"High Ridge" Area Abounds with Natural Resources

The white-face dot-tailed dragonfly was one of the species we encountered during the BioBlitz. Photo by Chris Menge
The white-face dot-tailed dragonfly was one of the species we encountered during the BioBlitz. Photo by Chris Menge

SVT and several of our conservation partners have determined that several thousand acres of land in Harvard, Littleton, and Boxborough provide much-needed habitat for wildlife while protecting important natural resources for humans.

These partners include the Littleton Conservation Trust (LCT), Harvard Conservation Trust (HCT), and Boxborough Conservation Trust (BCTrust). Along with other representatives of the three towns, this partnership has identified an area running along the Shrewsbury Ridge (south of Oak Hill in Littleton) as being of the utmost importance to conserve.

“The Shrewsbury Ridge is a remarkable area,” said Ashley Davies, Senior Land Conservation Specialist at SVT. “The ridge has vast undisturbed areas of forests, meadows, wetlands, and streams that provide habitat for countless plant and animal species.”

“In fact, The Nature Conservancy has identified the area as a ‘resilient site,’ which means it should continue to support a diverse array of plants and animals in a changing climate.”

Davies added that the extensive forests near the area’s many waterways also filter impurities out of our air and water, so they directly contribute to the health of the region’s wildlife and people.

She continued, “As a result of the important ecology of the region, SVT and our partners in the three towns consider this area to be a high priority for conservation. We’re cooperating on a project we call the ‘High Ridge Initiative’ in order to protect these important landscapes from wide-scale development that would have a negative impact on local health.”

Three properties have already been protected as part of the High Ridge Initiative: Horse Meadows Knoll in Harvard, Smith Conservation Area in Littleton, and Elizabeth Brook Knoll in Boxborough. All three properties have hiking trails that are open to the public.

The landscape of the region has undergone many changes over time, which has contributed to its rich wildlife habitat and interesting geologic formations. Twelve thousand years ago, the area around Oak Hill was covered by the waters of glacial Lake Nashua. As recently as the 1600s, forests filled the landscape, but these were cleared by colonial settlers for lumber and firewood. More recently, new forests have grown in abandoned agricultural fields, and these are interspersed with working farms and orchards.

During our recent BioBlitz event, SVT and our partners identified hundreds of species of plants and animals in the area.

To encourage the public to learn more about the natural resources and geology of the High Ridge region, we hosted a "Habitats of Horse Meadows Knoll" walk on July 17, and we are hosting two Geology of Smith Conservation Area tours of the Smith Property that spans the Littleton-Harvard line. Expert geologists will describe ponds, vernal pools, an esker, and numerous erratics that were left behind by the last glacier. Participants will also see bedrock exposures and learn how different types of rock fit into the general plate tectonics of the area.

The tour on July 22 is full, but there are still spaces available in the July 30 outing, which is scheduled to start at 6:00 p.m. Registration is required.