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Andy French, USFWS

Conte trail boardwalk

As the Wildlife Refuge Manager of Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge for the past 18 years, I have enjoyed a very positive and productive working relationship and partnership with Kestrel. Most of our collaboration has focused on land conservation which resulted in the addition of land to the Refuge. While Kestrel played a role in almost every addition to the Fort River Division of the Refuge, one in particular was extremely strategic and timely. We were well into the construction of the universally accessible Fort River Birding and Nature Trail, and we were missing an important piece of the trail route. Kestrel was able to act much quicker than our land protection process and secured the 12-acre Niedbala property. Kestrel acquired the property and gave us permission to construct the trail while our land protection process caught up and we were able to purchase the property from Kestrel. This action enabled us to continue to move forward while we had the financial and human resources available for trail construction. This action allowed to construct the segment of the trail just after the overlook of the Holyoke Range, over a bridge, past the turtle pond, over another bridge to the point where the trail reconnects.

Kestrel provided very important service at a critical time in the construction of the trail, and thousands of people have enjoyed the benefits of the partnership between the Refuge and Kestrel.

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