photo credit: Vivian Sarn

Trust Kestrel to sustain the Valley you know and love.

The Trust’s service area radiates out from Northampton, Amherst and Holyoke, which includes land principally, but not exclusively in the communities of Amherst, Belchertown, Chicopee, Hadley, Granby, Hatfield, Leverett, Ludlow, Northampton, Pelham, Shutesbury, Sunderland, South Hadley, Southampton, Whately, Easthampton, Holyoke, Westhampton, and Williamsburg. (See a map of our service area here.) The Trust may act on exceptional conservation opportunities elsewhere in the Connecticut River Watershed of Massachusetts as capacity allows and opportunities arise.

Within these towns, the Trust focuses within its service area on the properties that define the ecological integrity and quality of life in the Valley, including:

Projects in these focus areas are selected based on natural resource values, unique threat or opportunity, landowner willingness and engagement, and funding availability.

Focus Areas

Mount Holyoke Range and Mount Tom Range

These are the most visible natural monuments in the Connecticut River Valley. The Mount Holyoke Range was named a "Last Chance Landscape" by Scenic America in 2000, but only about half of the Range is protected. The rest of it, which is in private hands, is increasingly threatened with development creeping up the hillsides to take advantage of but also become the view. 

Kestrel is committed to working with the associated Town Conservation Commissions and state agencies to arrange for the acquisition of key parcels within and near these public lands to increase public ownership of our cherished mountains. We also work with landowners who wish to retain private ownership of their land while protecting it. Landowners can donate or sell a conservation restriction on their private property to ensure that it remains a protected in perpetuity, either as a working woodland or as a wild forest.

• Read about our plans for conserving the remaining unprotected lands on the Mt. Holyoke Range.

• Read about the $350K anonymous donation that will help us reach our goal.  

Read the Gazette editorial about this project. 

Farmland

The soils of the Connecticut River Valley are among the deepest and richest in the world. Farms here have a long history of providing abundant crops for residents of Massachusetts and beyond. This region leads the nation in promoting locally grown and organic products through direct sales at farm stands and farmer’s markets. Unfortunately, farmland is also extremely threatened by housing subdivisions.

Kestrel is dedicated to conserving prime farmland in the Valley by collaborating with farmers, towns, and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources to purchase Agricultural Preservation Restrictions (APRs) from landowners. This ensures that farmers can continue to farm the land in perpetuity. In 2009, Kestrel joined with the towns of Hadley, Amherst, and Sunderland to place Forever Farmland signs to recognize permanently protected agricultural land. In 2010, the Forever Farmland sign project took off and landed on the west side of the River in partnership with other local land trusts, with signs being placed on protected farms in Easthampton and as far as Ashfield. The sign directs people to the website foreverfarmland.org, which provides links to the organizations working to secure our Valley’s farms. Kestrel is leading a collaborative initiative with these organizations to accelerate the pace of farmland conservation throughout the Valley.

The Connecticut River

is the lifeblood of Western New England and one of the most important natural areas in Kestrel’s region. Running from Canada to Long Island Sound, this watershed and connecting greenways provide habitat for many species of fish, plants, mussels, and insects, as well as an important avian migration route as well as recreational opportunities for residents and tourists.

Kestrel is working with other land trusts and government agencies to protect land along this important waterway and its tributaries. Our partners include the Department of Conservation and Recreation, which is conserving theConnecticut River Greenway State Park. And we are part of the Fort River Partnership, which is working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to acquire grasslands and forested parcels along the banks of the Fort River to become part of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.

The Quabbin Reservoir

and surrounding reservation is the largest contiguous block of conserved forestland in Massachusetts. The reservation includes more than 80,000 contiguous acres of forest bordering the towns of Belchertown, Pelham, Shutesbury, and Leverett. Not only does this reserve ensure clean drinking water for Boston and other communities, mostly in the Eastern part of the state, the forest provides important habitat for bobcat, coyote, moose, bald eagle, black bear and dozens of other species. Yet without connectivity to other natural areas, habitat here could become isolated. Kestrel is dedicated to protecting forestland extending from and connecting to the Quabbin to enlarge the protected core area for water quality, establish connections for wildlife corridors, and encourage sustainable forest stewardship on private land. Kestrel works with towns to purchase parcels to create new public conservation areas. Or we work with landowners to place Conservation Restrictions (CR) on private land.

Much of this land in our region is temporarily protected by the Chapter 61 tax status, which gives landowners a tax incentive to maintain their land for forestry purposes. Kestrel works with those landowners who want to keep their forests as forests. Through purchasing or accepting donations of CRs, landowners have a choice to develop a CR that conserves private woodlands for sustainable forest management or to preserve and restore their forest as forever wild. Landowners can continue to own and use the property as a managed woodland under a CR and associated Forest Stewardship Plan, which conserves the wildlife habitat and watershed values while allowing for sustainable forestry operations.

Kestrel has joined the North Quabbin Regional Partnershipand the Wildlands-Woodlands Project, which both promote cooperation between land trusts, towns, and the state working to conserve forestland in the greater Quabbin region and around Massachusetts. We have also begun to work with landowners to purchase CRs through the Forest Legacy program, a new source of funding which recently became available in Kestrel’s region.

Places We Protect