Watt Farm, MA, Protection Celebrated
Harvard, Massachusetts, 11/25/2001: U.S. Senator John Kerry and U.S. Representative Martin Meehan joined Harvard residents and officials, nonprofit organizations, and representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Saturday to celebrate the permanent protection of Watt Farm on Still River Depot Road in Harvard as an addition to the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge. Dr. Mamie Parker, acting regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, emceed the event.
To date, nearly 125 acres at Watt Farm have been permanently protected in three phases. Last spring, the Trust for Public Land completed the first phase of the project when it purchased 112 acres from the Watt family, sold 108 acres to the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge, and donated 4 acres to the Town of Harvard, which will use the land to provide a local historic village with a community septic system. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will hold a conservation easement over the 4-acre municipal parcel to prohibit development of the land in the future. At the same time, the Town of Harvard completed phase two by selling an additional 8.7 acres, located across the street from Watt Farm, to the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge. To complete the third phase, TPL donated a 4-acre parcel adjacent to Watt Farm to the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge last July.
Thanks to the leadership of U.S. Senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry and U.S. Representative Martin Meehan, just over $3 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund was earmarked by Congress for the purchase of Watt Farm and adjacent lots. The project was also the culmination of a long-term campaign by the Town’s Watt Farm Committee and the Harvard Conservation Trust, who made the protection of Watt Farm their top priority for many years.
“Tomorrow we celebrate the successful partnership between the federal government and local communities to expand the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge,” said Senator Kennedy. “Protecting the Watt Farm is a major success in our ongoing effort to protect open spaces and natural habitats, improve the quality of life for families and neighborhoods, and preserve the environment.”
“I look forward to celebrating the permanent preservation of Watt Farm with the greater Harvard community,” said Senator Kerry. “The addition of Watt Farm to the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge is a terrific example of how grassroots advocacy can combine with nonprofit and federal efforts to preserve our natural treasures. I applaud the work of the Harvard Conservation Trust, the Town’s Watt Farm Committee, the Trust for Public Land, and all of those concerned residents who helped make this day a reality.”
“I am proud to have been able to help secure funding for the purchase of the Watt Farm,” remarked Rep. Meehan. “These precious grasslands will now be protected from development for future generations to enjoy. From day one, the effort to preserve the Watt Farm has been a model partnership between local government, the federal government, and conservation advocates. It is partnerships like these that make open space a permanent part of our nation’s landscape.”
“The Watt Farm project is a terrific example of the power of collaboration,” said Whitney Hatch, regional director of the Trust for Public Land. “Thanks to the leadership of the congressional delegation, the vision of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the strong support of local officials and residents, partnership between local and national nonprofit organizations, and the generosity and flexibility of the property owners, this spectacular land will be protected for future generations.”
“These acres of valuable grassland will enhance the diversity of habitats within Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge and increase the number of species that use it,” said Dr. Mamie Parker, acting regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Region 5. “Numbers of grassland?nesting birds, in particular, have been declining, and the Watt Farm addition will enable the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide important, protected habitat for these birds in Massachusetts and along the Atlantic Flyway.”
Harvard Selectman Bill Ashe quoted President John Kennedy by saying, “‘Success has a thousand fathers, failure is an orphan.’ Truly, this wonderful wildlife, open space accomplishment comes from the effort of many fathers and mothers: the Watt Family, citizens and officials of Harvard, the Trust for Public Land, Harvard Conservation Trust, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and our outstanding congressional delegation. It has been a team that could not, would not fail.”
“Ever since the Watt brothers retired from dairy farming over 15 years ago, the Harvard Conservation Trust has been working with the brothers to preserve the farm as open space,” explained Harvard Conservation Trust president Tom Cotton. “Its addition to the Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge is perfect as the open fields and meadows of the farm provide a critical habitat for a variety of wildlife. Grasslands are among the region’s most threatened habitats, and some of the most vulnerable to development. A side benefit of this project is the traditional rural landscape of Still River village is also preserved. The Trust is grateful of the assistance Senators Kennedy and Kerry and Representative Meehan provided in preserving Watt Farm through the addition of it to the Oxbow NWR.”
Comprised predominantly of open fields, Watt Farm lies adjacent to the 1,500-acre Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge, which is located in the towns of Harvard, Shirley, Ayer, and Lancaster along the Nashua River floodplain. Named after the oxbow lakes formed by the meandering Nashua River over many centuries, the refuge contains extensive forested wetlands that provide habitat for a variety of waterfowl, wading birds, raptors, shorebirds, and neotropical migratory songbirds. Watt Farm provides breeding habitat for several declining species of grassland-nesting birds, including bobolinks and meadowlarks. In addition, it provides important habitat for waterfowl, songbirds, and many species of raptors, such as red-tailed hawks, kestrels, and great horned owls.
Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1973 and initially consisted of nearly 1,350 acres of land acquired in two transfers from the U.S. Army. The bulk of these lands were acquired in 1973 and 1988 when portions of Fort Devens were transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and in 1999, the Army added another 836 acres along the Nashua River to the Refuge. Ultimately, the Army plans to transfer approximately 5,000 additional acres to the Refuge, upon its final disposition of the Fort Devens South Post.
The Trust for Public Land is a national conservation organization dedicated to protecting land for people to enjoy as parks and open space. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 1.2 million acres nationwide, including nearly 60,000 acres in New England. The Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money Magazine recently named TPL the nation’s most efficient large conservation charity, based on the percentage of funds dedicated to programs. For more information, call TPL’s Boston office at (617) 367-6200 or visit http://www.tpl.org
Directions to Watt Farm:
From Boston: Take Route 2 West to the Route 110/Harvard exit (38A). The exit ramp merges onto Ayer Road in the direction of Harvard center. Continue on this road until you reach a flashing red light. Here, turn right onto Still River Road. After traveling approximately 2 miles, turn right onto Still River Depot Road, which is marked with a sign for the Oxbow Refuge. You will see Watt Farm on your left.
From the South: Take I-95 North towards Boston. Take exit 6 for I-495 North and continue for approximately 40 miles. Get off at exit 28, for Boxboro/Harvard/Route 111, and turn right at the bottom of the ramp. Travel approximately 4 miles into Harvard center and then take a left onto Still River Road at the flashing red light. After approximately 2 miles, take a right onto Still River Depot Road, which is marked with a sign for the Oxbow Refuge. Watt Farm will be on your left.
From the West: Take the Massachusetts Turnpike, I-90, East to exit 10. Merge onto I-290 East. Take exit 26B for I-495 North (a left exit). Get off at exit 28 for Boxboro/Harvard/Route 111 and turn right at the bottom of the ramp. Travel approximately 4 miles into Harvard center and then take a left onto Still River Road at the flashing red light. After approximately 2 miles, take a right onto Still River Depot Road, which is marked with a sign for the Oxbow Refuge. Watt Farm will be on your left as you proceed down this road.