Letter from the Executive Director
Putting perspective on the year we have just passed through is likely to be a cottage industry for decades to come. As a complex society, we have suddenly been made aware of a myriad of accumulated vulnerabilities. We grieve, we are fearful, we hope, we are grateful, and most of us have learned to be much, much more careful in our daily lives than we have been since we left the watchful eyes of our mothers.
From the perspective of a conservation land trust, the last year has been a graduate-level refresher course in perpetuity. Laptops, computer files, maps, snapshots of sweethearts and trout, stationery, and supplies could all be boxed up and moved into the “home game” schedule. Yet, the moral, legal and physical responsibilities for conservation land remain where and what they have always been and always will be: with the land.
In conservation stewardship, we have been responsible for conserving land totaling twice the size of Manhattan, about half of which we facilitated for other organizations, and the other half that we are responsible for monitoring annually. Ordinarily, this work is routine, but each and every year, some properties require an extended amount of attention. This is our core obligation, and this year we can report to you that, masks on, sun-screen and mosquito repellant deployed, and olive-or-blaze-orange hats in place, our team of stewardship staff and volunteers have kept the faith and monitored these properties in the context of a perpetuity that we construct one day at a time.
In conservation acquisition, we continue to work with landowners and volunteers to help define conservation opportunities, priorities, and feasibility for undeveloped land in western Massachusetts. We field more than 60 inquiries in an average year, assess their potential, provide advice to landowners and, after internal approval, begin the process of permanent land conservation through either a gift of land in fee simple or the construction of a feasible conservation restriction. Coming to an agreement with a landowner and shepherding an approved project from cornfield to courthouse in a timely and efficient manner (often with the help of capital donors) is probably our most visible annual product.
In education, we are the guardians of a body of knowledge about the natural world that has been accumulating hereabouts since the glaciers receded about 10,000 years ago. That natural world “took care of itself” for thousands of years, adapting to change and evolving in the life of meadow, wetland, and forest. In recent history, things have gotten more complicated, and people have become preoccupied with their attention to the short term. The notion that the “worth” of land is in its capacity to be built out and taxed upon was the prevailing attitude in a century that is long gone now and whose shortcomings are more evident every day. Health, local food, clean water, clean air, recreation, community, hard work, and tradition are all integral parts of the oldest and most valuable “normals.” A major part of our job is in representing that landscape-based perspective to a world that is in the throes of a deep and uncertain transition.
We remember. We have faith. And we are grateful to you and to the land we love.
Thomas S. Curren
Franklin Land Trust
A Year of Gratitude
In a year unlike any other, your support of Franklin Land Trust mattered more than ever before. Thanks to you and your commitment to conservation, FLT was able to continue protecting the land we depend on– the land that sustains us. Despite the many challenges of 2020, Franklin Land Trust continued protecting the farms, forests, waterways, and wetlands we hold dear. Your support ensured our community’s continued access to fresh local food, clean air, and clear water, and helped conserve land for the recreation and reflection that proved essential during the past year. We couldn’t have done it without YOU!
Thanks to you, 2020 was a year of many accomplishments. We conserved 370 acres of important farm and forest land, we expanded recreational access to the outdoors in Conway and Buckland through the Voluntary Public Access Program, and we planted 315 trees in residential neighborhoods in our regional urban cities. We hosted a handful of safe public events and planned a number of online programs for 2021. We completed a bio inventory of our Nan Williams Conservation Area and protected a critical bat habitat vital to the restoration of declining populations. FLT welcomed TerraCorps member Barry Matthews to our team, and with his help we are working to make our public conservation areas more accessible to you and your family. We hosted a virtual D2R2, with over 700 riders covering thousands of miles of gravel road in their home turf. And last, we continued to work with our partners in conservation to expand our impact and further our mission to protect the wild and working landscapes of our region for the benefit of generations to come.
As we look ahead to 2021, we send a heartfelt thanks to all of you for your enduring support.
Photograph by Dr. Robert Jonas