Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
Fifty years ago, in the same year that the first Earth Day launched the modern environmental movement, a small group of Amherst residents came together to form what would become Kestrel Land Trust. These local leaders, who also served on the Conservation Commission, saw the Amherst area begin to grow rapidly, and were alarmed that forests and farms were increasingly vulnerable to this new development pressure.
There was only so much the Town could do on its own. So, these passionate conservationists officially created The Kestrel Trust in December 1970 to support the Town’s efforts to protect its vital farms, forests, and riverways—to be the positive change they wanted to see in the world.
Kestrel’s founding mothers and fathers included Janet Dakin, Robert McClung, Charles Chase, Bradlee Gage, Robert Garrabrants, Dona Motts, Thomas Quarles, and William Sheldon. Over the next five decades, many more dedicated volunteers joined them and continued the work to save land for people and for wildlife throughout the Valley, in the place they all called home.
It was no surprise that, during those early years, letters to Kestrel’s supporters from Janet Dakin and later directors were addressed to “Dear Kestrel Family.” Caring for home and family—the places we share with the people and wildlife we love—has always been at the heart of what we do. It still is today and it will continue to be for decades to come.
“So many people have been involved with Kestrel in these last five decades, and we want to honor you—the people who have come together to save forests and farms close to home,” said Kristin DeBoer, Kestrel’s Executive Director, who has worked with Kestrel for 20 of its 50 years.
“Although we are heartbroken not to be able celebrate this milestone in person due to the pandemic, we invite residents throughout the Valley to be part of a virtual commemoration of land conservation. This fall, we’ll be looking back at what everyone in the ‘Kestrel family’—our members, landowners, and partners—have made possible. And, we’ll look ahead to the places we can save, together, over the next 50 years for urban, rural, and suburban communities across the Valley.”
This month, we are kicking off our 50th anniversary online with R. Michelson Galleries’ virtual exhibit, Forests, Farms, and Riverways: 50 Years of Kestrel Land Trust. For generations, artists and their work have played a critical role in inspiring people to care about the future of our land. The works in this exhibit celebrate this connection and our shared love of the land. Kestrel is grateful to the artists and gallery for supporting our continued efforts to conserve the Pioneer Valley with proceeds from the sale of artworks from this show.
Help Kestrel Commemorate 50 Years of Conserving the Valley You Love!
Share your favorite stories, experiences, or memories of the land in the Valley or share your wishes for the next 50 years! Your contribution can be a story or a few sentences, a special photo of a memorable experience, or a short video message. We will collect and share them online as part of our 50th commemoration in December.
As we look ahead to the next 50 years, we know that saving our forests, farms, and trails for everyone in every community is more important than ever in this changing world. We are grateful that we can count on you—our Kestrel family—to help create a sustainable and healthy future for all in the Valley we love.