News

Saving the Wild Lupines

Wild lupine. Photo by Ginny Hutchison.
Drying wild lupine seed pods. Photo by Nan Burke and Don Burn.

SVT is taking pre-emptive steps to save the threatened wild lupine at our Memorial Forest Reservation in Sudbury. This native plant, which blooms in shades of blue and white, is uncommon in our local woods, yet it provides good food for pollinators and birds. 

Wild lupine is one of the species that we have been trying to protect as part of our habitat restoration project at this property. Unfortunately, Eversource is planning to install a high-power utility line in the area where these beautiful flowers grow, which could prevent them from blooming in the future. 

To help save the wild lupine, SVT volunteers Nan Burke and Don Burn collected seed pods from this year’s blooms and are drying the pods in the garden window of their home. Later this year, we’ll plant the seeds at other locations at Memorial Forest.

Fingers crossed, we’ll be enjoying wild lupine blossoms once again in 2021.

This isn't the first time that Nan has played an important role in helping us restore habitat. A few years ago, she collected and germinated the seeds of common milkweed plants that provide food for the caterpillars of monarch butterflies. We shared the plants with our members in order to add this important habitat to gardens throughout the region. Nan has also raised and released the butterflies themselves. Read more about these projects.

 

 

Assessing Stream Crossings for Wildlife Safety

Matt Morris, an SVT AmeriCorps Member, assessed a culvert in Harvard.

Wildlife in the region around Harvard, Littleton, and Boxborough may soon benefit from the efforts of SVT and other conservation groups who have assessed local culverts and stream crossings.

We have evaluated 46 crossings and culverts in the region to determine whether any could be upgraded or renovated to create safe wildlife corridors.

“Whether they swim, hop, crawl or slither, the stream flowing through the underground culvert is the critical path for many species to survive,” said Don MacIver, President of the Littleton Conservation Trust. “It may be the route for a slow-moving snapping turtle trying to find a sandy area to lay its eggs or the long distance migrant American eel returning from the Sargasso Sea winding its way through many barriers reaching far inland to a home stream bed.”

Culverts make it possible for cars, bicycles, and pedestrians to cross over a stream, but they can create blockages in the stream itself and prevent fish and other wildlife from safely navigating the waterway.

For example, culverts that sit below water level on one side of a road but above water level on the other side prevent fish from swimming upstream. Culverts that encompass only the width of a stream and not any of the adjacent land offer no help to small animals that travel along stream banks in search of food and nesting habitat. If forced to cross over the road, these animals risk being hit by cars.

“Upon climbing down an embankment there almost always is a surprise as to what the culvert and stream are like – possibly massive granite stonework, abandoned piping, or a poured concrete sluiceway,” said MacIver.

Marc Sevigny, Clerk of the Harvard Conservation Trust, explained that “Simple design changes when replacing a culvert can mean the difference between safe passage of fish and wildlife under roadways, or a barrier to their free movement.”

The assessments were completed by SVT and our partners in the  High Ridge Initiative (HRI), which aims to protect more than 1,900 acres of forest and farmland in the region. We used assessment protocols developed by North Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Collaborative. In Fall 2019, SVT sponsored training sessions in the protocols for the HRI partners.

The assessment team is now reviewing their data to identify which culverts are good candidates for improvements. To help pay for the upgrades, the three communities may be eligible for state funding through the Massachusetts Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program

The MVP program encourages Massachusetts towns and cities to improve their resiliency to the effects of climate change, and it provides funds to help communities perform vulnerability assessments and implement specific projects.

Culvert upgrades are listed as a “nature-based solution” for mitigating the effects of climate change. The upgrades enhance flood resiliency, improve river and stream ecosystems, and allow for aquatic and terrestrial wildlife passage, making the people and wildlife of a community more able to withstand climate change.

Harvard Residents Support APR at Prospect Hill Orchard

At their Annual Town Meeting on June 20, 2020, voters in the Town of Harvard agreed to contribute $150,000 of Community Preservation Funds toward the purchase of an agricultural preservation restriction (APR) on Prospect Hill Orchard. 

SVT is part of the team that is working to conserve the land, and we are thrilled that town residents took this important step toward its protection.

The 75-acre orchard is owned and operated by Community Harvest Project (CHP), a nonprofit organization that engages volunteers in the fight against hunger and supplies apples to local food banks.

To ensure the future of its charitable work, CHP has teamed up with the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, the Town of Harvard, Harvard Conservation Trust (HCT), and SVT to raise funds to endow the orchard. This will be done through the sale of the APR, which will allow farming to continue on the land and prevent the property from ever being developed.

Learn more.

 

Wanted: Weed Warriors

SVT volunteers attended a Weed Warrior training session on June 17, 2020.

SVT has launched a Weed Warrior program to tackle invasive plants at some of our reservations. SVT Weed Warriors are volunteers who work independently on SVT properties to manually remove invasive plants.

To qualify as a Weed Warrior, a volunteer must attend an SVT training session and receive certification from SVT. Once certified, Weed Warriors can go out on their own time to any of the designated locations to manage the invasive plants present. Certified Weed Warriors are allowed to supervise their family unit or a friend (social distanced of course) to assist tackling the invasive plants.

If you have an aptitude for plant identification and a willingness to work independently, this is the volunteer opportunity you've been waiting for! Learn more.

Thistle Dew Success!

Thank you to the many wonderful donors who contributed to the protection of Thistle Dew Farm in Holliston. With your support, we reached our fundraising goal of $150,000.

Special thanks to the anonymous donor who pledged $100,000 and to Mass Audubon for securing the anonymous gift. Thanks also to the Town of Holliston Open Space Committee for its contribution.

A closing is anticipated for the fall, at which time the property will be permanently protected under an Agricultural Preservation Restriction. Read more about Thistle Dew.

Stewardship Technicians Join SVT for the Summer

We are pleased to announce that Deven Moroney and Kayleen Larose have joined the SVT staff as Seasonal Stewardship Technicians. Hiring new staff during a time of social distancing is tricky, but our Stewardship staff is successfully training Deven and Kayleen while following all safety precautions.

Deven, who is studying Wildlife Ecology at the University of Maine, is an Eagle Scout who has also volunteered at Mass Audubon's Broad Meadow Brook Sanctuary. Kayleen holds a B.S. from Plymouth State University and has served in the AmeriCorps program with U.S. Fish and Wildlife. She also has been an apprentice with the U.S. Forest Service.

In their first few weeks on the job, Deven and Kalyeen have helped with a trail closure to prevent erosion at Greenways Reservation in Wayland, removed invasive plants at several reservations, posted signs, and participated in a wild plant inventory at Memorial Forest in Sudbury.

Most recently, they removed Oriental bittersweet at a stream crossing at Memorial Forest and also installed a section of fence to keep dogs out of Hop Brook. (A reminder to all visitors: Please keep your dogs leashed at all times and do not let them run into the water at our reservations.)

You're likely to see Deven and Kayleen diligently working on our properties this summer. Be sure to say hello!

Webinar Programs Scheduled for Summer 2020

In place of our usual in-person outings and educational events, SVT has scheduled several webinar programs for this summer.

Topics will include beavers, wildflowers, and monarch butterflies. Some programs are open exclusively to SVT members. 

Not a member? Join Today

Visit our Calendar page to register (Registration required. Space is limited.)

  • Spring Wildflowers with Ted Elliman
  • Introduction to Foraging with Rachel Goclawski 
  • Magical Monarchs with Dr. Elke Jahns-Harms
  • Invasives Management: Our Gardens and the Big Picture with SVT's Kristin O'Brien (Member Exclusive)
  • Lives of Beaver with SVT's Dan Stimson (Member Exclusive)
  • Bees, Birds & Butterflies in the Garden with SVT's Lisa Vernegaard (Member Exclusive)

As we schedule more online programs, we'll add them to our Calendar and also announce them on Facebook.

SVT Continues Opposition to Eversource Project at Memorial Forest

Many species of wildlife find habitat in Memorial Forest. Photo by Dan Foster.
Many species of wildlife find habitat in Memorial Forest. Photo by Dan Foster.

(Update, 7/1/2020: The hearing planned for June 15, 2020, has been continued for a second time until July 8, 2020.)

For the past several years, SVT has opposed the efforts of Eversource to place a 115-kv transmission line along an abandoned MBTA railroad corridor that runs through Sudbury, Marlborough, Stow, and Hudson.

The proposed underground utility line will cut through hundreds of acres of conservation land that was paid for with private, municipal, state, and federal dollars. This includes the Desert Natural Area, which sits at the intersection of Hudson, Marlborough, and Sudbury and incorporates SVT's Memorial Forest.

In 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) announced its support of the Eversource project. DCR also announced that it would like to install a recreational trail atop the proposed utility line.

The Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board approved the project in December 2019, and Eversource and DCR have now filed a joint Notice of Intent to construct the transmission line and a paved recreational path along the MBTA right of way, which extends for more than seven miles from Sudbury to Hudson.

The Sudbury Conservation Commission held a public hearing on this Notice of Intent at its April 13, 2020, and compiled 11 pages of questions that are expected to be addressed by Eversource at another public hearing on June 15.

At SVT, we have followed the Eversource proposal closely, and we have determined that the installation and maintenance of the transmission line will severely impact a globally rare natural community, several listed rare species, a rich assemblage of wetland resource areas, and hundreds of acres of conservation lands. We have filed several public letters of opposition as the project has wended its way through regulatory reviews.

On April 16, SVT filed a public letter of opposition to the Notice of Intent. We believe that there are enough significant differences between the utility line and recreational trail projects that their environmental impacts must be assessed independently. We are urging the conservation commissions of all three communities--Sudbury, Hudson, and Marlborough-- to consider the full scope of the environmental impacts along the entire length of the MBTA right of way and to coordinate their reviews of the proposal.

An SVT staff member will attend the Sudbury Conservation Commission public hearing on June 15, and we invite our Sudbury members to attend as well.

You can learn more about the project at:

Open Space Conference Webinars Available Online

The 2020 Massachusetts Open Space Conference, which became a series of six webinars when COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the in-person event, has posted its webinars online. 

The annual conference is a peer-to-peer learning event where volunteer members of municipal open space committees and conservation commissions share information about successful projects and possible funding sources. SVT AmeriCorps Member Sara Amish was part of the committee that planned the 2020 conference.

The six webinars from the 2020 conference are designed for anyone interested in the nuts and bolts of municipal open space projects:

  • The Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program
  • Creating Open Space Committees & Keeping Them Alive
  • Land Protection Basics: How a Community Can Protect Land
  • Stewarding Town Land
  • Navigating the Community Preservation Act
  • Outreach to Landowners in Your Community

 

Help Pull Garlic Mustard at Cowassock Woods

Rob St. Germain, a member of the Ashland Town Forest Committee and an SVT Volunteer, has been working to reduce garlic mustard and other invasive plants at the entrance to SVT's Cowassock Woods Reservation in Framingham.

So far, Rob has collected enough garlic mustard to fill three large rice bags and a large contractor bag. And there's still more to go.

You can help!  Please feel free to go on your own to Cowassock Woods and pull garlic mustard from around the entrance kiosk on Salem End Road. Garlic mustard can be piled tightly on a rock to dry out and die. (Please send us a photo to show us how much you pull!)

For tips on identifying and pulling garlic mustard, watch this video created by Kristin O'Brien, SVT Land Steward.