Designation Date: 03/30/09
Total Approximate Acreage: 12,280 acres
Watershed(s): Housatonic River
Municipalities (acres; % of ACEC): approximately 1,614 acres in Lee (13% of the ACEC), 3,517 acres in Lenox (29%), 3,166 acres in Pittsfield (26%), and 3,978 acres in Washington (32%).

Resource Summary

The Upper Housatonic River Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) encompasses the 13-mile corridor of the Housatonic River from southern Pittsfield to northern Lee, and portions of the supporting watersheds that drain into the river from the east and west. This section of the Housatonic River includes a complex ecosystem of the river, adjacent wetlands and floodplains, coldwater tributary streams, large expanses of wildlife and rare species habitat, and the steep, forested, western slopes of October Mountain State Forest. There are also historical and archaeological resources, farmland and open space, and scenic and recreational areas. The ACEC includes all nine of the inland resource features listed in the ACEC Regulations - including fisheries, wetlands and surface waters, water supply areas, floodplains and steep slopes, agricultural and forested areas, historical and archaeological resources, wildlife and rare species habitats, and public recreational and natural areas.

The regionally significant biodiversity and wildlife habitat in the designated area is indicated by the exceptional number of rare species (32), Certified and Potential Vernal Pools (46), and the combined total of 11,405 acres or 93% of the area delineated as viable habitat by the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife’s (DFW) Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program (NHESP). Of this total, 7,869 acres (64%) of the ACEC is designated as BioMap Core Habitat and Supporting Natural Landscapes, 3,536 acres (29%) as Living Waters Core Habitat and Critical Supporting Watershed. Regulated areas of rare species Priority Habitats and Estimated Habitats total 3,130 acres or 25% of the ACEC, with the majority of these acres included in the BioMap and Living Waters areas.  There are more than 21 river miles of Coldwater Fisheries, with breeding populations of native brook trout, and other fishery resources totaling approximately 30 fish species. Common wildlife in the region includes bobcat, coyote, deer, bear, and moose.  The extensive wildlife habitats of the ACEC, including many rare and unique habitats, illustrate the close ecological interdependence of the various natural and cultural resource features of the ACEC. The area is important for fishing, tourism, recreation, forestry, and agriculture.

Public and private non-profit open space totals approximately 7,788 acres, or 63% of the ACEC. The largest permanently protected areas within the ACEC are October Mountain State Forest (approximately 5,517 acres or about 1/3 of this state forest managed by the DCR), and the state’s George Darey Wildlife Management Area (818 acres managed by the DFW).

Water bodies included (partially or entirely) in the ACEC

  • Lakes, Ponds, Reservoirs: Woods Pond (Lee and Lenox); Morewood Lake (Pittsfield); Farnham Reservoir, Felton Lake, Halfway Pond, Mill Brook Reservoir, Washington Mountain Lake (also known as Washington Mountain Marsh) (Washington).
  • Rivers, Streams, Brooks, Creeks: Codding Brook (Lee); Washington Mountain Brook (Lee and Washington); Willow Creek, Yokun Brook (Lenox);  Mill Brook, Roaring Brook (Lenox and Washington); Sackett Brook, Sykes Brook, Wampanum Brook (Pittsfield); Ashley Brook (Pittsfield and Washington).