Mount Grace helps protect 27 acres on Butterworth Ridge’s eastern slope

  • Hikers cross a footbridge over Fish Brook in Royalston, part of 27 acres protected by Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust. Contributed photo

Staff Writer
Published: 8/15/2022 5:36:04 PM
Modified: 8/15/2022 5:32:36 PM

Allen Young and seven neighbors banded together in 2003 to buy 27 acres on the eastern slope of Butterworth Ridge in Royalston so it would not be sold to a developer. The responsibility for that property has now been passed on to the Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust after being permanently conserved by the eight individuals on the other side of Butterworth Road who purchased it 19 years ago for $110,000.

“We’re very pleased and we really appreciate the effort that the Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust put into this and we appreciate all the people that support Mount Grace,” Young said this week.

Conserving this land is one part of the Greater Gales Brook Conservation Project, a Mount Grace partnership in collaboration with Mass Audubon, Warwick, the state Department of Fish and Game, and the state Department of Conservation and Recreation.

“The owner of this land let it be known that he had plans to sell it to a developer that would put in three houses,” Young recalled. “(We) wanted to preserve it as forest, so we looked into what we could do, and we ended up chipping in our money, in varying amounts.”

He said he and his neighbors set up the Butterworth Ridge Nominee Trust, which held the land until they could sell it to a conservation agency or similar organization.

“We did not get back all the money we put into it,” Young went on to say, adding that the land just sold for roughly $65,000. “We are all right with it.”

Collectively, more than 700 acres of woods and waterways in the Millers River watershed in Warwick, Orange and Royalston have been protected this summer, according to the Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust. The dozen properties involved include a working sheep farm, working forests, and thousands of feet of habitat along five brooks.

Emma Ellsworth, Mount Grace’s executive director, said the Butterworth Ridge component is a perfect example of community members uniting for a long-term goal. She also said the 27 acres include wildlife and wonderful streams that are part of the Millers River watershed system.

Each property abuts land already protected, expanding wildlife corridors and helping weave together existing conservation areas into one connected habitat.

“Connectivity is important,” Sarah Wells, Mount Grace’s conservation director, said in a press release, “it means the land is likely to be more resilient in the face of climate change, since species are not cut off in small pockets but can still access different microclimates across their range.”

Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust and Mass Audubon have engaged and partnered with each landowner to determine how best to protect their property as part of this effort. The project has been made possible by a Massachusetts Landscape Partnership Grant, which in 2021 provided a grant for the project. This project has also been supported by grants from the Bafflin Foundation, the Quabbin to Cardigan Initiative, the William P. Wharton Trust, and two anonymous foundations. Gifts also came in from families and individuals around Massachusetts.

“We are thrilled to be able to support our neighbors in protecting their land today,” Ellsworth told the Greenfield Recorder this week. “I know that Allen has been hoping to protect these woods for years, and we are honored to have been part of making that possible.”

Kate Buttolph, Mass Audubon’s land protection specialist for the Berkshires and the Connecticut River Valley, also credits willing landowners, partners and other supporters for bringing these projects to fruition.

“Completing the Greater Gales Brook Conservation Project means more than 700 acres have been added to previously conserved land for the benefit of wildlife, to protect an intact landscape that will alleviate the effects of climate change, for scenic vistas, and recreation,” she said in a press release.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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