On April 20, the Thursday before Earth Day, four regional Massachusetts land trusts are encouraging community members to give back to the land with a gift to support local land conservation. Kestrel Land Trust (Kestrel), Franklin Land Trust (FLT), Hilltown Land Trust (HLT), and Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust (Mount Grace) are joining together for Give Back to the Land Day, a 24-hour online giving day to raise funds to conserve trails, forests, farms, and waterways in Massachusetts.
Give Back to the Land Day was first organized in 2020 as the COVID pandemic changed the landscape of social organizing, and these four regional land trusts came together to think creatively about ways to engage community support for land conservation. Each year since then, the land trusts have collaborated on this unique giving event to protect the landscapes of our region.
Western and Central Massachusetts boast an abundance of forests, family farms, public trails, meadows, and waterways that provide clean air and water, fresh local food, places to recreate, and important habitat for wildlife.
Kestrel, FLT, HLT, and Mount Grace have collectively conserved over 104,000 acres of our region’s thriving environment, which supports the health of all who live, work, and play in this region. These natural resources also support people across the state and beyond, who rely on the healthy food produced on our local farms and drink the clean water of our watersheds.
This year, each land trust is highlighting their work on a particular theme in land conservation to showcase the diverse and multifaceted nature of conservation work.
Kestrel Land Trust has served the heart of the Connecticut River Valley for 52 years, conserving more than 27,000 acres of forests, farms, and riverways in Western Massachusetts. Kestrel works in partnership with willing landowners, municipalities, the Commonwealth, and federal agencies to create public conservation areas where people can experience the benefits of being outdoors.
During this year’s Give Back to the Land Day, Kestrel is highlighting the importance of creating welcoming access to parks and trails for all, including expanding opportunities for universal accessibility in outdoor recreation for those with mobility and other challenges.
Kristin DeBoer, Kestrel’s Executive Director, said, “Part of Kestrel’s mission has always been to nurture an enduring love of the land, which is only possible when people are able to connect with nature in their own ways. Our goals include continuing to establish more public trails, to make our own nature retreats more welcoming to the public, and to create new universally accessible trails so that everyone has the chance to reap the physical, mental, and emotional benefits that come with spending time in nature.”
Franklin Land Trust has a focus on conserving the historic pattern of field, woodland, and village that characterizes its region, with a particular interest in working landscapes including farmland. For this year’s Give Back to The Land Day, FLT is highlighting its work on conserving farmland, which has been a key concern since FLT was founded in 1987 to conserve the Loomis Farm in Ashfield.
“For over 35 years, the Franklin Land Trust has been dedicated to conserving the natural resources of Franklin County and beyond. Through our efforts, we have protected over 14,000 acres of farmland and 21,000 additional acres of working landscapes, ensuring that these invaluable resources remain available for future generations to enjoy,” says Mary Lynn Sabourin, Executive Director of Franklin Land Trust.
Part of Kestrel’s mission has always been to nurture an enduring love of the land, which is only possible when people are able to connect with nature in their own ways.”
HLT, a land trust serving 13 rural towns in Western Massachusetts, has worked since 1986 to promote ecological diversity and respectful land stewardship. One of the themes of HLT’s work in recent years has been wildlife connectivity and contiguous wildlife habitats.
“The Hilltown region lies in an important area for the migration and movement of wildlife, providing a corridor of wilderness that connects the highlands of the Hudson River area in New York to the Green Mountains in Vermont,” said Sally Loomis, Executive Director of Hilltown Land Trust. “Protecting land that expands or connects parcels of critical habitat is one of our top priorities in determining which conservation projects to take on.”
Mount Grace has conserved 37,000 acres of precious open spaces, wildlands, woodlands, and farms in northern and central Massachusetts since it was founded in 1986. Mount Grace aims to benefit the environment, the economy, and future generations by protecting significant agricultural, natural, and scenic lands and encouraging land stewardship. Over the last few years, Mount Grace created its Climate and Land Justice Program to integrate this critical work into all aspects of our conservation, stewardship, and community outreach.
“We created a cultural use agreement with Nipmuk Cultural Preservation, Inc., giving legal rights for Tribal members to collect traditional medicine and food, hold spiritual ceremonies, and conduct cultural education,” said Mount Grace Executive Director Emma Ellsworth. “Partners from the Nipmuc Tribe are now working with us to integrate Traditional Ecological Knowledge into our stewardship tools, giving us a different perspective on what the land needs to be healthy and thriving.”
YES, I WANT TO:
By giving back to the land by supporting local land trusts, you can help ensure a thriving environment that supports the health of all who live, work, and play in the region. You can learn more and donate at givebacktotheland.org.