Area trusts join forces for Give Back to the Land Day

  • Community members are invited to visit www.givebacktotheland.org by midnight Thursday to learn about the work of local land trusts.

  • Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust members lead a hike during the opening day of the Eagle Reserve Conservation Area in Royalston in 2016. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/MOUNT GRACE LAND CONSERVATION TRUST, NORM EGGERT PHOTOGRAPHY

  • Mount Grace Land Trust conserved this pasture in Northfield in 2018. RECORDER STAFF/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 4/20/2021 2:44:42 PM
Modified: 4/20/2021 2:44:40 PM

This Earth Day, five environmental organizations in Western and Central Massachusetts are joining forces for the second annual "Give Back to the Land Day,” a 24-hour online event Thursday, April 22, raising funds for regional land trusts that work to conserve trails, forests, farms, and waterways in Massachusetts.

Last year’s inagural “Give Back to the Land Day” was held on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, according to Mount Grace Land Trust Communications and Engagement Coordinator Marielena Lima. The 2020 effort raised over $60,000 between participating land trusts and matching donations in 2020.

This year’s goal is to raise over $90,000. Community members are invited to visit www.givebacktotheland.org to learn about the work of local land trusts and donate to one or more of the organizations. As of April 19, the 2021 effort has raised over $4,700 – before matching donations. Generous donors are matching online donations, of up to $5,000, made before midnight April 22.

Berkshire Natural Resources Council, based in Pittsfield, is joining the founding land trusts — Hilltown Land Trust based in Ashfield, Kestrel Land Trust based in Amherst, Franklin Land Trust based in Shelburne Falls, and Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust based in Athol — to host the second year of this Earth-Day-themed fundraiser.

“BNRC is glad to be part of this Give Back to the Land event,” Berkshire Natural Resources Council President Jenny Hansell said in a press release. “Connectivity of conserved lands is crucial for wildlife, climate resiliency, and the natural beauty of the region. This kind of collaboration creates outcomes that are bigger than the sum of its partners alone.”

Each of the five participating land trusts serve a distinct geographic area in Western and Central Massachusetts but often collaborate on projects that join their regions. Land conservation and stewardship are a key part of the natural solutions to the climate crisis, by mitigating stormwater events and providing adequate habitat for plant and animal species that need to adapt to changing temperatures.

"We are fortunate to be living where the landscape still has the physical integrity that allows wildlife to move freely and naturally," Franklin Land Trust Executive Director Tom Curren said in the press release. "As local land and trusts, we do our best to keep these legacies intact."

In January, President Joe Biden signed an executive order committing his administration to the 30 by 30 initiative, a science-driven conservation goal to protect 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. Achieving this goal is a crucial part of the nature-based solutions to stabilizing the climate, Kestrel Land Trust Executive Director Kristin DeBoer said in the press release.

Earth Day takes on an added significance this year when people across the country have looked for safe ways to get outside and socialize, and recreational use of trails, waterways, parks, and other outdoor spaces has increased significantly. Loomis said they have heard from more people than ever who are exploring land trust trails for the first time this past year. 

“I think we all see with new eyes how crucial these natural places are to our mental and physical health,” Loomis said.

The pandemic has also put stress on local farms and farmers. Fortunately, local food systems have a strong foundation, thanks in part to the effort to conserve valuable farmland. Executive Director of Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust Emma Elsworth said farmers markets and farm stands have gone the extra mile to ensure safe access to products at a time when they’re needed most, thanks also in part to the work land trusts and communities do to protect farmlands.

While land trusts play a key role in local land conservation, the involvement of the community in this work is key to success, stressed Loomis.

“The land provides so much to all of us, from places to recreate to clean air and water to fresh food. And the land is clearly telling us it needs our help,” she said. “We all have a part to play in giving back to the land.”

In-person Earth Day events

The theme of this year’s Earth Day celebration is “Restore Our Earth.” Mount Grace is hosting a pollinator garden project Thursday, April 22. Interested persons are invited to sign up to create pollinator habitat at Skyfields Arboretum at 1461 Old Keene Road in Athol. Volunteeres will be building pollinator plots and gardens, as well as planting native perennials and shrubs throughout the headquarters' arboretum. Face masks are required, and participants are asked to maintain social distancing.

If you have your own tools (weed wrench or shovel) and gloves, bring them. Gloves and a mask can be provided. Lunch will be served. RSVP and direct questions to Mount Grace Stewardship Manager KimLynn Nguyen at nguyen@mountgrace.org or 978-541-1769.

Members of the Franklin Land Trust community will be spring cleaning at the Guyette Conservation Area Thursday — opening up shrubland habitat for wildlife, emptying bluebird boxes, and cleaning trails. Some tools will be available to volunteers, but bring your own loppers, bow saws, and gloves if possible. RSVP to the Franklin Land Trust at https://bit.ly/2RObTOc.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.


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