold Conservation Easements (CEs).*  This information, largely coming from private organizations, has historically been very difficult, if not nearly impossible, to access.  We were very excited to look at the NCED results for Massachusetts published last year, and easily compare where The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR) stands statewide relative to other public and private organizations in terms of CR acreage protected.  Here are the top 20!

*N.B.- As you may well know, Massachusetts is the only state to use the term 'Conservation Restrictions' (CRs) - one and the same as 'Conservation Easements!' (CEs)

After the three public state agencies listed at the top, TTOR came in fourth - and first among private conservation organizations!  While we recognize our uniquely large organizational size, capacity, and statewide scope as factors in this success, we feel this is also a great testament to the partnerships we build.  These are with a variety of partners - from conservation-minded private landowners of course, to city and town governments, other land trusts, and even reaches the federal level with a CR negotiated under the USDA Forest Legacy Program.   

It is also a testament to the hard work of our professional land conservation staff around the state.  These busy and creative folks identify projects and work diligently to ensure each conservation real estate transaction - from negotiating new CRs, to receiving outright land donations, to purchases, and assists to municipalities and other land trusts - comes to fruition and proceeds with professional standards of due diligence.  For CR properties, staff then conducts stewardship through annual monitoring visits.  During these visits, we meet with landowners to discuss property management, document conservation values and conditions of the property, and identify possible encroachments or violations which may go against the CR terms.  These visits occur annually for each and every CR, per Land Trust Alliance Standards

We also noted that NCED does not yet list approximately 1,500 more acres encumbered by our CRs.  Our latest calculations put us at over 350 individual parcels, which encompass more than 19,000 acres!  From Greater Boston to the Berkshires, from the Cape and Islands to the Pioneer Valley and Hilltowns, our CRs are very likely near you, successfully protecting many lesser-known 'Special Places' beyond our well-known Reservations.  Though mostly inaccessible to the public, these privately protected properties contribute incalculably to the integrity of Massachusetts' rich habitats, history, agricultural lands, and scenic landscapes.

 - Andrew Bentley, CR Stewardship Assistant