News

Making the Case for CLTC

(L to R) Emily Myron, Lisa Vernegaard, Senate President Spilka, and Buzz Constable. Photo by Doug Howgate.
(L to R) Emily Myron, Lisa Vernegaard, Senate President Spilka, and Buzz Constable. Photo by Doug Howgate.

On February 26, SVT Executive Director Lisa Vernegaard, together with colleagues Emily Myron from The Nature Conservancy and Buzz Constable from the Mass Land Trust Coalition, met with Massachusetts State Senate President Karen Spilka to discuss the Conservation Land Tax Credit (CLTC) program.

This incentive program provides tax credits to landowners who donate conservation restrictions on their land or donate the land itself for conservation. The CLTC has enjoyed broad-based bipartisan support and has been a tremendous catalyst in helping to save over 12,600 acres of natural lands, working forests, and farms in and beyond SVT's region.

An individual landowner can receive a maximum of $75,000 in tax credits, even though the value of the land may far exceed that. The program has been a powerful tool for conservation: Each $1 in tax credit has yielded $4.34 worth of land for conservation.

Currently, the CLTC program can extend a maximum of $2 million in tax credits each year. This limit has created a backlog of requests and is slowing the pace of conservation, so conservationists have been encouraging legislators to raise the annual cap.

The group at the February 26 meeting enjoyed a good discussion about the proposed increase, which could eliminate the backlog and increase the pace of conservation across the Commonwealth.

The three conservationists also thanked President Spilka for her leadership on the Senate’s recent work on climate bills and for the Senate's recognition that by sequestering carbon, our natural and working lands can play an important role in the state’s effort to reach its emissions reductions goals.

Learn more about the proposal to increase the cap limit.

Job Opening at SVT: Development Associate (Part Time)

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

The Development Associate is responsible for accurately processing gift transactions in 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.

Spring 2020 Program Calendar Now Online

Photo by Dany Pelletier
Photo by Dany Pelletier

SVT's Program & Events Calendar for March - May 2020 is now available. The calendar features a program for almost every interest, with special emphasis on:

  • Bird Watching
  • Dark Skies
  • Tree Identification
  • Spring Walks
  • Earth Day 2020

Plus, we've planned a slate activities for National Volunteer week.

Most programs are free for SVT members and $15 for non-members.

The online calendar contains the most up-to-date information, or you can download a PDF of the print version. Programs fill up quickly, so register today!

Farmland Owners Learn About Conservation Options

On Wednesday, February 19, nearly 30 people attended a workshop in Bolton to learn about soil health, farmland conservation, and succession planning. SVT and the Bolton Conservation Commission co-sponsored the public event and and encouraged farmland owners from Bolton and surrounding towns to attend. The majority of attendees are currently running active farms.

The "Agricultural Lands: Conservation & Succession" workshop featured three main presentations:

  • Heidi Ramsey of the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service discussed tips for soil conservation and described NRCS farmer assistance programs. Of particular interest was the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), which can provide annual payments to farmers who are conducting certain conservation practices on their lands. It turned out that most farmers in attendance were already instituting practices that qualify.
     
  • Ashley Davies of SVT discussed farmland conservation options and explained the differences between a Conservation Restriction and the Massachusetts Agricultural Preservation Restriction program. She also described some successful farmland conservation projects, many of which rely on Community Preservation Act funding. 
     
  • Jae Silverman of Land for Good spoke about the challenges and benefits of finding a new generation of farmers to take over the land. He offered his time and experience to assist established farmers in working on succession planning for their farms, whether the farms were staying in the family or not. He also provided resources to landowners who wished to lease their land to farmers.  

Download a pdf of the workshop presentations

If you are interested in learning more about the topics covered at the workshop, please contact Ashley Davies at [email protected]

This was the final workshop in the "Managing and Protecting our Farms, Forests, and Open Spaces" series of workshops that the Bolton Conservation Commission in partnership with Sudbury Valley Trustees, the Bolton Conservation Trust, and the Bolton Agricultural Commission put on with a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Working Forests Initiative.  

Public Forum to Address Burn at Memorial Forest

On Thursday, February 27, SVT will lead a public forum about the upcoming prescribed burn at the Desert Natural Area and Memorial Forest. The burn, which is part of a long-term project to restore important habitat at these properties on the Marlborough-Sudbury line, will be held this spring, possibly as early as March.

SVT and the City of Marlborough are working on the habitat restoration with MassWildlife and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR). Laura Mattei, SVT's Director of Stewardship, and Priscilla Ryder, City of Marlborough Conservation Agent (pictured), recently walked the property to define fire breaks for the burn. 

At the Public Forum, Laura will more fully explain the project and will answer questions from the audience. This is a great chance to learn about this project and about prescribed burns in general.

Public Forum: Habitat Restoration at Desert Natural Area/Memorial Forest

February 27, 2020
7:00 to 8:30 pm
Free

Assabet River NWR Visitor Center
Hudson Road
Sudbury

Register for the Forum

State Awards $11.6 Million in MVP Grants

We’re thrilled that several communities in the SVT region received some of the $11.6 million worth of Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) grants awarded by the state last week. The grants are designed to help cities and towns identify climate hazards, develop strategies to improve resilience, and implement priority actions to adapt to climate change.

In 2017, Governor Charlie Baker created the MVP program through an Executive Order to encourage Massachusetts cities and towns to take action against climate change. With the 2020 grants, 82% of Massachusetts cities and towns are now enrolled.

In our region, Berlin, Billerica, Bolton, Boxborough, and Lowell all received grants to complete the MVP planning process in 2020.

Plus, Acton, Chelmsford, Framingham, Harvard, Holliston, and Weston received grants to implement specific projects this year.

In some cases, MVP funds are used for land conservation, which is a great way to mitigate the effects of climate change. Last year, the Town of Mattapoisett received $960,000 to purchase 120 acres of conservation land. This year, the Town of Cuttyhunk received $1.4 million to preserve 68 acres on Gosnold Island. 

Although these coastal projects are not in the SVT region, they demonstrate the value of MVP funding. SVT stands ready to assist communities in our region on any MVP planning or MVP plan amendments and, as always, to implement any land conservation projects that would advance a community's MVP goals.

Habitat Restoration Continues at Memorial Forest

A scene from Memorial Forest, three months after the prescribed burn in 2014.
A scene from Memorial Forest, three months after the prescribed burn in 2014.

As part of a long-term project to restore pitch pine/scrub oak barrens that provide habitat for several threatened species, SVT and the City of Marlborough are planning a second prescribed burn for a section of Memorial Forest and the Desert Natural Area.

The nationally imperiled pitch pine/scrub oak habitat provides homes for many rare species. Of note at the Desert Natural Area are whip-poor-wills and wild lupine, which have been precipitously declining over the last 25 years.

In 2014, we conducted a prescribed fire on 14 acres, containing both City of Marlborough and SVT property. Two years ago, we cut, thinned, and removed trees in the area around the Desert Loop Trail at SVT’s Memorial Forest. Fifteen (15) acres around the sandpit were heavily cut and an additional 35 acres were thinned.

We are ready for the next step in the process. This year, as early as March, we will conduct two to three separate days of prescribed burns (see map of burn area). Scheduling of the burns is weather dependent.

Our consultants, Northeast Forest & Fire Management, have prepared a burn plan that has been approved by MassWildlife for restoration of rare species habitat. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has issued a burn permit. Both the Marlborough and Sudbury Fire Departments have met with our consultant and are supportive of the plan.

We will post information about the project in our kiosks on the property as well as on the project page of our website.

You can learn more about this habitat restoration project at these events:

Public Forum: Habitat Restoration at Desert Natural Area/Memorial Forest
Thursday, February 27
7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center
Register

Habitat Restoration Site Walk
Saturday, March 7
9:00 – 11:30 a.m.
Register

Questions? Contact:
Laura Mattei, [email protected]
Priscilla Ryder, [email protected]

To be added to our email list for regular updates on the project, including dates when a burn is anticipated, please send a request to [email protected]

Helping Our Native Pollinators

The January 2020 issue of The Wren, SVT's member newsletter, focuses on how all of us can take steps to save our native pollinators.

One of the simplest things we can do is to add some native plants to our backyard gardens. Every garden, no matter how small, can provide much-needed habitat for the insects and birds that pollinate our plants and help ensure the health of our natural areas.

But if working in the garden is not for you, you could snap photos for researchers, pull out invasives, or build a bee hotel in your backyard.

Read all about it:

 

 

You're Invited: SVT's Annual Benefit

Join us for SVT's Annual Benefit Gala, an upbeat evening featuring cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, dinner, and live and silent auctions, all centered around an inspiring theme.

This year we celebrate Native Pollinators with a Pollinator Palooza!

David O'Leary of MAGIC 106.7's morning show, returns as our auctioneer.

 

Workshop to Cover Agricultural Land Conservation

Photo by Brent Mathison

The Bolton Conservation Commission and SVT invite owners of agricultural lands to attend a free workshop on soil health, conservation options, and planning for succession:

Agricultural Lands: Conservation & Succession
Wednesday, February 19
7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Houghton Building
697 Main Street, Bolton, MA
Get Directions

Residents of all towns are invited to attend.

Register Now

Topics will include:

  • Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) programs and how they can support your farm's health
  • Options for conserving agricultural lands in Massachusetts, including Chapter 61A, Conservation Restrictions, and Agricultural Preservation Restrictions
  • Preparing for the next generation of farmers to take over the land

Guest speakers:

Light refreshments will be provided.

For more information, contact:
Rebecca Longvall, Bolton Conservation Commission
[email protected]
978-779-3304

Please register if you plan to attend; registration helps us plan chairs and refreshments. Thank you.

Register for the Workshop

This event is part of "Managing and Protecting our Farms, Forest, and Open Spaces," a free workshop series sponsored by the Bolton Conservation Commission and SVT. Co-sponsored by Bolton Agricultural Commission and Bolton Conservation Trust.