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A History of Passion for the Land

For more than 50 years, the forests, farms, and wildlands of the Pioneer Valley have been championed by passionate people giving their time, talents, and financial support as part of Kestrel Land Trust.

Milestones in our story

The Kestrel Trust historic logo


The Kestrel Trust is founded in Amherst, MA by local conservation leaders. The all-volunteer land trust supports the town of Amherst, helping to conserve special places for the community.


Kestrel Trust conserves 20 acres at Larch Hill in Amherst, which became the home of the Hitchcock Center for the Environment for four decades.


Kestrel helps create the Amethyst Brook Conservation Area on nearly 40 acres at the base of the Pelham Hills, providing scenic walking trails along the brook.


Kestrel conserves 220 acres on Mount Warner, a prominent wooded landmark in North Hadley.

Meadow and orchard view from Mount Warner


Kestrel Trust helps create two iconic conservation areas in Amherst: Puffer’s Pond and Mount Pollux. The Trust also expands to serve eight adjacent towns—Belchertown, Granby, Hadley, Leverett, Pelham, Shutesbury, South Hadley and Sunderland—to keep up with increasing development threats and to recognize the interconnections between forests and waterways across town borders.


Kestrel conserves 46 acres on Mount Toby in Sunderland with views and trails on the northwest slope of the mountain.


Kestrel conserves 33 acres at Wentworth Farm, providing open walking trails around Owens Pond and though meadows.


Kestrel helps create the Butter Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in Pelham, a wooded conservation area of 150 acres on a slope of the Pelham hills.

Happy runners starting 5K for Farmland race


Kestrel sponsors the first 5K for Farmland in partnership with the Town of Hadley to commemorate the town’s 350th anniversary and strong commitment to farmland conservation.

Mt Holyoke Range in autumn


Kestrel cosponsors Focusing on the Range with WGBY to display 500 photographs of the Mount Holyoke Range from amateurs and professionals.

Kristin DeBoer with young daughter


Kestrel hires its first full-time Executive Director. Within five years as a staffed organization, Kestrel quadruples its rate of land conservation to an average of 400 acres per year.

klt sign 233 n pleasant


The Kestrel Trust merges with Valley Land Fund, to become Kestrel Land Trust, and expands its service area to the 19-town region surrounding Northampton and Amherst.

People with Governor dedicating Jones Working Forest on Brushy Mountain


Kestrel and its partners celebrated the largest conservation restriction on private land to date with the protection of 3,486 acres as the Paul C. Jones Working Forest on Brushy Mountain, in collaboration with Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game and Franklin Land Trust.



Kestrel increases its capacity with four full-time and one part-time staff, and earns national accreditation from the Land Trust Alliance’s Accreditation Commission.

Woman painting a picture on Mt Holyoke summit


Kestrel completes a project to protect approximately 1,000 acres on the Mount Holyoke & Mount Tom Ranges in partnership with DCR, with the help of an extraordinary anonymous donation of $350,000, which leveraged an additional $2,700,000 in state grants and private donations.


Kestrel celebrates 50 years of conserving and caring for the land in the Valley with stories, photos, and videos from members and partners who make our work possible.

See these stories here!

One Founder’s Story: Janet Dakin

Janet Dakin knew and loved animals, from domesticated horses to wildlife like the American Kestrel. She also loved the land in the Valley that wildlife needed to survive, so in 1962 she volunteered to help create the Amherst Conservation Commission. While the new Commission was able to protect some special places, increasingly there were more it couldn’t save. So she, her husband Toby, and other passionate volunteer conservationists founded the Kestrel Trust in 1970, and there began a legacy of giving back to the Valley that would shape its future.

Why “Kestrel”?

The name Kestrel Trust, and the motto “Salus Naturae Salus Populi” (Healthy Nature, Healthy People) were created by Toby Dakin. A 1977 brochure explained:

“The Kestrel Trust views its region of 9 towns for land to protect for beauty, wildlife and man’s enjoyment. Thus also the sparrow hawk scans its territory to watch for danger and for food. For both man and kestrel, a healthy land brings a healthy life.”

While we don’t know the exact reason the founders picked the kestrel to represent the organization, we like to think it was because this falcon is small yet strong, agile, and determined, as Kestrel Land Trust has always been.

Older kestrel chick sitting in a hand

Help Save the American Kestrel

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