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Remembering Congressman John Olver: A Conservation Champion

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Congressman John Olver at a podium outdoors

Retired Congressman John W. Olver of Amherst was, according to his obituary, “A workhorse, not a show horse,” who served both chambers of the Massachusetts legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives for a total of 44 years. Mr. Olver passed away on February 23, 2023, at age 86. (Read the obituary here.)

All of us at Kestrel Land Trust feel a great loss after Congressman Olver’s passing, and we offer our condolences to his daughter, Martha, and the rest of his family.

The Congressman was an outstanding leader for land conservation in the Connecticut River Valley, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the nation, working closely with Kestrel Land Trust and other conservation organizations. As a champion of the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, Mr. Olver worked tirelessly in the United States Congress to support iconic and impactful projects in our region, including:

  • securing federal funding to acquire wildlife habitat for the Fort River Division of the Silvio O Conte National Wildlife Refuge in Hadley;
  • establishing the New England National Scenic Trail;
  • acquiring a conservation restriction to protect the 3,486-acre Paul C. Jones Working Forest on Brushy Mountain in Leverett and Shutesbury.

Read more about his legacy in this article from the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Mr. Olver also conserved his own family’s land in the Valley. Over the course of several decades, the Olver family added several parcels of forest to the Mount Holyoke Range State Park. Most recently, in 2022, Olver and his daughter Martha ensured that a portion of the family forest in Amherst be added to the state park as one of his last wishes for his homestead. In 2017, Mr. Olver worked with Kestrel, the town, and several neighbors in Pelham to create the Buffam Brook Community Forest, as a demonstration of how woodlands are a critical natural solution to climate change. There, a 1-mile trail loop is named in his honor. View the map of Buffam Brook Community Forest here.

Whether he was exploring trails on foot, advocating for appropriations and legislation in Congress, or studying local maps, Mr. Olver never ceased to be passionate about conserving the lands and waters on which our communities depend. He will be greatly missed.

John Olver (second from right) celebrating the creation of the Fort River Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in Hadley with members of Trust for Public Land and Kristin DeBoer (right) Executive Director of Kestrel Land Trust.

Memorial gifts may be made in John Olver’s memory to Kestrel Land Trust by clicking here.

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