the trustees of reservations
On The Land
The Trustees of Reservations

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

CR Properties open to the Public, Profile #1: Bates-Blackman Conservation Area in Groton, MA

Conservation Restrictions mostly protect private land in Massachusetts.  Since nearly all of these are closed to public access, we ask you to respect the landowners' privacy, and not trespass upon them. 

However, cities, towns, and other land trusts often grant CRs to The Trustees of Reservations, as an extra layer of protection for their conservation land - and most of these are open to the public. These conservation areas provide beautiful vistas, valuable wildlife habitat, protect our wetlands and water quality, and best of all, are open to recreation, for all the naturally curious families and hikers of Massachusetts to enjoy!  Think of these Special Places that we do not own, but help protect, as honorary additions to our 107 Reservations! 

Elly, our volunteer CR Monitoring mascot, scanning the wetland for beavers.

This is the first post in a series about CR properties that allow access for hikers and nature lovers.

Bates - Blackman Conservation Area - Groton, MA

The Bates-Blackman Conservation area is owned and maintained by the Groton Conservation Trust, and provides nearly 50 acres of forest and field along a forested ridge line on Indian Hill in Groton, and beautiful wet meadows below.  The Bates Land came to the Conservation Trust in 1968, and the adjacent Blackman land in 1984.  Wishing to see an additional layer of protection on the land, the Blackman family worked with the Conservation Trust and TTOR, to place a CR on the entirety of the conservation area in 2006.  

Two volunteer CR monitors climb up Indian Hill toward the golden fall foliage.
Here's the scoop on what you might see!  A western view of pastoral orchards and sheep on the farms below, stretching out to the Groton School's towers, and the hills and mountains of Central Massachusetts on the horizon.  Beyond the nearby ridges of Groton, Shirley, and Harvard, Mounts Wachusett (2,006' feet) and Watatic (1,832' feet) are visible, representing the state's two highest points east of the Connecticut River, while mighty Mount Monadnock (3,165' feet) in New Hampshire peeks up at the northern end of the vista!  To top off your visit, you can hope to see birds, heron and beaver activity in the wetlands, vernal pool life in the springtime, and resident mammal sightings in the fields and hilltop forest! 

We won't spoil the whole view, but there's Mount Wachusett gracing the horizon about twenty miles west!
In the words of the Blackmans, the place "frees one from the daily world left at the bottom of the hill, and encourages one to associate with horizons, perceived, imagined, and beyond."  We couldn't say it better ourselves!  The Trustees of Reservations are proud to help protect this conservation land  through a CR - and we hope you enjoy your visit as much as we enjoy monitoring it!  

Check out the Groton Conservation Trust's Guidebook for directions and a trail map!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Resurgent Massachusetts forests and wildlife!

The regeneration of New England from its 19th century landscape of open fields and farms to an increasingly thick and diverse forest habitat is a fascinating, ongoing story, made even more interesting by the fact that this was entirely uplanned, caused only by the mass abandonment of farmland in the 19th through early 20th centuries.  Farmers sought the flat landscape and fertile soils of Ohio and the Midwest during this time period, leaving our glaciated, rocky, and steep landscape behind them.  As a result while we live in the nation's third most densely populated state, supporting a large, dynamic, and hectic metropolitan region, Massachusetts today is also the eighth most forested state in the country, with over 60% forest cover

Image credit: USDA Forest Service

Creatures long eradicated from Massachusetts during the agricultural prime now call our new forests home.  Some even wander into our crowded suburbs and cities.  My cousin ran to the window one morning as a child in the early 1990s, calling out to her mother - "Mommy, look, there's a horse in the back yard!"  Confused for a moment, as equestrian facilities were rather lacking in our Fitchburg neighborhood, her mom quickly realized the "horse" was a cow moose!  Such sightings of moose are more and more common these days, and not just in the expected places like rural parts of Western and Central MA - but in places as urban as Worcester, and as close to Boston as Weston, Wellesley, and Needham.  Black Bear sightings have become more common as well, stretching far south to Cape Cod and even in Brookline

A wild turkey relaxes at Allandale Farm in Boston / Brookline, perhaps after a sidewalk stroll in Coolidge Corner?
The most resilient animals are able to adapt to life among our suburbs and urban centers - territorial wild turkeys amuse and sometimes terrorize the suburbs and Beacon Street, and have given CR staff some unnerving looks at the Allandale Farm CR in Boston and Brookline.  Meanwhile, we have seen Massachusetts' ubiquitous deer on CR properties hop 7-foot-high fences in Millis, and converge in a winter herd of over twenty in Ipswich.  A fisher cat startled our CR Program Director at the Gateway Park CR in Fitchburg last year (see previous post).  We have yet to see the animals themselves, but have seen bear and moose droppings and tracks on CR properties in New Marlborough (not to be confused with Marlborough, though they probably pass through there occasionally too!).  In the end, though, the most adaptable and controversial relative newcomer (1950s) to Massachusetts may be the eastern coyote.

In fact not native to New England - wolves are the native species, but were eradicated by 1840 - research has shown the eastern coyote to be a complex hybrid of the western coyote, with certain wolf species.  As a result, the term "coywolf" has been coined to describe them.  They are in fact larger on average than their western cousins, and are often mistaken for wolves as a result!  These wolf sightings are unlikely but not impossible - the first confirmed Massachusetts wolf in ~170 years was killed in October 2007 in Shelburne, MA, and found to have migrated from Canada.  Since coyotes are opportunistic feeders - hunter of rodents and other small animals, foragers of fruits and berries, and scavengers of roadkill and garbage - they find our suburbs and even cities to provide quite a lavish banquet, including, sadly, the occasional unfortunate pet.  Their eerie choruses of howling are a common sound from the deep forests to the subdivisions these days! 

A coyote on Nashawena Island greets the monitoring crew!
The media is humming with articles and editorials on suburban coyotes, some in favor of peaceful co-existence, others staunchly against.  As there are 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts, and Nantucket is the only one of those which definitely does not have coyotes - they've even swam out to establish themselves on the Elizabeth Islands (confirmed) and the Vineyard (unofficially) - there are probably some near you!  Since coyotes are both territorial and some are migratory, in search of their own territory to fill, they have established themselves quickly and persistently, and eradicating them is neither simple nor necessarily desirable.  Coyotes eradicated from their own territory through natural or human-caused death are often quickly replaced by migratory ones in search of territory.  It may not be entirely desirable either, as coyotes keep certain rodent populations under control, which can be both general pests, and some being carriers of ticks that can cause Lyme and other diseases.  That said, we'll leave you with more photos, and the state's official advice on Living With Coyotes, from MassWildlife

Coyote mama and pups on a Marion CR!

Her vigilant maternal eyes hardly left us for a second!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

CR Monitoring Voyage to Nashawena Island!

Last Friday, Conservation Restriction program staff had the opportunity to finally VISIT on one of our most unique CR properties - both our largest and MOST REMOTE conservation restriction property!  The CR on Nashawena Island, granted to The Trustees of Reservations in 1976, encompasses the entirety of the island's 1,820 acres.  Nashawena is the second largest of the Elizabeth Islands southwest of Woods Hole.  These islands constitute the Commonwealth's least-populated municipality (pop. 75 per the 2010 Census), the Town of Gosnold.  In the past we have monitored the island by plane (see earlier post) or on the ground. 

"Monitoring" from the Cuttyhunk Ferry.
This year, the need to update our baseline ground photographs led to an on-the-ground site visit!   The journey was more complex than most: two round trip boat rides awaited us, from New Bedford to Cuttyhunk Island, and Cuttyhunk to Nashawena, on top of a round trip from our home base at the Doyle Community Park and Center in Leominster!  A long but worthwhile day!

A shaggy roadblock refused to move for the caretaker's truck!
A year-round population of two caretakers round out the bulk of the island's population - a large herd of free roaming Scottish highland cattle which graze to maintain the natural grasslands, deer and coyotoes (which swam to the island!), sea and migratory birds, and a variety of rare and endangered plant and animal species.  Four modest dwellings serve as lodging for visiting members of the landowner family, and house the caretakers.  

Looking down toward Quicks Hole Pond, and Martha's Vineyard across the water.
 The only things better than the scenery were the family members' and caretakers' hospitality and sharing a glimpse of this remote and unspoiled island's history with us!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Wildlife habitat grants for landowners

(Original post from the Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition) The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) invites farmers, woodlot owners, and other private landowners who want to actively manage their property to benefit wildlife to apply for a Landowner Incentive Program (LIP) grant. LIP is designed to reimburse private landowners up to 75% of the total project cost of managing lands to improve habitat for declining types of wildlife in the Commonwealth. The application deadline is October 12, 2012. Eligible applicants must successfully complete their proposed project by June 30, 2013. State and municipal agencies are not eligible for this funding. LIP information and application documents are posted at:

Since 2005, MassWildlife's Landowner Incentive Program has funded 157 wildlife habitat projects and provided technical assistance to private landowners from Cape Cod to the Berkshires. Past projects have benefited a wide array of species-at-risk across the Commonwealth including but not limited to, enhancement of beach habitat for shorebird breeding, creation of grassland-bird breeding habitat, and habitat maintenance for rare turtles. Through the LIP, MassWildlife has contributed close to $3.5 million for the conservation of declining species on private land over the LIP's six-year history.