Woman holding binoculars Join today and get outside at one of our 60+ wildlife sanctuaries.
Woman holding binoculars Join today and get outside at one of our 60+ wildlife sanctuaries.
field with nest box

67-Acre Patten Hill Property Protected

February 16, 2021

Thanks to the efforts of many—including over 300 donors—the last 67 acres of the Patten Hill property in Shelburne Falls have been permanently protected! We are so grateful for all who contributed to this important conservation effort.

View of a nest box on the hillside at Patten Hill in Shelburne Falls

Fields for the Birds

Mass Audubon purchased the lands from the Patten Hill Farm Trust to be added to our High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary—initially established by gift of Ellsworth "Dutchy" and Mary Barnard in 1970. Ellsworth’s brother, Francis Barnard, sold his adjacent property to the original members of the Patten Hill Farm Trust in 1968. 

In the past decade, members of the Patten Hill Farm Trust, before leaving their hillside homes, were determined to conserve the area for the benefit of nature, and for the residents and visitors to Shelburne. They are not farmers, but great nature lovers, and so the farm fields have been used for hay over the past several years, with a late season cutting schedule in order to foster important grassland bird habitat. 

Bobolinks can be seen nesting in the summer, and American Kestrels have been seen using the nesting boxes placed for their benefit. The Patten Road property is also home to a healthy colony of nesting Barn Swallows, which can be seen swooping and diving over the hayfields as they forage for insect prey during spring and summer.

Map of 67-acre Patten Hill property and other protected land

Patten Hill Farm

One person who does remember farming on the property is Sylvia Barnard, the daughter of Francis and Clara Barnard, who sold the property in 1968. She was raised there and, despite it being an isolated childhood experience, has fond memories. She notes the Patten Hill Farm was renowned for its prize-winning, pedigreed, milking short-horn cattle; maple syrup; and apples. 

It gives Sylvia great pleasure to know that her parent’s farm will never be developed. She grew up in the farmhouse built by Elisha Barnard in 1790. The apple orchard and the cows are gone, but nature remains.

Why This Matters

The addition of this 67-acre property expands High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary to 855 acres. It was also the last piece needed to connect High Ledges with the undeveloped 574-acre Shelburne Falls Fire District land (a public water supply property) and the 221-acre Davenport Farm. Joining all these protected properties creates a largely unfragmented land corridor of more than 1,000acres. Connections like this are essential to accommodating wildlife movement in the age of climate change.

The beautiful landscape also offers a 360-degree panorama—the state’s highest peak, Mount Greylock, to the west; Mount Monadnock in southwest New Hampshire to the east; Mount Tom in the Connecticut River Valley to the south; and the Green Mountains of Vermont to the north. Patten Hill also contains important grassland bird habitat, forest, and a stream corridor that includes a series of beaver ponds.

Our Sincere Thanks

Mass Audubon offers our sincere gratitude to:

  • The more than 300 generous supporters whose contributions allowed us to reach our fundraising goal in December and save the spectacular hilltop expanse.
  • The generous support of Sylvia Barnard who reminded me of the Ellsworth Barnard book, A Hill Farm Boyhood, and provided her personal context for this project.
  • Franklin Land Trust which agreed to hold the Conservation Restriction needed in order to access state funds for the project.
  • The Town of Shelburne, founded in 1756, just a few years before the Barnard family began farming in town, which approved the Conservation Restriction.
  • the Patten Hill Farm Trust landowners for diligent caretaking of this land over many decades, for actively pursuing and participating in its conservation, and selling their interest at below market value to make sure it happened.