In Mass., stitching together land to save wildlife

The Quabbin Reservoir, in central Massachusetts.

The Quabbin Reservoir, in central Massachusetts.

From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in

One of the lethal challenges facing other animals as humans relentlessly develop land and destroy natural habitat is that there are smaller and smaller parcels for wild creatures to roam in. But local conservationists are working hard to try to address this as best they can.

For example, in Petersham, Mass., a $7 million federal Forest Legacy grant and a $1.2 million Massachusetts Landscape Partnership grant are helping to fund the protection of Chimney Hill Farm -- 760 acres of forest and fields -- as part of the Quabbin Heritage Landscape Partnership. The ambitious partnership seeks to ensure that there are long stretches of contiguous countryside in north-central Massachusetts.

The aim has been to create “a vast, interconnected 130,000-acre quilt of conservation land made up of different but adjacent protected lands that include state parks and wildlife management areas, working farms, wildlife sanctuaries and privately owned woodlands, a remarkable result for one of the most densely populated states in the country,” Jay Rasku, stewardship and engagement director of the Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, one of the partners, told The Worcester Telegram.

More animal species will go extinct without many more efforts like these. Some opportunistic animals, such as raccoons, coyotes and deer, have learned how to survive in small tracts, in part by eating food planted by or left by humans. But others, such as (usually!) bears, wildcats and many bird species, need spacious protected countryside away from humans.

There are also such obvious benefits (for humans and other animals) of interconnecting these tracts as protecting watersheds.

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