Mass Audubon Enlists Public to Help Protect 1,500-acre Conservation Priority in Connecticut River Valley
Michael P. O'Connor
LINCOLN, MA.—Mass Audubon is committed to the preservation of the Bear Hole landscape in West Springfield and Holyoke, to permanently protect the 1,500-acre open space and ensure it is open to the public in perpetuity. The statewide conservation organization is facing an end-of year deadline to reach its $450,000 fundraising goal, with $342,000 raised so far.
This spectacular property boasts miles of trails, beautiful forests and wetlands, and a wide range of rare plants and animals. It is used extensively by walkers, bikers, local school programs, and dog walkers. Mass Audubon’s vision, in partnership with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and the Town of West Springfield, is to protect the property and secure those benefits for future generations.
The Town of West Springfield would continue to own the land.
In thanking the Town of West Springfield and the DCR, Mass Audubon President David O’Neill noted, “Remarkable opportunities to protect land for so many important reasons—the environment and climate change, reveling in nature, strengthening the outdoor recreation economy—cannot be passed up. Protecting the Bear Hole landscape supports all of these values, and more.”
Protecting Bear Hole, which formerly served as a municipal water supply, represents a crucial conservation opportunity that also increases climate-resilience on several fronts:
- Its sheer size means it can host multiple natural habitats, which in turn support a broad diversity of animals and plants;
- Its location places it within a large unfragmented landscape that will allow for wildlife especially vulnerable to warming temperatures;
- Its proximity to large population centers ensures that nature is accessible to so many people, particularly those who seek respite from public health threats, including air pollution and “heat islands”;
- And its mostly forested land, which will now never be developed, can provide carbon-trapping benefits for centuries, helping mitigate climate change.
“Mass Audubon is confident that with the support of the greater Connecticut River Valley community and others,” O’Neill added, “we will reach the fundraising goal and ensure the success of this crucial conservation project.”
To join the campaign and learn more about the Bear Hole project, visit www.massaudubon.org/bearhole.
Mass Audubon is the largest nature-based conservation organization in New England. Founded in 1896 by two women who fought for the protection of birds, Mass Audubon carries on their legacy by focusing on the greatest challenges facing the environment today: the loss of biodiversity, inequitable access to nature, and climate change. With the help of our 160,000 members and supporters, we protect wildlife, conserve and restore resilient land, advocate for impactful environmental policies, offer nationally recognized education programs for adults and children, and provide endless opportunities to experience the outdoors at our wildlife sanctuaries. Explore, find inspiration, and take action at www.massaudubon.org.