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A green marsh surrounded by dark green trees

180 Acres Added to Cold Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in the Berkshires After 15 Years

December 22, 2022

On Friday, December 9, 2022, faith and perseverance were rewarded with the acquisition and protection of 180 acres of important wildlife habitat abutting the Cold Brook Wildlife Sanctuary.

Mass Audubon’s Kate Buttolph, Land Protection Specialist, witnessed first-hand the outcome that so many people worked so hard to achieve. When all the documents were finally signed and recorded, Kate was stunned and at a loss for words. But, recovering quickly, she dashed off an email to other staff with the understated subject line “Minery Closed.”

When Kate joined Mass Audubon in 2016, she already had over 20 years of experience doing land protection transactions. This 180-acre property located in Sandisfield and Otis, though, presented a unique challenge that many others at Mass Audubon before her had worked on for over 15 years.

Its high ecological value was abundantly clear. It sits near the center of a nearly 180,000-acre state-designated Critical Natural Landscape block and features forests of hemlock and northern hardwoods, a cold-water tributary of the Farmington River, habitat for a variety of mammals, migratory habitat for birds, and a critical terrestrial connection between Cold Brook and the Sandisfield and Tolland State Forests.

But, also abundantly clear were the complicated circumstances. The land, owned by the estate of Robert A. Minery, was encumbered by many liens including one from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection due to a dump site on the property that was never properly closed. Kate worked together with consultants and partners to forge agreements and clarify the steps Mass Audubon would need to take to permanently preserve the property and clear title.

That day finally arrived thanks to the generous and far-sighted support of donors who recognized this extraordinary opportunity, and a team of dedicated individuals in the public and private sector who never wavered in their belief that this conservation project could be accomplished.

Planning is now underway for the removal of buildings in disrepair at the home site, the creation of trails for passive recreation, and a parking area nearby. In the meantime, the property will continue to be the home of bobcats and porcupines, bitternut hickory and American elm, and all other manner of animal and plant life.