Projects Accomplished

The Egremont Land Trust’s mission is to preserve the rural character of Egremont and undoubtedly the most important part of this mission is land conservation. We accomplish this in a number of ways. The most direct method is, obviously, the outright purchase of ecologically or aesthetically or agriculturally significant land, particularly parcels under immediate threat of development. In addition to the obstacle presented by the very high cost of land in Egremont, a prime location for second homes, the land trust is reluctant to become a large land owner. Land ownership involves responsibilities of stewardship, and for a very small, all-volunteer organization, stewardship is a time-consuming and demanding task.

What has proven to be our most effective land conservation tool is a cooperative effort with one or more other conservation organizations. Several governmental agencies, both state and federal, have funds to acquire either fee interest in or conservation restrictions on significant parcels of land and the same holds true for non-profit organizations like the Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) or The Nature Conservancy (TNC).

But our first project was, in fact, a purchase in 1993 of just under ten acres of fenland on Baldwin Hill Road. It was offered to us at an amazingly reasonable price, and we are in the process of clearing it of invasive species and building a nature trail around the little pond at its center.

Several of our properties have been gifts from generous friends. The Nature Conservancy gave us two parcels of land totaling 42 acres on Mt. Washington Road. In 2005 Marian Faytell and Joel Friedman together with the Guilder Hollow Association gave us four acres in the Brookvale subdivision of Guilder Hills. In other cases, we have received gifts of conservation restrictions. In these cases, the land remains in private hands but we hold the legal assurance that the land can never be developed. This is true of a beautiful 50-acre parcel of open field and woodland on Baldwin Hill Road, whose three sets of owners conveyed the CR jointly to ELT and the Berkshire Natural Resources Council. And on Mount Washington Road, another landowner gave us a CR on 22 acres bordering Karner Brook, one of Egremont’s most prized ecological resources.

In some cases we have purchased properties, placed conservation easements on them, and then resold them to private owners. This is true of the so-called Bradford property, the site of one of the earliest farms in Egremont and of a graveyard where both Dutch settlers and Indians were buried. We bought the property, helped by funding from TNC, in 1999, held it for several years, and then sold the state an Agricultural Protection Restriction on most of it. With the assurance that the land would remain farmland forever, we sold it to a local farmer. The remaining small strip, on which we placed a CR, was sold to an abutting landowner.

Our largest project, one that we will probably never equal, was the purchase of 213 acres in 2002. Adjacent to the Jug End State Reservation and bordering Karner Brook, South Egremont's water supply, the land is steep and heavily forested and has been designated a federal Forest Legacy area. This qualified the parcel for a federal grant, supplemented by a state grant, and the land was then transferred to the Town of Egremont. As part of the deal, the town agreed to place a permanent CR on three abutting town lots, making a total of 325 mountainside acres preserved in perpetuity.

ELT's most recent land project was the purchase of 22 acres of woods and farmland along the Green River in North Egremont, bought after a vigorous fund-raising campaign, a matching grant from a private donor, and a sale of a CR to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. (The Green River is one of the best trout streams in Berkshire County.)

Although ELT’s first interest is in preserving land, we take seriously our educational mission. Throughout the spring, summer and early fall we offer a series of walks and lectures dealing with the ecology and history of Egremont. (SEE CALENDAR) And we have undertaken a number of projects with the public school in South Egremont, sponsoring special nature courses and helping with the children’s garden.

We’re eager for ideas for other projects, and we welcome suggestions from our neighbors. Call any of us (SEE BOARD LIST) we'd love to talk to you.