SVT Welcomes Two AmeriCorps Members for Coming Year

Left to right: Jonathan Haarstick and Matt Morris
Matt Morris (left) and Jonathan Haarstick met at Wolbach Farm during a time of social distancing.

SVT is pleased to welcome two members of the national AmeriCorps service program who joined our staff on September 8. 

Jonathan Haarstick, a first-year AmeriCorps member, has joined SVT as Community Engagement Coordinator. He is a recent graduate of UMass Amherst, where he majored in marketing and minored in natural resource conservation.

Jonathan will work with the Development and Community Engagement staff to increase public support for land protection, revitalization, and conservation initiatives. In the short time since his arrival, he has taken responsibility for producing the Nature Sightings newsletter, worked with the stewardship staff on a deer management project, and joined the outreach efforts for new conservation projects.

In addition, Matthew Morris is returning for a second year of service as Land Stewardship Coordinator. In his first term, Matt, who earned a bachelor’s degree in wildlife and conservation biology from the University of New Hampshire, assisted with program development for the Native Pollinator Task Force, produced guidance booklets on field management and forest health, and trained volunteers and partners on wildlife culvert passage evaluations.

In the coming year, Matt will continue to support the NPTF, will train volunteers to assess forest health, and will expand stewardship volunteer capacity in the region.

Matt is already hard at work. Since returning to SVT, he has led volunteer training sessions, reconnected with the NPTF members, and built deer exclosures at Smith Conservation Land and Cowassock Woods.

Jonathan and Matthew joined SVT through the TerraCorps program that places AmeriCorps members at Massachusetts and Rhode Island organizations that protect land and support environmental sustainability.

SVT has hosted 19 AmeriCorps members over the past 11 years, many of whom now hold positions at conservation organizations across the country.

Laura Mattei, SVT Director of Stewardship, who has supervised many AmeriCorps members, has strong praise for the program:

"TerraCorps-AmeriCorps trains our future conservation leaders. The AmeriCorps members gain hands-on experience with planning and executing conservation projects, and the host sites benefit from the energy and enthusiasm of young conservationists. The members who have served at SVT have enabled us to expand our efforts to conserve land, restore wildlife habitats, and engage more volunteers.”

Bird Box Reports

Photo by Pam Keeney.
Photo by Pam Keeney.

It's a banner year for bluebirds. SVT's volunteer bird box monitors are sending in their year-end reports, and they have seen dozens of bluebird fledglings!

SVT maintains 58 bird boxes across 11 properties to encourage bluebirds, as well as tree swallows and house wrens, to nest and lay eggs. Our volunteers regularly check on the progress of the boxes and upload their findings to Cornell's Nestwatch app to provide valuable data to researchers.

We're thrilled with the success of this year's program, and we invite you to check out the reports (and photos) that our volunteers have filed.

CPA on the Ballot in Framingham, Shrewsbury

Mainstone Farm in Wayland is one of the many properties that have been conserved with the help of CPA funds. Photo by Raj Das.
Mainstone Farm in Wayland is one of the many properties that have been conserved with the help of CPA funds. Photo by Raj Das.

In this fall's elections, the residents of Framingham and Shrewsbury will have a chance to approve the Community Preservation Act (CPA) and set aside money for various local projects, including open space projects.

When a community approves CPA, a small surcharge is added to municipal property taxes to create a Community Preservation Fund that can be used for four types of local projects: Open Space, Recreation, Historic Preservation, and Affordable Housing.

Without CPA funding, many of the conservation lands we enjoy today would not have been preserved. CPA funding was essential to several projects on which SVT has worked, including Mainstone Farm in Wayland and Sweetwilliam Farm in Upton. This funding remains a critical resource for land protection. 

On the Ballot

During the November election, Framingham and Shrewsbury voters are being asked to approve a 1% surcharge on their property taxes. (The first $100,000 of property evaluation is exempt, and there are other exemptions for low-income and elderly residents.) The Massachusetts Department of Revenue also adds an annual distribution to the fund, creating an additional incentive to pass CPA.  

SVT encourages our Framingham and Shrewsbury members to Vote Yes on the CPA ballot question.

For those planning to use mail-in voting, the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth recommends that you request your ballot by October 20; the firm deadline is October 28.

Get Involved

In addition to encouraging a Yes vote, we also encourage you to connect with the organizations that are working to pass CPA in your community:

The Massachusetts CPA law was enacted in 2000. To date, 177 cities and towns have passed CPA, including 27 of the 36 communities in the SVT region. In addition to Framingham and Shrewsbury, nine other communities are voting on CPA this fall. 

Forest Health Toolkit Now Available

The Metrowest Conservation Alliance (MCA) has produced a Forest Health Toolkit to help conservation commissions and local land trusts assess the health of their wooded properties and make decisions about land management. Although designed primarily for volunteers who care for public lands, the toolkit is also appropriate for anyone who owns a wooded property.

Forest Health: An Introductory Guide for Conservation Volunteers of Eastern Massachusetts describes the visual cues that indicate how well a forest can sustain both itself and the wildlife that rely upon it. Download a copy.

MCA programs are coordinated by SVT.

Great American Outdoors Act Holds Promise for Local Projects

Conservationists around the country celebrated when the Great American Outdoors Act was signed into law by the President last week. This act provides full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) that underwrites grants for conservation projects at the federal, state, and local levels.  

The Great American Outdoors Act guarantees that $900 million will be deposited in the LWCF each year. The funding comes not from taxpayers but from offshore oil and gas royalty payments.

The permanent funding is good news for those who work to protect natural areas and wildlife habitats. SVT anticipates that the funding will provide a direct boost to conservation efforts in the region, where our municipal partners often apply for LWCF grants to help them pay for local conservation projects. For example, the Town of Berlin used LWCF funds when it purchased and conserved the overlook on the top of Mount Pisgah in 2018 (pictured).

Save the Date: SVT's Annual Meeting

Award Recipients at the 2019 SVT Annual Meeting.

Please make plans to join us for our 2020 Annual Meeting, which we will hold as an online event:

Thursday, September 24
7:00 p.m.

Even though we are unable to gather in person this year, we will still take this opportunity to honor the recipients of our Annual Conservation Awards, review SVT successes from the past year, and get a preview of upcoming projects. All are invited to attend. Get more details and register

SVT, OARS Featured on Channel 5 Newscast

On Thursday, August 7, 2020, SVT's Lisa Vernegaard and OARS' Alison Field-Juma were featured on the 5:30 p.m. news broadcast on WCVB-TV.

Reporter Josh Brogadir interviewed the two Executive Directors about the filamentous green algae that is spreading through local waterways. SVT and OARS both work in the 36-community region around the Sudbury, Assabet, and Concord Rivers. SVT focuses on protecting land in the region, while OARS focuses on protecting the rivers themselves.

Lisa and Alison explained that hotter summers are making the problem worse, and that there are steps we can all take to help save our rivers.

Watch the story on the WCVB-TV website.

Have You Received Unsolicited Seeds in the Mail?

The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) has learned that several Massachusetts residents have received unsolicited packages of seeds in the mail. The packages appear to have originated in a foreign country.

The exact types of seeds are unknown, but they are thought to be invasive plant species and could pose a risk to local agriculture and the environment. The seeds are not believed to be harmful to humans or pets.

MDAR encourages Massachusetts residents that receive an unsolicited package of seeds to not plant the seeds. Instead, please complete a form on MDAR website to provide important information to state plant regulatory officials, and hold on to the seeds and all packaging, including the mailing label. A representative from the U.S. Department of Agriculture or MDAR will be in contact with instructions regarding the collection or disposal of the seeds.

Seen Any Butterflies Lately?

UMass Extension needs your help. The Extension has been hearing from people who perceive a decline in the state's butterfly population, but it does not have enough data to either verify or refute that perception. To collect the data, the Extension is asking state residents to take a survey that asks about the butterflies they have seen in their yards.

Please share your observations at

SVT has been hearing similar comments about butterflies from attendees at our webinar programs, so we’re eager to see the survey results, too. Please participate!

Job Opening at SVT: Development Associate (Part Time)

SVT has an opening for a part-time (17 hours/week) Development Associate based out of our Wolbach Farm headquarters. 

The Development Associate will be responsible for database reporting, prospect management systems, gift recording, and data integrity using SVT’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database. Additionally, the Development Associate will generate financial and analytical reports, assist with event planning, and provide some administrative support. 

Read the complete job description and application instructions.