Kennelly Farm Added to Great Meadows NWR (MA)

BILLERICA, Massachusetts, 6/30/03: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Town of Billerica, and the Trust for Public Land announced today that the 58-acre Kennelly property, located off Treble Cove Road in west Billerica, has been permanently protected as wildlife habitat as part of Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. Thanks to the strong support of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation, Congress allocated $2.6 million in funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund for the project.

“Protecting unique habitats like the Kennelly property from the pressures of encroaching development is absolutely essential if we are going to maintain Massachusetts’ quality of life,” US Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) said. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Trust for Public Land deserve great credit for their vision and dedication while we worked in Washington to secure the federal funding.”

“Protecting the Kennelly property as open space will not only maintain habitat for wildlife and migratory birds and help safeguard Billerica’s drinking water,” said US Senator John Kerry (D-MA), “it will also provide recreational opportunities for our children and will improve the quality of life for everyone in Massachusetts. I was pleased to work with both Senator Kennedy and Congressman Meehan to obtain federal funding for this important effort.”

“Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is our strongest and staunchest ally in protecting the region’s last remaining open spaces from uncontrolled growth,” said US Rep. Marty Meehan (D-MA). “The Kennelly property significantly augments the 3,700 acres of wetlands, forests, and grasslands already protected at the refuge to provide critical habitat for a wide variety of migratory bird species. I’ve worked very hard with Senators Kennedy and Kerry to direct millions in federal funding for this project, so it is gratifying to see the project come to fruition.”

A 52-acre portion of the property was acquired by the Service as an addition to the 3,700-acre Concord Unit of the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. The remaining 6 acres were retained by the landowner, Charlie Kennelly, but are now protected from development by an Agricultural Preservation Restriction held by the Town of Billerica and approved last week by the Board of Selectmen.

The Kennelly property has long been identified as a top conservation priority for both the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex and the Town of Billerica. The Trust for Public Land has been working with the Town and the Service for more than 3 years to ensure a conservation outcome for the land.

“The partnership among the landowner, the Trust for Public Land and the Service led to the protection of this biologically important place for migratory birds and other wildlife,” said Richard O. Bennett, Ph.D., acting northeast regional director for the Service. “I congratulate the people of the Trust for Public Land for their dedicated efforts in working with Charlie Kennelly to further our shared conservation goals, and for the invaluable support we received from Senators Kerry and Kennedy and Representative Meehan.”

?”With this project we have not only expanded the boundaries of Great Meadows, we have also acquired a prime parcel of open space for our residents and visitors to enjoy. On behalf of the Town of Billerica, I would like to thank the Congressional delegation for their support, and the Trust for Public Land for their partnership in protecting the Kennelly property. Thanks should also go to Charlie Kennelly, as this project would not have been possible without his desire to pursue a conservation outcome for his land, and without his patience throughout the process,” said James F. O’Donnell, Jr., chair of the Billerica Board of Selectmen.

“As development pressure grows, it threatens to permanently change the scenic character of eastern Massachusetts and irreversibly degrade wildlife habitat and recreation areas,” said Craig MacDonnell, Massachusetts director for the Trust for Public Land. “We are grateful for the leadership of the Congressional delegation and the partnership of the Service, the Town of Billerica, and Charlie Kennelly, which resulted in the permanent protection of this outstanding land. We would also like to thank the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs for their strong support of this important project.”

The Kennelly property consists mostly of grasslands, which provide habitat for several declining migratory bird species, such as savannah sparrow, bobolink and meadowlark, as well as for Coopers hawk, red-tailed hawk, kestrel, and great-horned owl. Protection of the parcel located within the Concord River watershed has helped to safeguard water quality of the river, Billerica’s sole source of drinking water. In addition, the Kennelly property will enhance the educational opportunities available to Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge’s many visitors.

“It is wonderful to have successfully wrapped up this project,” said Charlie Kennelly. “I am pleased that my land will be permanently available for the residents of Billerica and visitors to Great Meadows. Thanks should go to the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Trust for Public Land, and the Town – this project would not have been possible without their hard work and patience.”

“This addition to Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge expands protected land in the region to benefit both wildlife and people,” said Libby Herland, manager for the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Nearby open spaces include the Greenough land, Great Brook Farm State Park, and additional town-owned land in Carlisle.

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 nearly 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 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 governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that 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 (TPL) is a national nonprofit conservation organization 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 1.6 million acres of land in 45 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 TPL’s Boston office at (617) 367-6200.

Note to editors: To have a digital photo e-mailed to you, contact Erin Rowland at the Trust for Public Land, 617- 367-6200 x321.