Massachusetts: Areas protected with $3.5 million in land grants

Land in Worcester, Grafton, Gardner and Westminster will be protected
with land grants announced by state Energy and Environment Affairs
Secretary Ian Bowles. They are among 10 grants totaling $3.5 million
in the Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity program that will help
nine communities buy 1,150 acres to protect farms, wetland, forests
and wildlife habitat. The grant program, formerly known as Self-Help,
has helped cities and towns acquire land for conservation and outdoor
recreational use since 1961. This round of grants comes from the $1.7
billion energy and environment bond bill the governor signed in
August.Worcester is the only community to get two of the grants. They
are for Crow Hill and Moreland Woods, both projects of the Greater
Worcester Land Trust. A $500,000 grant will protect 10 acres of
habitat and greenways on Crow Hill, which the state notes is situated
in an urban environment.

It includes the headwaters of Fitzgerald
Brook, a historic rainbow smelt run. The project is close to North
High School, the EcoTarium and public transportation. The land links
Crow Hill to 28 acres of city Conservation Commission land. The grant
also includes $378,000 for 20.6 acres of Moreland Woods on the city’s
West Side. It will provide walking access to open space. Its habitats
include deciduous upland forest, wetlands, and a coniferous grove that
can be home to wildlife such as fox, deer and wild turkeys. It is home
to the headwaters of the Beaver Brook watershed. The grant also
provides $500,000 for 467 acres for the Southern Monadnock Plateau
Forest Legacy Project in Westminster. It enables the town, along with
the North County Land Trust, to acquire a parcel of forest, wetlands,
and meadowland adjacent to the state Department of Conservation and
Recreation’s Highridge Wildlife Management Area and Westminster’s
Muddy Pond Conservation Area. One of the 13 parcels protects the
Nashua River watershed. The project will “protect a natural and
working landscape, ensuring the property will continue to have working
agricultural and forest lands,” according to Mr. Bowles’ office. It
includes much of the Midstate Trail corridor, and is open to the
public for hiking, biking and cross-country skiing. The state will
give $24,500 for 21.5 acres of the Otter River conservation area
expansion. That will complement the Gardner Conservation Commission’s
10-year-old effort to create the Otter River conservation area on the
border of Gardner and Templeton. The property in the Otter River and
Pond Brook floodplain as well as the watershed protection district for
the city’s Snake Pond Well is a priority habitat for rare species. It
allows for an access and trails close to Gardner’s populated areas. It
is open to the public for canoeing, fishing and hiking. A 153.3-acre
project in Grafton among the Conservation Commission, the Trust for
Public Lands, and Grafton Land Trust got $500,000. Pell Farm, a
working farm with scenic landscape and a recreational area, connects
more than 480 acres of protected land and open space in Grafton and
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