1,400-Acre Bear Hole Property in West Springfield and Holyoke Permanently Protected
Michael P. O'Connor
This remarkable landscape is beneficial to both people and wildlife. Bear Hole now guarantees broad access to nature providing physical and mental health benefits to hundreds of thousands of people—particularly those living in the nearby Gateway Cities of Springfield, Westfield, and Holyoke.
A rich array of wildlife species can also find safe passageway through a mosaic of connected, conserved lands; Bear Hole was the largest unprotected piece of a critical wildlife corridor extending from West Springfield to the Holyoke Range.
And its now-protected forests will continue to provide carbon-trapping benefits, helping to mitigate the effects of climate change.
To make this vision a reality, Mass Audubon and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) purchased a Conservation Restriction (CR) on the land. While the CR ensures that the property will never be developed, West Springfield will continue to own and manage the property.
The size and complexity of the project required concerted, committed partnerships among West Springfield, DCR, and Mass Audubon.
“Bear Hole is a success because of the farsighted political leadership of West Springfield, especially Mayor Will Reichelt, the steadfast commitment of the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the cooperation of many other partners, and the generous support of private donors and foundations,” Mass Audubon President David O’Neill said.
“What an extraordinary victory for nature, for the climate, for people who otherwise lack access to open spaces, and for the communities in the region,” O’Neill noted.
The Bear Hole project represents the level of commitment needed to advance the five-year goals outlined in Mass Audubon’s newly-released Action Agenda. The bold plan seeks to conserve and protect resilient landscapes; advance inclusive and equitable access to nature; and mobilize people to fight climate change.
Completing the protection of Bear Hole lifts the amount of land that Mass Audubon actively protects to more than 40,000 acres statewide, an amazing feat, especially during Mass Audubon’s 125th anniversary celebration.
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 140,000 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.