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Your Fall Newsyletter

Posted Monday, September 11, 2023

Dear reader,

I have so much good news to share that I’m going to dive right in.

First of all, THANK YOU!! to the very many of you who responded to the Spring Challenge Match fundraising drive. Together, we claimed all available matching challenge dollars with a couple of days to spare.

Everything I am writing about here, and everything BNRC does, depends on donors. So if you were part of the Challenge, or gave last fall, or have remembered BNRC in your estate plans, you can feel extra proud as you read this because you made it happen.


On to the news!

I don’t often write to you about two-acre conservation projects—most of the time we’re going for hundreds, to have maximum impact on the landscape. But in this case, two acres makes all the difference.

We’ve been working to conserve land on Tom Ball Mountain since 2018. So far, about 930 acres of gorgeous landscape and extremely special habitat is under protection.

Supporters of those projects have been wondering when trails will formally open. While there are already trails through this beautiful conservation land, we needed to find a spot for a parking area and trailhead. I’m pleased to share that, earlier this year, BNRC closed on a small parcel of land on Alford Road where we can put a modestly sized lot, and get folks out onto this gorgeous property.

There’s more work to be done—planning and building a trail system to be both beautiful and sustainable over the long term takes time. But now we can get started, and I expect my summer 2024 Newsyletter will announce the opening of BNRC’s reserve at Tom Ball.

Even after a trail opens, work continues. Recent visitors to Parsons Marsh this spring noticed a lot of digging and building and planting near the pond. The BNRC team—staff and volunteers—repaired the dam, removed invasives, and planted native plants along the edge (thank you toHelia Native NurseryandWard’s Nursery & Garden Center for your assistance!)

By next spring, the new plantings will look amazing and be even more supportive to the wild creatures who live there. It’s not the first native planting project at Parsons Marsh. A few years back, the Lenox Garden Club created a native pollinator garden in the fields just up the path from the pond, and it’s thriving.

Wild Acres isn’t a BNRC reserve—it belongs to the City of Pittsfield and is an oasis for thousands of city residents. Last fall we learned that a 36-foot bridge there had deteriorated so much that it was unsafe to use. BNRC staffers Josh, Mariah, Charlotte, Tyler, and the amazing BNRC volunteer corps were thrilled to provide support to the City’s parks department to design, build, and install a new bridge on the existing steel structure.

I hope you’ll read the full story of the work at Wild Acres “Bridging the Gaps” at—it’s such a wonderful example of collaboration, service, and living our values as individuals and as an organization.


Beaver Deceivers: we’ve gotten a question or two about a Beaver Deceiver recently installed at Thomas & Palmer Brook. It’s an ingenious device that keeps the water level from rising without harming the animals or the wetlands fostered by the beaver dams.

The Deceivers are surprisingly simple and inexpensive: essentially a culvert with a drainpipe and a wire cage that prevents the beavers from clogging it. Beavers are drawn to the sound of running water and will dam up any noisy leak in a matter of hours, so what makes the Deceivers so successful is the pipe is completely underwater and thus silent. Their design insures the health and safety of the beavers—they may move to a new location temporarily, but are in no way harmed.

I recently had the chance to meet with Rebecca Tepper, Massachusetts’ new Secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs—EEOA. That’s the agency that oversees several of BNRC’s most important partners: the Departments of Fish and Game (MassWildlife), Conservation and Recreation (DCR), and Agricultural Resources (MDAR).

I was thrilled to hear Secretary Tepper describe the serious commitment the Healey Administration is making to advance land conservation, forest management, and farm preservation. Like BNRC, they see the urgency of stepping up the pace of protection.

As we endured the practically biblical weather events of the last few months—smoke, fire, floods, heat waves, and the devastating destruction to life and property—it became clearer than ever that every day, every action we take, counts.

Healthy watersheds mitigate flooding. Forests provide cooling and, as we so often say, remove carbon from the air.

BNRC, as always and all the more now, stands ready to work with our conservation colleagues and partners in the Berkshires and beyond to reach ambitious goals for climate resiliency.

BNRC donors make this possible. Can you donate this season, or become a monthly supporter? Your generosity will be put to smart, lasting use.


Every once in a while I like to give you hints about projects underway—conservation work that requires trust and privacy until the projects have closed.

For example:

. . . a South County parcel that was the last missing piece of a critically important conservation landscape. It is home to eight endangered species and some of the highest priority habitat in the region. The plan for this project is particularly unusual and very exciting, and I can’t wait to be able to share more about it.

. . . nearly 1,000 acres of prime forest and fields in North County owned by several separate families. One landowner approached us to explore putting a conservation restriction on his land, and then talked to each of his neighbors and encouraged them to do the same.

. . . a 178-acre parcel in Central County, next door to one of BNRC’s most beautiful reserves, that will protect a forested ridgeline, and will make a potential future High Road connection.

. . . speaking of The High Road, there are now five routes in various stages of development which, when completed, will add many miles of hiking trails across the County, connecting towns to each other and to nature reserves. Segments planned to the south (Great Barrington), central (Pittsfield) and north (North Adams) are the Berkshire High Road routes likely to proceed first. The dream BNRC first floated nearly ten years ago is moving closer to reality every day.

So many of us feel a deeply personal connection to nature—it’s where we feel like our truest selves, or where we find peace, or adventure.

My love of nature started with the birds in my urban Detroit backyard and was fostered during summers at sleepaway camp in the far northern woods in Michigan. (Campcraft was my favorite activity, and I can still start a great fire.)

When it’s personal—when you love and care for something—you fight for it.

And we all need to fight for nature, now.

What makes the fight personal for you? I’d love to hear from you.

Yours truly,

Jenny Hansell

P.S. Will you help me fight for our Berkshire forests, rivers, and farm fields? For farmers? For free access to the healing power of nature for everybody? Find the ways to donate that are right for you at BNRC is donor funded. Learn more about conserving land, volunteering, and how to explore the Berkshire outdoors for free at