Harvard

High Ridge Initiative Will Protect Clean Water

Horse Meadows Reservoir, Harvard. Photo by Raj Das.
Horse Meadows Reservoir, Harvard. Photo by Raj Das.

SVT and several of our conservation partners have launched the “High Ridge Initiative” to conserve an area of ecologically important lands at the intersection of Harvard, Littleton, and Boxborough. The partners include the Littleton Conservation Trust (LCT), Harvard Conservation Trust (HCT), and Boxborough Conservation Trust (BCTrust), as well as other representatives of the three towns.

We have identified an area between Oak Hill in Littleton and Great Elm Conservation Land in Harvard as being of high importance for conservation. This area sits on a glacial ridge and includes extensive forests and wetlands, productive working farms and orchards, and essential wildlife habitat.

“The High Ridge Initiative will protect these important landscapes from wide-scale development that would have a negative impact on local health,” said Ashley Davies, Senior Land Protection Specialist at SVT.

Davies explained that the protection of local forests will help to protect water and air quality in the region. “Forests help to filter impurities out of our air and water, so they directly contribute to the health of the region’s wildlife and people. If the extensive forests near the area’s many waterways were cleared and developed, then our natural filters would be eliminated and contaminants would more easily find their way into local drinking water.”

Most residents in the three towns rely on wells to provide their drinking water. Plus, the High Ridge area includes numerous streams and wetlands that eventually feed into the Sudbury, Assabet, and Concord Rivers as well as the Nashua River and Stony Brook. In turn, these waterways lead into the Merrimack River. Protecting the buffer forests and open lands in the HIgh Ridge area, therefore, will indirectly help the many communities that rely on these larger streams and rivers for their water.  

The partners in the High Ridge Initiative have already protected three properties: Horse Meadows Knoll in Harvard, Elizabeth Brook Knoll in Boxborough, and the Smith Conservation Land in Littleton. Horse Meadows Knoll and Elizabeth Brook Knoll share a hill overlooking a pond known as Horse Meadows Reservoir. The Smith property sits adjacent to Black Pond and Beaver Brook, both of which are key water resources.

In the coming years, the High Ridge partners will be working with local landowners who would like to conserve additional lands that protect the natural resources of the region. More information about the High Ridge Initiative is available at www.svtweb.org/HRI.

Nature in Harvard

August 15, 2019

A gray tree frog in Harvard, photographed by Robin Right.
A gray tree frog in Harvard, photographed by Robin Right.
A great blue heron in Harvard, photographed by Robin Right.
A great blue heron in Harvard, photographed by Robin Right.
The Moon over Harvard, photographed by Robin Right.
The Moon over Harvard, photographed by Robin Right.

Robin Right photographed a gray tree frog, a great blue heron, and the moon over Harvard.

The area where Harvard, Littleton, and Boxborough meet is home to thousands of acres of ecologically important lands. The region includes essential wildlife habitat, healthy forests, an abundance of stream and water resources, and productive working farms and orchards. We call this area the High Ridge, and SVT--along with our conservation partners in the three towns--will be working with local landowners to protect as much of the wildlife habitat, working farms, and orchards as possible. Learn more.

"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.

Black Bear and House Wren in Harvard

June 14, 2019

An American black bear in Harvard, photographed by Robin Right.
An American black bear in Harvard, photographed by Robin Right.
An American black bear in Harvard, photographed by Robin Right.
An American black bear in Harvard, photographed by Robin Right.
A house wren in Harvard, photographed by Robin Right.
A house wren in Harvard, photographed by Robin Right.

Robin Right photographed an American black bear and a house wren near her home in Harvard.

House Finches in Harvard

June 21, 2019

A house finch feeding its nestling in Harvard, photographed by Robin Right.
A house finch feeding its nestling in Harvard, photographed by Robin Right.

Robin Right photographed this house finch feeding its nestling in Harvard.

Bobcat catches a squirrel in Harvard

June 22, 2019

A bobcat catches a gray squirrel in Harvard, photographed by Steve Cumming, with an automatically triggered wildlife camera.
A bobcat catches a gray squirrel in Harvard, photographed by Steve Cumming, with an automatically triggered wildlife camera.
A bobcat catches a gray squirrel in Harvard, photographed by Steve Cumming, with an automatically triggered wildlife camera.
A bobcat catches a gray squirrel in Harvard, photographed by Steve Cumming, with an automatically triggered wildlife camera.

Steve Cumming used his automatically triggered wildlife camera to capture these images of a bobcat preying on a gray squirrel in Harvard.

Cardinal Nest in Harvard

June 7, 2019

A northern cardinal in Harvard, photographed by Robin Right.
A northern cardinal in Harvard, photographed by Robin Right.

Robin Right photographed this northern cardinal on a nest in her Harvard back yard.

House Finch Nestling in Harvard

June 10, 2019

A house finch nestling in Harvard, photographed by Robin Right.
A house finch nestling in Harvard, photographed by Robin Right.

Robin Right photographed this house finch at a nest box in Harvard.

House Finch in Harvard

May 8, 2019

A house finch in Harvard, photographed by Robin Right.
A house finch in Harvard, photographed by Robin Right.

Robin Right photographed this house finch at the door of its nest box in Harvard.

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