This Earth Day, five environmental organizations in Western and Central Massachusetts are encouraging their communities to help save the land that supports us all.
The second annual “Give Back to the Land Day” on Thursday, April 22, will be a 24-hour online giving day to raise funds for five regional land trusts that work to conserve trails, forests, farms, and waterways in Massachusetts.
Community members are invited to visit GiveBacktotheLand.org to learn about the work of local land trusts and donate to one or more of the organizations. Generous donors are matching online donations made before midnight on April 22.
This year, Berkshire Natural Resources Council, based in Pittsfield, will join the founding land trusts – Kestrel Land Trust based in Amherst, Hilltown Land Trust based in Ashfield, Franklin Land Trust based in Shelburne Falls, and Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust based in Athol – to host the second year of this Earth-Day-themed online giving day.
“BNRC is glad to be part of this Give Back to the Land event,” said Jenny Hansell, President of Berkshire Natural Resources Council. “Connectivity of conserved lands is crucial for wildlife, climate resiliency, and the natural beauty of the region. This kind of collaboration creates outcomes that are bigger than the sum of its partners alone.”
Each of the five land trusts that are part of Give Back to the Land serves a distinct geographic area in Western and Central Massachusetts, but often collaborate on projects that join their regions.
The theme of this year’s Earth Day celebration is “Restore Our Earth.” Land conservation and stewardship are a key part of the natural solutions to the climate crisis, by mitigating stormwater events and providing adequate habitat for plant and animal species that need to adapt to changing temperatures.
“We are fortunate to be living where the landscape still has the physical integrity that allows wildlife to move freely and naturally,” notes Franklin Land Trust’s Executive Director, Tom Curren. “As local land and trusts, we do our best to keep these legacies intact.”
In January, President Biden signed an executive order committing his administration to the 30 by 30 initiative, a science-driven conservation goal to protect 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. Achieving this goal is a crucial part of the nature-based solutions to stabilizing the climate, stressed Kristin DeBoer, Kestrel Land Trust Executive Director.
“We want people to thrive because nature thrives, where local food and trails deepen our connections to land, water and wildlife. Imagine a time when all people and wildlife have a healthy, safe home, where everyone has opportunities to connect to the land and to each other,” said Kristin.
“We want people to thrive because nature thrives, where local food and trails deepen our connections to land, water and wildlife. Imagine a time when all people and wildlife have a healthy, safe home, where everyone has opportunities to connect to the land and to each other.”
Earth Day takes on an added significance this year when people across the country have looked for safe ways to get outside and socialize, and recreational use of trails, waterways, parks, and other outdoor spaces has increased significantly.
“This past year, we have heard from more people than ever who are newly exploring our trails,” said Sally Loomis, Executive Director of Hilltown Land Trust. “I think we all see with new eyes how crucial these natural places are to our mental and physical health.”
The pandemic has also put stress on local farms and farmers. Fortunately, our local food systems have a strong foundation, thanks in part to the effort to conserve valuable farmland.
“Farmers’ markets and farm stands have gone the extra mile to ensure safe access to their products at a time when we need them most,” said Emma Ellsworth, Executive Director of Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust. “Eating great quality healthy local food is only possible because of the tremendous work land trusts and communities have done to protect our farms.”
While land trusts play a key role in local land conservation, the involvement of the community in this work is key to success, stressed Loomis.
“The land provides so much to all of us, from places to recreate to clean air and water to fresh food. And the land is clearly telling us it needs our help,” she said. “We all have a part to play in giving back to the land.”