23 Acres Protected Along the Fort River (MA)

Hadley, Massachusetts, 10/24/2005: The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national non-profit land conservation organization, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced today that the Service has acquired 23 acres on Moody Bridge and South Maple Streets in Hadley for wildlife habitat protection. The property, which was sold by Donald Beaulieu, contains 2,500 feet of frontage along the Fort River – the longest free-flowing tributary of the Connecticut River in Massachusetts – and will be included in the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, which was established to protect prime wildlife habitat in the Connecticut River watershed in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

TPL assisted the Service with the real estate transaction and helped organize the Fort River Partnership, a collection of groups dedicated to protecting land in the area.

“TPL’s commitment to the Connecticut River watershed includes both local partnerships to achieve local goals and broad partnerships with the Conte Refuge and others in all four states drained by the River,” said Clem Clay, director of TPL’s Connecticut River program based in Northampton. “We are thrilled to bring these aspects of our work together in a project that protects key pieces of a classic Hadley landscape and also helps the Refuge to protect species of statewide and federal importance.”

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is very pleased to be a contributing member of the Fort River Partnership,” said Andrew French, Project Leader of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. “The Massachusetts Congressional Delegation continues to secure funding for the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge for land conservation purposes. These funds have enabled us to complement and expand the mosaic of conserved grassland and riparian habitat in the Hadley and Amherst area. The collective efforts of the partnership will benefit plants, fish, wildlife, and people by conserving critical habitat, protecting water quality in the vicinity of a municipal well, and creating public outdoor recreational opportunities within a rapidly developing area.”

Thanks to the support of U.S. Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry and U.S. Representatives John Olver and Richard Neal, funding for the acquisition came from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund.

“These conservation efforts are essential to maintaining the natural beauty of our state. By acquiring these lands for preservation, we are not just showing a strong commitment to keeping our environment healthy, but to a beautiful future for our children,” Senator Kerry said.

Representative Olver said, “Fighting for the preservation of land and critical wildlife habitat is a top priority, and the Silvio Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge is one of our region’s treasures. In light of current development pressures in the Connecticut River watershed, it is increasingly important that we continue to work hard to preserve the most sensitive ecosystems within the Connecticut River Valley.”

The Fort River contains prime habitat for fish, endangered dwarf wedgemussels and other wildlife and is a focus area of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, which asked TPL for assistance in acquiring properties that can support populations of rare grassland birds. In addition to Donald Beaulieu, TPL is currently working with nearby landowners along Moody Bridge Road to place more of the river’s prime habitat in Service ownership.

A traditional farming town, Hadley is rich in prime soils but is facing the challenges of rising land values and loss of rural character. TPL, the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge and local land trusts formed the Fort River Partnership to help protect the landscape surrounding the Fort River in Hadley and Amherst while giving landowners an alternative to selling their land for development. The Partnership envisions a mosaic of protected farmland and habitat in the scenic area that stretches from the Norwottuck Rail Trail south to the slopes of the Mount Holyoke Range.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

The Trust for Public Land is a national non-profit land conservation organization dedicated to conserving land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 2 million acres of land in 46 states, including more than 10,000 acres in Massachusetts. TPL depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations and businesses to achieve our land for people mission. For more information, please contact us at 617-367-6200 or visit www.tpl.org/massachusetts.

Note to editors: For an electronic map or photograph of the property, please contact Nick Pratt at the Trust for Public Land: 617-367-6200, ext. 314 or nick.pratt@tpl.org