September Change for Change: Hilltown Land Trust

Hilltown Land Trust works to conserve ecologically important wildlands, economically and culturally important working lands, and the scenic beauty and rural character of the Hilltowns. They have conserved over 5,000 acres of land, including hiking trails and other public access properties, in addition to land for wildlife habitat, climate resilience, and so much more. They also provide public education and recreation opportunities at very low or no cost to connect people with the natural world.

Protecting Local Wildlife

A portion of forest land that Hilltown Land Trust owns in Westhampton is being managed as part of the statewide Foresters for the Birds program, with support from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. This program – a partnership between the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, Mass Audubon, and Massachusetts Woodlands Institute – seeks to enhance habitat for birds with declining populations through careful forest management. A 10-acre forest gap on Hilltown Land Trust's land will encourage the growth of small shrubs and saplings which provide important early successional forest habitat for Golden-winged Warblers, American Woodcock, Eastern Towhee, and many other bird species.

In addition to improving bird habitat, this forest gap offers hikers a newly-created and expansive view of Mt. Greylock and Mt. Monadnock, as well as the surrounding hills, and is producing sustainable wood products for local use. Red oak from a recent harvest was used to build the entryway awning to the new River Valley Co-op store in Easthampton. Hemlock from a previous small-scale harvest on the Huntington portion of this same property was used to build the post-and-beam entryway at the River Valley Co-op store in Northampton.

The Case for Local Wood

Just as the local food movement cuts down on carbon emissions from food transportation and supports the local economy by supporting local jobs and businesses, the local wood movement is gaining traction in Western Massachusetts. Using local wood benefits woodland landowners, wildlife and our local economy. In Massachusetts, 98% of our wood products are imported, so every foot of local wood we use can make a big difference.

Studies have shown that every resident in Massachusetts uses the equivalent of one 18” wide, 100’ tall tree each year. Trees need to be cut somewhere to fill this need. If trees are cut in a local area, milled locally, and used in a local project, as they are at the co-op's Easthampton store, then the carbon footprint of harvesting this timber is significantly decreased. The wood used in River Valley Coop's new store was harvested in Westhampton and milled at a local saw mill, both less than ten miles from the store's site.

Hilltown Land Trust (HLT) has permanently protected 735 acres of forest land surrounding Mt. Pisgah in Huntington and Westhampton. An additional 1,200 acres of adjacent forest is permanently protected by other organizations, creating a nearly 2,000 acre block of conserved forestland.

To learn more about Hilltown Land Trust, click here.


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