Goats Are Not the Answer to Invasives

SVT moderated the Annual Fall Meeting of the SuAsCo CISMA on November 12 at the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge headquarters in Lincoln. One highlight was a discussion about whether to goats to control invasive plant species. Goats are voracious eaters, and they can clear a patch of invasive plants very quickly, which makes them ideal for maintaining fields and field edges. They also are useful for doing quick cut back of vegetation so a land manager can follow up with other treatment methods.

But on the negative side, goats need to be fenced and require daily monitoring to fix fences or shelters, replenish water, and catch any goat that attempts to escape. Plus, they will eat any plant in the fenced area, including the desired native species.

As a group, the SuAsCo CISMA did not make any decisions about whether to use goats. SVT is not using goats at this time, because we have yet to find a cost-effective, feasible location where it makes sense to use them.

SuAsCo CISMA (Cooperative Invasives Species Management Area) is a partnership of organizations that seek to control invasive species in the 36 communities around the Sudbury, Assabet, and Concord Rivers. SuAsCo CISMA programs are supported by SVT.

Give Thanks for the Land! "Opt Outside" on Black Friday

You're invited to "Opt Outside" with SVT on Black Friday.

Join SVT Executive Director Lisa Vernegaard for her annual, fast-paced walk the day after Thanksgiving. This is a special opportunity to connect with nature during the season of gratitude.

We'll be walking the trails at Mainstone Farm and Hamlen Woods in Wayland.

Avoid the malls. Embrace the fresh air!

Friday, November 29
10:00 am to Noon
Learn more and register

"What's the Buzz?" Scheduled for November 17

The Native Pollinator Task Force (NPTF) of the Metrowest Conservation Alliance is sponsoring a program on the relationship between pollinators and plants. 

For almost two decades, pollinators have been declining at an unprecedented rate. These declines pose a significant threat to environmental health. 

The NPTF program will feature Dr. Robert J. Gegear, a biologist at UMass Dartmouth, who will describe his research on bumblebees and will discuss why native plants are important for our ecosystems. Dr. Gegear is the founder of the Beecology Project, an initiative to protect native bumblebees through citizen science. Learn more about his research at Gegear Lab.

What's the Buzz? The People-Plant-Pollinator Connection
Sunday, November 17
2:00 to 4:00 pm

Cordaville Hall
9 Cordaville Road

Free. Register online.

The Metrowest Conservation Alliance (MCA) is a collaboration of land trusts, local conservation commissions, and other groups that work together to improve ecological health of the 36 communities around the Sudbury, Assabet, and Concord Rivers. MCA programs are supported by SVT.

Learn About Land Ecology from the Expert

Richard T.T. Forman, Professor Emeritus at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design and an SVT board member, is widely considered to be the "father" of landscape ecology. On Friday, November 8, Richard will be giving a public presentation on landscape ecology, co-sponsored by the Littleton Conservation Trust and SVT.

In this public education forum, Richard will discuss local conservation topics, including landscape-scale land protection in the region (such as the such as the High Ridge Initiative) and wildlife corridor passageways under barriers such as Route 2. 

Landscape Ecology: Towns, Ecology and the Land
November 8, 2019
7:00 pm

Littleton High School
56 King Street
Littleton, MA

The program is free and open to the public. No registration is required. (The program will be preceded by LCT’s Annual Business Meeting at 6:30 pm.)

For more information, visit the Littleton Conservation Trust website.

Upton to Purchase CR on Robertson Property

Robertson Property. Photo by Margaret Kush.
Robertson Property. Photo by Margaret Kush.

Great news! During Upton Town Meeting on November 5, town residents voted to protect the 48-acre Robertson Property on Fowler Street. The Town will use Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds to purchase a conservation restriction (CR) on the land, which will be opened for public access, including fishing.

The land provides important habitat for rare salamanders and turtles, and it overlooks Warren Brook, an important coldwater stream that supports native brook trout.

SVT is very excited about the success of this conservation effort, and we congratulate Upton residents for voting to protect this open space.

The property came to our attention several years ago, when we were meeting with Town officials about priority lands in Upton. Because of the property's valuable ecological characteristics, we identified it as being of the highest priority for conservation, and we've been working with the Town to protect this beautiful property and save the wildlife habitat.

The CR was appraised at $619,000, but it will cost the town only $177,000 of CPA funds, thanks to combination of additional funding from the state and a bargain sale by the Robertsons.

Lowell Passes CPA

Congratulations to the City of Lowell, where residents voted to pass the Community Preservation Act (CPA) in a city election on November 5. The Lowell Sun reported that the measure passed by a vote of 5,018 to 3,646.

Lowell is the northernmost of the 36 communities in the SVT region and the 27th to pass CPA. Across Massachusetts, 176 communities have passed CPA.

The statewide CPA program helps communities preserve open space and historic sites, create affordable housing, and develop outdoor recreational facilities. Communities that pass CPA add a surcharge of up to 3% to their property tax bills. The Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) also provides distributions each year to communities that have adopted CPA.

According to the Community Preservation Coalition, Lowell voters were asked to approve a 1% CPA surcharge on their property tax bills, with exemptions for the first $100,000 of residential property value, full commercial property value, and low income and low and moderate income senior homeowners. The city estimated that the surcharge would raise approximately $700,000 each year. 


Thistle Dew Farm: On the Path to Protection

Congratulations and thanks to the residents of Holliston!

During a Special Town Meeting on October 28, town residents overwhelmingly voted to protect 28 acres of Thistle Dew Farm on Highland Street. The town will now contribute $500,000 of Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds toward the purchase of an agricultural preservation restriction (APR) on the property.

“Small farms provide fresh, healthy food, contribute to local economies, and protect scenic views,” said Christa Collins, SVT’s Director of Land Protection. “SVT applauds Holliston voters for making this commitment to the health and character of your community.”

The total price of the APR is $1.1 million. In addition to the town’s funds, the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture has agreed to contribute $465,588. The state and the Town will co-hold the APR to ensure that the land will always stay in farming, and Holliston’s Outpost Farm will own and manage the land.

SVT is launching a campaign to raise $148,000 to close the gap and cover the project costs.

Good news! If we can raise just $48,000, an anonymous donor has agreed to contribute the final $100,000. Donate now to help keep this beautiful property in agricultural use.

Learn more and donate!

Spreading the Word About Forest Health

Laura Mattei (right) discussed forest health with members of the Carlisle Conservation Foundation.
Matt Morris (left) will be helping to produce a guidebook about forest health.
In September, Laura Mattei (right) and the Ashland Town Forest Committee toured the Ashland Town Forest.

This fall, Laura Mattei, SVT’s Director of Stewardship, has been leading educational walks that teach participants how to evaluate forest health and assess the needs for forest management. The walks are part of a new Forest Health Initiative that SVT is working on with other members of the Metrowest Conservation Alliance (MCA).   

Laura launched the initiative after receiving several inquiries about how to assess the health of a forest. SVT AmeriCorps Members Matt Morris and Sara Amish are also supporting the initiative. They plan to develop a guidebook that will provide tips for assessing forest health and offer management recommendations for various conditions.

On recent walks with the Ashland Town Forest Committee and the board of the Carlisle Conservation Foundation, the participants have discussed the various elements of forest health, including tree and plant diversity, forest regeneration, structural elements of a forest, presence of dead wood and other wildlife habitat features, presence and abundance of invasive plants, and evidence of deer overbrowsing.

The goal of the Forest Health Initiative is to help MCA members (local land trusts, conservation commissions, and others) to better understand and manage forest resources in our region. If any MCA members have questions or are interested in contributing to the development of the guidebook, please contact Matt Morris at [email protected].  

The MCA a regional consortium of local land trusts, conservation commissions, and others who work together on land conservation and stewardship issues. It covers the 36 towns within the Sudbury, Assabet, and Concord River watershed, and neighboring towns are welcome to participate. MCA programs are supported by SVT.

Evaluating Culverts in the High Ridge Region

On October 30, SVT’s Dan Stimson and Matt Morris invited several of our partners in the High Ridge Initiative to attend a training session on culvert assessment. Participants learned how to study culverts and other road-stream crossings to determine whether wildlife can pass through them easily.

One goal of the High Ridge Initiative is to create long corridors of conserved lands where wild animals can search for food and nesting spots. When conserved lands are intersected by roadways, then coyotes, fox, deer, and other animals must cross through traffic as they roam the landscape.

We attended the training to learn how to evaluate existing culverts in the High Ridge area and to consider the use of culverts in creating wildlife corridors on conservation lands.

Culverts can make it easy for cars to cross over a stream, but they often do not provide safe passage to aquatic creatures and other wildlife. Culverts that sit below water level on one side of a road but sit above water level on the other side prevent fish from swimming upstream. Culverts that are only as wide as a stream and do not encompass any of the adjacent stream bank offer no help to small animals that need to cross under a roadway.

The training session was coordinated by the North Atlantic Aquatic Connectivity Collaborative. It was led by Jake Lehan, Stream Crossing Assessment Coordinator for Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration.

High Ridge partners who attended were Dan Stimson and Matt Morris (SVT), Marc Sevigny (Harvard Conservation Trust), Lisa St. Amand (Boxborough Conservation Trust), Amy Green (Littleton Conservation Commission), and Don MacIver and Rick Findlay (Littleton Conservation Trust).

Get Involved with Citizen Science!

Birds, insects, amphibians, plants, water. There’s a citizen science project for almost every interest. Some projects run only a short time—a night, a month, a season—while others are open-ended and collect data for years. 

Many citizen science projects rely on volunteers who explore natural areas to collect data and take photos. Often, volunteers use cellphone apps or online tools to share photos and data with researchers.

But there’s still a need for good old-fashioned, hands-on help. Maybe you’d like to collect river water samples or escort amphibians to safety?

Read our October 2019 Wren newsletter to learn about citizen science projects in the SVT region. We've also collected links to many other projects that you might find interesting. Know of something that's not on our list? Let us know so we can include it!