In the spring of 2015 DRW TU chapter members assisted the Connecticut River Watershed Council along with land owners and residents of Hawley in planting hundreds of trees and shrubs along sections of the Chickley River that were devastated by tropical storm Irene in 2011. This project took many days over several weeks to complete. Shortly after planting , a drought threatened to setback or kill many of the trees. Local landowners, TU volunteers and others spent dozens of hours transporting water to the thirsty trees. A year later we are pleased to report that over 90% of the planted trees are thriving and will begin to provide a variety of riparian services including reducing runoff and erosion and keeping the river cool during the heat of the summer.
The Crowningshield Project is a first of its kind partnership with TU and the Franklin Land Trust to preserve close to a mile of pristine wild trout water on the headwaters of the West Branch of the North River in Heath, Massachusetts. This project began when Josh Morse and Will Anderson from FLT were evaluating the property of Phyllis Crowningshield for a potential land trust acquisition. The criteria for FLT historically has been for the property in question to have forestry or agricultural value.
The Crowningshield parcel came up short in both categories, and but for the diligence of Will and Josh, would likely have been declined for potential acquisition by the land trust. What they found in hiking the property was a pristine trout stream teeming with wild trout, solid riparian habitat and fields that had turned into prime upland game habitat. They realized that this property had value beyond just the standard forestry and agricultural criteria. FLT reached out to our chapter to see if we had interest in helping acquire this property to preserve this important headwater area. Realizing that the project was to large for our chapter as a single partner with FLT, our Board of Directors chose to bring this important project to the MA/RI Council of TU and the Greater Boston Chapter of TU for help.
To the credit of our colleagues at GBTU and the MA/RI Council, the importance of this project was recognized immediately. Council President John Troiano added the Crowningshield project to the agenda for the next Council meeting. The fast-tracking of Crowningshield was an important element as the owner/seller Phyllis Crowningshield had set a time limit for the deal to be completed.
At the Council meeting Will Anderson and Josh Morse from FLT made an excellent presentation of the Crowningshield property and the elements of the deal to the delegates that form the body of the MA/RI Council. The response from the Council body was overwhelming-all attending chapters save one voted to support the project and help raise the funds to meet the financial benchmark.
Fast forward to April 2015 and of all of the hard work by the staff of FLT, the Deerfield River Watershed TU, Greater Boston TU, and the MA/RI Council has come to fruition. The Crowningshield property has been purchased by the Franklin Land Trust and will be preserved in perpetuity – with the conservation restriction (CR) held by the state of Massachusetts.
A celebration of this accomplishment occured on Wednesday October 19th, 2016 at theCrowningshield Conservation Area site in Heath. Environmental Affairs Secretary Matt Beaton and Dept. of Fish and Game Commissioner George Peterson presented thoughtful comments along with TU members and representatives of the FLT.