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Land protected from development.

BARRE - With the help of a federal grant, the town has bought conservation restrictions to two properties that total 133 acres and enlarge Rutland Brook Wildlife Sanctuary to the east and west.

The conservation restrictions prohibit residential, commercial or industrial development on the two properties, requiring that they remain for forestry, conservation and recreational use. The properties, off Butterworth and Old Stage roads, respectively, abut the 1,500-acre sanctuary, which extends from Petersham into Barre.

The Massachusetts Audubon Society had purchased the two tracts and needed to raise money to pay off a loan.

"We feared that to repay the loan we would need to sell part of the land or enter into a long-term lease of the property," said Charlie Wyman, land protection specialist for Massachusetts Audubon."

"The availability of help from the Forest Legacy Program was a godsend, allowing us to protect all of this wonderful land," he said of the federal grant program, which is administered by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation.

He said the land has a mix of pine and oak woodland as well as wooded swamp.

According to deeds recorded with the Worcester County Registry of Deeds, the town paid $212,000 for the restriction on the Old Stage Road property and $157,000 for the Butterworth Road conservation restriction.

"These wonderful additions to Rutland Brook Wildlife Sanctuary contain valuable wildlife habitat and will offer people additional opportunities for hiking and nature study," said Laura Johnson, Massachusetts Audubon president.

"We are thrilled that with the help of many individuals and entities, including the federal Forest Legacy Program, these properties will remain forever protected."

The land is part of the Quabbin Corridor Connection Forest Legacy Project, under which the Mount Grace Land Trust had protected 2,024 acres using Forest Legacy money.

To date, seven properties totaling 1,065 acres have been protected. The Quabbin Corridor Connection preserves corridors of forested land that allow wildlife to move between the Quabbin Reservation and the Popple Camp, Prince River, and Phillipston Wildlife Management areas.

Ultimately, including existing conserved land such as Massachusetts Audubon's Rutland Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, the Quabbin Corridor Connection will include 80,000 acres of protected habitat interlaced among the rural homes and farms of Petersham, Phillipston, Barre and southeast Athol.

The Conservation Commission, with assistance from Mount Grace, will monitor the land, ensuring the terms of the restrictions are respected.

"Working in partnership across the landscape with many local landowners, agencies and boards is making it possible to expand and connect many existing public and private conservation areas in a nine-mile extent from Barre north to Athol," said Leigh Youngblood, executive director of Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust.

"Collectively these conserved lands will provide greater ecological benefits for generations to come, which underscores the importance of thinking and acting regionally," Ms. Youngblood said.

One of the properties, 30 acres on Butterworth Road, was owned for many years by George W. Yonker Jr. of West Street.

When the land was sold to a developer in 2004, Massachusetts Audubon negotiated to buy the most significant habitat, relying on donations and a loan to complete the purchase.

Massachusetts Audubon bought the other property, 103 acres on Old Stage Road, in April from Raymond Alexandrovich.

Judy Schmitz, Conservation Commission chairman, said she, too, was pleased the land is now forever protected.

"Not only are the properties valuable individually, they are even more important as an extension of an undeveloped corridor that stretches from Barre to Athol," she said.

"It is gratifying to witness the preservation of land that contains a mosaic of upland and wetland habitats. And while the Conservation Commission has the ability to protect wetlands, upland parcels in particular have very little protection from development. The Barre Conservation Commission is grateful to Mass. Audubon for facilitating the preservation of these parcels," Ms. Schmitz said.

In addition to the Forest Legacy grant, money to protect that property came from several sources - the state's Conservation Partnership program, the Fields Pond Foundation and the William P. Wharton Trust - bringing Mass. Audubon to within $18,000 of its fundraising goal.

Additional donations toward the remaining $18,000 may be sent to Liz Albert, manager of Land Campaigns, Massachusetts Audubon Society, 208 South Great Road, Lincoln, MA 01773.

ART: MAP

CUTLINE: Properties purchased for conservation

PHOTOG: T&G Staff/DON LANDGREN JR.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 17, 2008
Words:723
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