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.

Trail Opens at Peach Hill in Berlin

John Aney helped to install the new trail sign at Peach Hill Conservation Area. The trail officially opened on July 15.

The Town of Berlin and SVT have opened a public hiking trail at the town’s Peach Hill Conservation Area on Lancaster Road. The new Mountain Laurel Trail runs through the Peach Hill land for about a mile before connecting with trails on the Town of Bolton’s Fyfeshire Conservation Area.

“Volunteers were key to our success,” said John Aney, Chair of the Berlin Conservation Commission. “They scouted out the best route, cleared the path, removed barbed wires, and posted trail markers.”

SVT assisted the town in protecting a large portion of the new conservation area. We temporarily acquired 30 acres of the land last fall until the town could obtain grant funding for the purchase. The town purchased those 30 acres from us earlier this year and combined them with an adjacent 50 acres it already owned to create the Peach Hill Conservation Area. SVT holds a conservation restriction on the 30 acres we helped to protect.

Peach Hill provides a link between other protected lands in Berlin and Bolton to create a contiguous wildlife corridor and forest block totaling more than 1,150 acres. 

Dan Stimson, Assistant Director of Stewardship at SVT, commented, “We were excited to work with the Town of Berlin on this project, and about the connection it provides to Bolton’s Fyfeshire Conservation Area. Being able to create a link in such a large block of conserved lands means that area residents will have plenty of trails for exploration and that wildlife will have the necessary habitat for nesting and foraging.”

Get a trail map and directions.

Robertson Property Now Protected with a CR

Photo by Margaret Kush.

In another win for conservation, the Town of Upton and the Massaschusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation now co-hold a conservation restriction (CR) on the 48-acre Robertson Property on Fowler Street. The agreement closed earlier this month.

The property, which spans wooded uplands, forested wetlands, and a lengthy section of Warren Brook, provides an important link in a network of protected lands. It also provides habitat for a variety of wildlife, including three species of special concern: blue-spotted salamander, eastern box turtle, and wood turtle.

SVT assisted on this project, in which town residents voted in November 2019 to use $177,000 of Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds toward the purchase of the CR. Because of the property's valuable ecological characteristics, we had identified it as being of the highest priority for conservation, and we have been working with the Town to protect it for several years. Under the terms of the CR, the property remains privately owned but cannot be developed.

Trails across the land will eventually be opened for public access. 

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.