2016 Impact Statement for CT River Valley

© Phil Doyle
© Phil Doyle

Impact Statement for Mass Audubon’s Work in the Connecticut River Valley

Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden Counties


CONSERVATION

The continued preservation of Mass Audubon’s extensive conservation land in Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden counties, including 8,000 acres owned and nearly 1,500 additional acres of conservation restrictions, through which we collaborate with cities and other land owners to preserve open space. The vast majority of this acreage is forests, which are key to our local resiliency to climate change.

Jonah Keane, Sanctuary Director 

“One the most satisfying parts of the job is seeing rare plants and animals reproduce on the land we protect. Wildlife whose habitat is threatened and whose populations are in decline can find a mate, build a nest and raise their young here; ensuring their species’ local existence for another generation.” 

Through our grasslands management, we continued and experimented with:

  • Actively managing 190 acres at Arcadia and Graves Farm for grassland birds, counting 38 nesting pairs of bobolinks at Arcadia, close to a record high.
  • Attracting eastern meadowlarks to nest at Arcadia using audio playback and decoys. One meadowlark was found singing.

Detailed wildlife monitoring occurs at Arcadia, our flagship sanctuary in Valley. And we are happy to report some of the highlights from this year:

  • Unusual sightings in 2016 included red-headed woodpecker, short-eared owl (state listed as Endangered), yellow-breasted chat, sedge wren, American white pelican, dickcissel, gray-cheeked thrush, orange-crowned warbler, and cackling goose.
  • We counted close to a record number of red-backed salamanders under our monitoring coverboards despite the drought: 64.
  • Campers found a large female and a young yellow lampmussel (state listed as Endangered), a good sign that they may be reproducing at Arcadia.
  • Four northern harriers (state listed as Threatened) spent last winter at Arcadia. Our new management technique of leaving strips of meadows unmowed payed off in its first year.
  • Two American kestrel fledged from an Arcadia nest box.

Additional land protected in the Pioneer Valley in 2016 included:

  • High Ledges, Shelburne—167 acres of high-quality-forest, beaver ponds, and streams.
  • West Branch, Heath—50 acres of high-quality forest and frontage on an exemplary cold-water stream.
  • Rocky Hill Greenway, Northampton—17 acres of an important link in the wildlife corridor connecting Arcadia to the west, done in partnership with the City of Northampton. During this year we also advanced projects that would protect more acres in the corridor.

EDUCATION

Hampshire Regional High School Teacher 

"My students (who participated in Life in a Changing Climate) had a lot of feedback and told me they liked determining their carbon footprints. Some students shared that they were describing what they did to their parents at dinner."

Young people from preschool to high school and Greenfield to Longmeadow participated in Arcadia environmental education programs such as:

  • Life in a Changing Climate concluded its pilot year in collaboration with Hampshire Regional Middle and High School. The end-of-year assessment showed that 41% demonstrate an increased understanding of climate change impacts.
  • In the fall, Life in a Changing Climate continued at Hampshire Regional and expanded to the Hilltown Charter School and Northampton High School.
  • The Arcadia Nature Preschool celebrated its 40th year with a public event. We connected with graduates such as the Fisher sisters who attended in the 1990’s and offered insight into the long term impact of attending preschool:
  • Fields trips made by local schools to Arcadia helped schools’ nature curriculum come to life.
  • Through our long-term partnership with Westfield Public Schools, nearly every second grader was introduced to the nature in their own schoolyards through our Wild About Westfield program.

Arcadia Nature Camp moved through the summer in its eighth decade to introduce new campers to how to delight in the natural world as well as keep returning campers connected to Arcadia’s inspiring landscape. As Arcadia’s longest running program, camp allows us to keep in touch with young people over an extended period of time and see them grow from being campers to counselors, stepping into nature educator and leadership roles.

Arcadia programs enriched the lives of over a thousand adults through programs focused on bird watching, exploring nature, learning about wildlife and plant life.

Arcadia developed and piloted a Trail Building and Stewardship Training program to train conservation staff and volunteers from 28 organizations, agencies, and town governments from across Massachusetts. The results will be improvements to trails across the Commonwealth for the benefit of people and wildlife.


ORGANIZATIONAL CAPACITY

Volunteers are the foundation of much of our success. They greatly expand our organizational capacity and impact.  More than 200 volunteers served our Valley sanctuaries in 2016, donating more than 2,500 hours. They assisted with educational programs, visitor services, property maintenance, photography, professional services, publicity, and much more.

Arcadia Visitor 

"The new bridge is beautiful and makes it a lot easier to walk the River Trail without getting my feet wet.”

Improvements to our sanctuaries offered visitors better hiking experiences and include:

  • Built a new bridge with handrails on the River Trail
  • Re-routed 300 feet of the River Trail away from wetlands
  • Added a switchback to a steep section of Woodcock Trail
  • Added a small loop at the end of Old Coach Trail
  • Built a new bird viewing structure (thanks to Hampshire College students)
  • Began installing a new trail sign system (to be completed in 2017)
  • Made progress towards improvements in the Arcadia Meadows
  • At Lynes Woods, we added new stepping stones to various points on the trail to reducing hikers’ impact on wet areas.

At Arcadia, we expanded our art and nature offerings including a nature art exhibit area with monthly shows featuring local artists and brought electricity to our future art house on the Tulip Tree Trail.

We are 89% of the way toward reaching our 2016 goal of $20,000 for Arcadia’s Fund for Environmental Education due to the generosity of local donors. We will immediate put these fund to use to continue and expand Life in a Changing Climate.

We expanded our social media presence and the number of people who like the Arcadia Facebook page increased by 1,300 in 2016. Our most popular posts are fabulous wildlife and landscape shoots from area photographers.

In 2016, we welcomed our newest Land Protection Specialist, Kate Buttolph, to Arcadia. Kate’s focus is protecting land in the central and western part of the state.  

Six work-study students from Smith College and Holyoke Community College have helped with Arcadia Nature Preschool, homeschool programs, trail maintenance, visitor services, educational displays, property maintenance, event preparation and more!

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Aracdia in autumn