Preserving Western Massachusetts

When the gentleman from First Congregational Church called, announcing plans to revitalize Westfield's first town hall, he asked me if I'm a "preservationist."

And, I said "Yes," without even thinking about the question.

Now, that I've had time to think, I'd still say "Yes,"without question. And one of the things Id like to preserve is some open space on the scenic, historic and ecological landscapes of Western Massachusetts.

I'm proud of the fact that I played a role, albeit a very small one, in getting the Westfield River declared wild and scenic. And I'm delighted the Connecticut River has been designated an American Heritage River. I love rivers, having grown up on the banks of the mighty Missouri River.

And, I'm glad to say I'm not alone in loving the land. There are a lot of conservation groups, from Audubon Society to Westfield River Watershed Association, that do yeoman work in preserving today's world for tomorrow.

Among the groups is the Massachusetts Trustees of Reservations, a relatively little known coalition, even though it's been around since 1891, that seeks to get all of us to become more aware of the need to protect our natural assets and land in the Commonwealth.

They've just printed "conserving Our Commonwealth: A Vision for the Massachusetts Landscape." The Trustees outline their concerns--sprawl, unplanned developments, unappreciated roadscapes that we drive past daily, and the loss of working farm and forest lands, greenways and riverways, shorelands and water supplies.

There are some interesting quotes in the publication. Like John Mire's "When one tugs on a single thing in nature, one finds it attached to the rest of the world." And Charles Eliot's "Secure for your children and your childrenís children some of these scenes of special natural beauty which are still to be found."

And, if you can get a copy, you'll find some fascinating history, from the thick sheets of glacial ice and rock that descended on this area tens of thousands of years ago to the 1,000 species of native plants and animals we enjoy today, along with information about our dunes and bogs, forests and beaches.

People have been living in what is now our state for some 12,000 years and each generation has made major changes to the landscape and environment. The Trustees are trying to avoid even more changes so, among other things, they've made preservation of agricultural land in the Connecticut Valley one of their priorities.

They've also listed some of our major problems--like the proliferation of cellular towers, which "seriously mar the scenic qualities of the valley.î" Dams, blocking fish migration.

And, most seriously, loss of agricultural land, due to the accelerated pace of new housing developments. In fact, the Connecticut Valley has been declared the 19th most threatened agricultural region in the nation by the American Farmland Trust. Trustees think we'll lose 37,000 acres of farmland in our area in the next 20 years.

But not all is negative.

The Trustees note that Historic Deerfield has dozens of brick and frame buildings constructed before 1825 and that the paleontological sites of dinosaur footprints dating back 200 million years are still in good shape. Our mountains are an asset, as well.

The publication looks at the entire state, from the Berkshires to Boston to the Cape and Islands. And, it's a look forward, as well as a look back into history. If you want to know more, you'll find it a the Trustees' headquarters in Beverly, or at their website (www.thetrustees.org).

All materials copyright 1997 - 2014