For Immediate Release - August 18, 2009

Patrick Administration Celebrates New Conservation Areas in Winchendon

Public-private partnership results in protection of 866 acres of wildlife habitat; advances Governor Patrick's unprecedented state land conservation agenda

WINCHENDON - Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game (DFG) officials teamed up today with the town of Winchendon, the Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, and the North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership to celebrate the protection of 866 acres of Winchendon land.

"Our conservation partners really stepped up to the plate to help make protection of this land a reality," said DFG Commissioner Mary Griffin. "These acquisitions ensure the protection of two critical forest blocks, two cold water streams, and habitat for at least two rare species and other wildlife."

The deal includes two new conservation areas: a 233-acre State Line parcel on Bosworth Road, which will be managed by DFG's Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) as part of its Birch Hill Wildlife Management Area (WMA); and 490 acres of Nineteenth Hill off of Teel and Old County roads, which will be owned by the town of Winchendon. Both areas are heavily forested and contain the headwaters of Spud Brook and Bailey Brook, respectively. Various wildlife species will be protected through the land acquisition, including deer, bear, moose, snowshoe hare, red and gray fox, otter, mink, beaver and weasel,. Bird species inhabiting the parcels include grouse, woodcock, various waterfowl, wild turkey, great blue heron, several raptors and songbirds.

All of the newly conserved land is considered important wildlife habitat by MassWildlife's Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. Nineteenth Hill is part of one of the biggest interior forest blocks in Massachusetts. The land will now be open to the public for outdoor recreational opportunities - including hiking, nature study, hunting, and fishing - forever.

"With these acres protected in perpetuity we have created a gift for ourselves today and provided an inheritance for our children and their children after them," said Winchendon Town Manager James M. Kreidler Jr. "I am proud to say that we, collectively, have stood and taken that test and, in doing so, have acquitted ourselves quite well."

"This land conservation project protects exceptional wildlife habitat and will provide recreational opportunity for all the Commonwealth's citizens," said State Senator Stephen Brewer. "The conservation of this land is truly the result of a partnership and a tremendous commitment by the residents of Winchendon."

"I am very happy that the citizens of Winchendon have used creative financing along with state resources to protect this valuable open space for generations to come," said State Representative Robert Rice.

Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust also donated a conservation restriction (CR) to DFG on its 133-acre Fern Glenn property, a lush conservation area with walking trails open to the public on land that abuts Nineteenth Hill.

"Area residents and community organizations have enjoyed the trails through the diverse spruce swamp, rocky grotto, and upland habitats of our Fern Glenn Conservation area since it was gifted, in parts, to Mount Grace in 1995 and 2002," said Mount Grace Executive Director Leigh Youngblood. "The new CR will ensure closer coordination of forest management with the abutting town land in partnership with MassWildlife. This beautiful and unique place is greatly enhanced now."

"It was impressive to see how Winchendon residents seized this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to give future generations the chance to use and enjoy these important natural areas forever," said the North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership's Coordinator Jay Rasku.

At a Special Town Meeting in 2007, Winchendon residents voted overwhelmingly to spend $1.2 million to establish the two new conservation areas. The town used its right of first refusal under the Chapter 61 land use law to buy the two properties. Chapter 61 allows towns to purchase land at fair market value when the land is leaving Chapter 61 protection and threatened with conversion to incompatible uses such as development. The law also grants tax relief to landowners who keep their land as open space. Winchendon residents argued that allowing a planned development on Nineteenth Hill would put a significant financial strain on the town's schools, roads and services. DFG then paid the town $600,000 to acquire the State Line parcel in full and to purchase the development rights for Nineteenth Hill through a CR. To complete the deal, the town donated an additional 20 acres of land to MassWildlife adjacent to the 7,680-acre Birch Hill Wildlife Management Area located in Winchendon, Templeton, and Royalston.

DFG and MassWildlife protected 10,280 acres of conservation land with 56 acquisitions in 42 towns in fiscal year 2009, which ended on June 30. DFG received more than $12.3 million in capital funds for land acquisition in FY09. The Wildlands Stamp Fund - supported by a $5 charge on the sale of fishing, hunting, and sporting licenses - provides more than $1 million a year for the protection of open space in Massachusetts. MassWildlife now manages more than 180,000 acres in the Commonwealth for the benefit of citizens and Massachusetts' native wildlife.

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is responsible for promoting the enjoyment and conservation of the Commonwealth's natural resources. DFG carries out this mission through land preservation and wildlife habitat management, management of inland and marine fish and game species, and enforcement of the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. 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 lakes and ponds.

The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) is responsible for the conservation - including restoration, protection and management - of fish and wildlife resources for the benefit and enjoyment of the public. MassWildlife works to balance the needs of people and wildlife today so that wildlife will be available for everyone's enjoyment today and for future generations.