For Immediate Release - October 19, 2016

Baker-Polito Administration Announces Land Protection Project in Heath

State Permanently Protects 96 Acres Owned by the Franklin Land Trust

BOSTON – October 19, 2016 – State and local officials, representatives of the Franklin Land Trust, and the Massachusetts-Rhode Island Council of Trout Unlimited gathered today to dedicate the Crowningshield Conservation Area, a 96-acre property consisting of upland forest, open fields and a high-quality cold water stream habitat.   The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) acquired a conservation easement on the area, permanently protecting it from future development.

“As the result of a successful public-private partnership, this land acquisition and conservation easement will ensure that this important forest and stream habitat will remain preserved and undeveloped,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our administration is committed to continuing to build upon partnerships and conserving Commonwealth land where appropriate.”

“I am proud our administration was able to work with the Franklin Land Trust and Trout Unlimited to permanently protect this valuable land for the people and the wildlife of the region,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “This is the type of partnership necessary to protect important natural resources in the Commonwealth.”

“By working together, the Franklin Land Trust, Trout Unlimited and the Department of Fish and Game created a project that protects almost a mile of stream frontage on a designated Coldwater Fisheries Resource and promotes sustainable forestry,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “Vitally, this project also guarantees that the public will have access to the property for fishing, hunting, hiking and wildlife viewing.”

Working collaboratively, MassWildlife, the Franklin Land Trust, and Trout Unlimited will be able to make important stewardship and management decisions that will ultimately benefit wildlife and the cold water fish native to the region.

The Franklin Land Trust recently acquired 14 acres of property off West Branch Road in Heath after acquiring 82 acres in 2015 for $145,000. DFG and its Division of Fisheries and Wildlife acquired a conservation easement on the two parcels, contributing $68,000. The Massachusetts-Rhode Island Chapter of Trout Unlimited donated $45,500 to the effort and the Franklin Land Trust also utilized a $10,000 grant from the Fields Pond Foundation.

“This acquisition protects almost a mile of frontage on the West Branch of the North River, a wonderful trout stream that holds native Brook Trout, the state-listed Long Nose Sucker, and other cold water fish,” said Department of Fish and Game Commissioner George N. Peterson, Jr. “We are pleased to contribute to the protection of this rugged property, which supports a diverse array of wildlife that will be popular with anglers, hunters, bird watchers and hikers.”    

“This land protection effort not only provides recreational benefits,” said MassWildlife Director Jack Buckley. “This river corridor has been identified by the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife’s BioMap 2 as Aquatic Core Habitat; possessing important integrated and functional ecosystems for fish and other aquatic species of conservation concern. We look forward to working with the Franklin Land Trust in the future to further enhance the property’s aquatic and terrestrial habitat values.”

The Crowningshield Conservation Area is owned by the Franklin Land Trust (FLT), and managed for public hiking, fishing, hunting, and wildlife observation in cooperation with Trout Unlimited and DFG. FLT manages the river and its surrounding shores for fish habitat, and the uplands for forestry and wildlife. This past winter, with the help of a $20,000 habitat management grant from DFG’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, FLT cleared the abandoned farm fields for the benefit of migratory song birds, ruffed grouse, woodcock and other wildlife.

“Protecting and preserving our natural resources for generations to come is a wise investment,” said State Senator Benjamin Downing (D-Pittsfield). “I look forward to residents of western Massachusetts benefiting from this partnership”

“We’re thrilled to have developed a productive partnership with the Department of Fish and Game and Trout Unlimited to protect, manage and open the Crowningshield Conservation Area to the public,” said Franklin Land Trust’s Executive Director Rich Hubbard. “As this summer’s drought has shown us all too clearly, providing deep pools of cold water for native fish populations is a pressing need. This land will help address that need by demonstrating resilient fish habitat management and providing refuge for fish and other cold water species in the face of climate change.”

Funding for DFG’s land acquisition program comes from a combination of sources, including the state environmental bond and Wildlands Stamp funds collected from fishing, hunting and trapping license sales and donations. In fiscal year 2016, DFG and MassWildlife invested $4,991,000 and protected 1,928 acres in the Commonwealth. The funding for the acquisitions in Heath was from the Wildlands Stamp account.

The DFG/MassWildlife Land Protection Program seeks to provide, protect, and expand public access for hunting, fishing, trapping, and other passive recreational activities, and to protect and conserve the Commonwealth’s biological diversity, important plant and animal habitats, and natural communities.

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is responsible for promoting the conservation and enjoyment of the Commonwealth’s natural resources. DFG carries out this mission through land protection and wildlife habitat management, management of inland and marine fish and wildlife species, and ecological restoration of fresh water, salt water, and terrestrial habitats. DFG promotes enjoyment of the Massachusetts environment through outdoor skills workshops, fishing festivals and other educational programs, and by enhancing access to the Commonwealth's rivers, lakes, and coastal waters.

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