Land Conservation Tools
- Legacy Planning Tool: The intent of this tool is to help those starting the estate planning process better understand their options and find a professional that can help.
- Protecting Your Legacy: A Massachusetts landowner’s guide to conservation-based estate planning.
- Using a Will to Pass On Your Land
- Land Conservation Options: An Intro for Landowners in the Highlands of Western MA
- Frequently Asked Questions About Conservation Restrictions
- Conservation Restriction Fact Sheet
- Using the Conservation Tax Incentive
Open Space Planning
- Fiscal Impacts of Land Use in Massachusetts: Up-to date Cost of Community Services Analyses for 4 Massachusetts Communities
- MassGIS Oliver
- Assessor’s Database
- Massachusetts Land Records
- Article 97 Land Disposition Policy
- Berkshire Wildlife Linkage
Land Management Tools
- Your Land, Your Choices: A Landowner’s Guide to Critical Decisions in Land Management and Protection
- Running the Numbers on Forest Conservation Tools
- Forest Carbon, An essential natural solution for climate change.
- Picking Our Battles A Guide to Planning Successful Invasive Plant Management Projects
- Best Management Practices for Grassland Birds
- Caring for your Woods
- A Starting Point Private Lands Forestry covers the basics of a management plan including the roll of a forester, Chapter 61 tax program and estate planning.
- Working with Nature Private Lands Forestry gives a peek into how a woodlot fits into the natural surroundings as well as potential changes from climate change and invasive species.
- A Valuable Resource Private Lands Forestry provides a basis for putting a plan into action.
The Working Forest Initiative
- Working Forest Initiative: providing services such as free woodland evaluations
- Forest Stewardship Program & Green Certification: Recognizing the public benefits of good stewardship on private forest land, the Massachusetts Forest Stewardship Program (MFSP) supports and encourages private forest landowners’ efforts to manage, enjoy, and care for their land using a long-term approach
- Foresters for the Birds: Provides landowners with information about bird habitat on their land, and recommendations about how to enhance it in conjunction with other forest management goals.
- Community Forest Stewardship Grant: offers grants to assist municipalities in implementing their Forest Stewardship Plan.
Other Programs for Land Owners
- MassWildlife Habitat Management Grant Program: Improve habitat(s) for game species, manage habitat(s) for Species of Greatest Conservation Need, and/or promote public recreational opportunities for hunting, fishing, trapping, and other wildlife associated recreation on conserved lands. See “Eligible Entities” in link.
- Forest Tax Law Program– assistance with the favorable tax treatment to forest landowners through MGL Chapter 61. Download booklet: Chapter 61 Programs Understanding the Massachusetts: Ch. 61 Current Use Tax Programs
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program: provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural and forestry producers to address natural resource concerns and deliver environmental benefits such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, reduced soil erosion and sedimentation, and improved or created wildlife habitat.
- Pooled Timber Income Fund (PTIF): For a Pooled Timber Income Fund, landowners donate their land to the New England Forestry Foundation, and the timber on that land to a pooled income fund set up and run by NEFF. Landowners receive shares in the fund proportional to the value of their timber donation.
Land protection specialist in Berkshire County
A land trust is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that actively works to conserve land as a part of its mission.
Local Land Trusts
- Alford Land Trust
- Becket Land Trust
- Egremont Land Trust
- Great Barrington Land Conservancy
- Lee Land Trust
- Lenox Land Trust
- Monterey Preservation Land Trust
- New Marlborough Land Trust
- Richmond Land Trust
- Sheffield Land Trust
- Stockbridge Land Trust
- Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation
Regional Land Trusts
- Berkshire Natural Resources Council (operates throughout Berkshire County)
- Mass Audubon (operates throughout Massachusetts)
- The Trustees (operates throughout Massachusetts)
- New England Forestry Foundation (operates throughout New England)
- The Nature Conservancy (operates worldwide)
Public Conservation Agency
- MA Department of Conservation and Recreation
- MA Department of Fish and Game – Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
A service forester is an employee of the state forestry agency who can speak with you and visit your land to provide free advice on management options and program opportunities.
- Peter Grima (serving Washington, Lenox, Richmond and North)
Phone: (413) 442-8928 x 127
- Tom Ryan (serving Stockbridge, Stockbridge, Lee, Becket South)
Phone: (413) 442-8928 x123
Find Surveyors, Appraisers, Accountants, and Attorneys
by town here: http://massland.org/resources/list-of-service-providers
- MassLand Conference- March 28, 2020 Worcester, MA
- MA Open Space Conference – April 25, 2020 Greenfield, MA
- Keystone- Application Deadline February 28, 2020
- Host a Woods Forum
Grants and Funding
In February BNRC will be hosting a series of Conservation Networks throughout Berkshire County. This effort is in partnership with UMass Cooperative Extension to implement the MA DCR’s Working Forests Initiative Estate Planning Outreach program, which aims to provide opportunities for those involved in conservation planning to meet each other, share information and experiences, provide training and resources, and meet land protection specialists working in communities. We hope participants from conservation commissions, green committees, conservation organizations, open space and recreation plan committees, etc. will be able to join the conversation.
Below you’ll find information on three upcoming meetings. As someone in your community interested in conservation, we hope you’ll join us! We’re anticipating a fourth event, in a central location to help address some of the common needs, with more experts brought in to share resources and information.
To RSVP please use the Eventbrite link below each event.
Wednesday, February 5th, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
Berkshire Athenaeum, The Athenaeum Room (1 Wendell Ave, Pittsfield, MA 01201)
Thursday, February 6th, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
North Adams Public Library (74 Church St, North Adams, MA 01247)
Wednesday, February 12th, 3:30 pm – 5:30 pm
Saint James Place, East Room (352 Main Street / Great Barrington, MA 01230)
For questions contact Mariah at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-499-0596.
By Evan Johnson
TerraCorps Member with Berkshire Natural Resources Council
As a kid I spent a lot of time hiking the mountains and woods surrounding my home town of North Adams. While I got to see a lot of great sites on these treks, I also got to have a lot of great conversations with my father ranging in topic from the fantastical stories of web-slingers and rings of power, to the simple novelties and mysteries the mundane holds for a child, to the very serious changing climate and what it meant for me and these places. And with the appreciation for my natural environment and the fear of their loss these walks through the woods gave me, I grew up.
Many years later and a few months ago, I joined TerraCorps with a position at the Berkshire Natural Resources Council, a decision that’s likely rooted in those conversations long ago. With my service has come a multitude of experiences, but perhaps the most striking is getting to return to these old places in the woods that I haven’t been to since I was very young. With these revisits comes the memories I have playing with my younger sister, my childhood dog enjoying the woods right alongside me, and the conversations me and my father had when we were there. From my service with TerraCorps, I’ve gotten to reconnect with my appreciation for the natural environment in the places that I first learned it. I have also gained an appreciation for the feeling of having a history with the land, and the feeling of being rooted to it.
But with these recollections comes the memories of the fear I felt as a child. However, the fear has taken a different shape. Through my education I have tools and through BNRC and TerraCorps I have connections. With these I have some power to make a difference for the trees and hills of my childhood that made a difference to me.
Almost 40% of land in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, part of the homelands of the Mohican Nation, is currently conserved. This land is under private and public ownership and hosts numerous recreational trails that are open and widely used by the public. Along trails you’ll likely see stone walls or a stone foundation—evidence of European settlers clearing the land for agriculture during the 18th and 19th centuries. That landscape history is widely discussed and well known. Yet the history and current engagements of Indigenous Peoples to this land are more hidden and less known.
Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) has been working to “protect and preserve that natural beauty and ecological integrity of the Berkshires for public benefit and enjoyment” for over 50 years and has protected over 22,000 acres of land throughout the county. With over 55 miles of trails open to the public, BNRC is interested in helping those of all ages establish a connection to the land. That connection can be deepened by storytelling. The past and present story of the Mohican Nation is one that BNRC is eager to share with all who engage with their homeland.
BNRC recognizes that we can play an active role in helping to expand the public’s awareness of the narrative of Indigenous Peoples. We are very thankful for the partnership, support, and volunteered time of the Stockbridge-Munsee Language & Culture Committee for developing language for two interpretive signs and to Stockbridge Munsee Tribal Council for approving these signs. The signs are now standing at BNRC’s Hoosac Range Reserve in North Adams and Thomas & Palmer Brook Reserve in Great Barrington.
An excerpt from one interpretive sign says “The lands in the Berkshires continue to be of great significance to the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican people… [who] continue to value its history and promote public educational opportunities such as historical trips, walking tours, and history events that promote the Tribe’s presence and celebrate its heritage.”
Including these narratives on the lands we now care for promotes an understanding and acknowledgement of what was and what is. It also encourages the awakening of a wider social and ecological consciousness. BNRC looks forward to future partnerships and welcomes feedback and conversations on additional ways to contribute.
Harvest season kicked off with a new bridge for the Threemile Hill Trail
Volunteers and representatives from MA Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), Great Barrington Land Conservancy (GBLC), and Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) gathered at Fountain Pond on a chilly September morning. The goal for the day was to replace a rustic footbridge along the Threemile Hill Trail.
Background was given about the power of partnership before the workday began from GBLC, DCR, and BNRC representatives. The Threemile Hill Trail crosses property owned by DCR, BNRC, and Berkshire South Community Center and was accomplished through the Great Barrington Trails & Greenways collaboration. This trail connects to the more recent Community Health Programs Loop which has increased public use. Adam Morris, Forest and Park Regional Coordinator (DCR), also told the story of the land history and how what we see today is a clue into the past.
With an elevated understanding of the project, the crew began plugging away at the needed tasks: measuring the bridge site, felling two trees, bucking up and then debarking the trees, moving the prepared logs to their new home, securing them, and lastly, applying the finishing touches—easy enough? Absolutely, with a group of spirited volunteers! Five hours later (with a break for lunch, cider, and apple cake) the project was complete!
The end result was satisfying to say the least. All involved left with a huge sense of gratitude for the artistic skills and physical efforts that go into trail structures and maintenance.