For Immediate Release - December 23, 2011

Patrick-Murray Administration Awards Eight Grants Under New Landscape Partnership Program

Map of the Landscape Partnership Projects Statewide  

BOSTON – Friday, December 23, 2011 – Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. today announced the first set of grants awarded through EEA’s new Landscape Partnership Program, an initiative to permanently conserve the Commonwealth’s best remaining large, undisturbed forest tracts of 500 acres or more. Through this innovative program, the Commonwealth will protect landscapes with high values for wildlife, drinking water protection, forestry and tourism.  

“Thanks to Governor Patrick’s leadership, we have made tremendous gains in land protection over the last four years – preserving over 88,000 acres – and that trend will be strengthened by this new program,” said Secretary Sullivan. “The Landscape Partnership Program continues these efforts by fostering strong private-public partnerships to protect large unfragmented forests, hillsides, lakeshores and other significant habitats.”

Eight Landscape Partnership grants were announced today – four of which will support partnership projects that will be completed over the next six months. Located throughout the Western and Central Massachusetts towns of Charlemont, Cheshire, Granville, Hawley, Leverett, Sheffield, Spencer and Winchendon, these projects collectively represent the second largest land conservation initiative the Commonwealth has launched in decades.  The eight grants will permanently protect over 8,000 acres – with the Commonwealth investing less than $6 million and leveraging a contribution of about $15 million in non-state dollars.   

In addition, the program is implementing the top natural resource recommendation in the EEA’s recently released Climate Change Adaptation Report – conservation of large forested tracts that protect wildlife corridors.

EEA designed the Landscape Partnership program to encourage non-governmental organizations, local communities and state environmental agencies to join forces on significant, complex projects that typically require the commitment of many partners, including multiple local organizations and a variety of state programs in order to succeed.

To qualify for grants, projects must include public access and applicants must form land conservation partnerships. For example, a state agency can partner with a non-profit or municipality, a non-profit can partner with a state agency or municipality, or a municipality can partner with a state agency or non-profit.  The projects receiving grants today involve a spectrum of partners: 11 land trusts, four towns, three private foundations and three EEA agencies – Department of Fish and Game (DFG), Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR). 

With unique opportunities to achieve landscape conservation goals, EEA is committing to funding four grants – Hull-NEFF (New England Forestry Foundation), Winston Healy Trust, Hawley Focus Area and Pettibone Reserve – in fiscal year 2013 once additional partnerships are established or more non-state funding is secured.

Most of grant-funded projects will employ long-term protection of the land while keeping it under private ownership. Benefits of this approach include continued property tax payments to towns where projects are located and reduced cost to the state and its partners of 10 to 30 percent, depending upon location. Other advantages include guaranteed public access, support of rural economies and way of life, and strict requirements for high quality forestry activities.

One project – Winston Healy Trust – will serve as a pilot for DAR’s new Working Forest Protection Program, modeled after its nationally-acclaimed and first in the nation Agricultural Protection Restriction Program, which has protected nearly 70,000 acres on over 700 farms across the Commonwealth. 

Collectively, the landscape conservation projects will protect miles of long-distance trails for hiking and snowmobiling, bringing additional tourism dollars to rural communities. The projects include the protection of large tracts connected to tens of thousands of acres of already protected forest, thereby increasing the value of these projects to wildlife and buffering the impacts of climate change. 

“This is great news,” said Sen. Marc Pacheco, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. “Every acre of land we protect today is another acre of important habitat, wetlands, or forest that we preserve for future generations. This not only provides the public with additional recreation opportunities, but also helps to protect our environmental and public health. I applaud the Patrick-Murray Administration for their continued commitment to land conservation.”

“I applaud the EEA and the deserving first time recipients of this grant,” said Rep. Anne Gobi, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. “So many entities have come together to support the various projects and I know how critically important this grant is to all in the conservation of large tracts of land to be enjoyed for a variety of recreational activities.”

The Landscape Partnership grants highlight a unique partnership between EEA and the Open Space Institute (OSI) of New York City which administers grants to protect large, habitat-rich tracts of land.  Over the past three years, OSI has awarded grants totaling over $3.1 million to large land conservation projects in Massachusetts, the largest of any such awards in New England, due to Massachusetts’ strong support and diverse partnerships for these projects.

The awards are as follows:

Project NamePartnersGrant AwardAcresLocation
Sheffield-Egremont Agricultural, Ecological & Scenic CorridorSheffield Land Trust, DFG, Community Land Trust of Southern Berkshires$485,500515Sheffield
Brushy MountainKestrel Land Trust, Franklin Land Trust, DFG, U.S. Forest Service$1,000,0003,406Leverett, Shutesbury
Winchendon Springs Working LandscapeTown of Winchendon, North Quabbin Regional Partnership, Mt. Grace Land Conservation Trust, DFG, DAR$589,274590Winchendon
Sibley Farm/Spencer State Forest CorridorMassachusetts Audubon Society, Town of Spencer, Greater Worcester Land Trust, Common Ground Land Trust, DCR, DAR$1,926,125723Spencer
FY13 Conditional Awards
Hull-NEFF GranvilleNew England Forestry Foundation, Town of Granville, City of Hartford, CT  Metropolitan District Commission$269,555719Granville
Winston Healy TrustFranklin Land Trust, DAR$391,875518Charlemont, Colrain
Hawley Focus Area:  Wildlands & Woodlands/Western Massachusetts AggregationFranklin Land Trust, New England Forestry Foundation, other partners in development$376,1001,090Hawley
Pettibone ReserveDCR, Berkshire Natural Resources Council, MassAudubon$750,000613Lanesborough, Cheshire