Despite their location in the highly urbanized Northeast, the Berkshires’ forests and wetlands have remained relatively undisturbed. But development pressure, invasive species, changes in hydrology and the effects of global climate change pose an ever-increasing challenge to the region’s high quality ecosystems.
Guided by the best conservation science, three Conservancy chapters have come together to protect one of New England’s last wild frontiers and maintain the backdrop of rugged beauty that all who live and spend time here enjoy.
Our vision for the Berkshires is to create a model for living gently on the land — balancing human impact with the needs of ecosystems, sustaining the ability of our lands and waters to provide for communities and supporting a wilderness in which many plants and animals can thrive.
The Conservancy’s data, analysis and mapping expertise helped the state of Massachusetts designate forest reserves on about 100,000 acres of state-owned forestland, several of which are in the Berkshires. We are now working to involve landowners in the protection or sustainable management of surrounding lands to ensure that these reserves do not become isolated islands in a fragmented forest.
The invasion of aggressive, non-native plants is one of the most significant challenges to the Berkshires’ forests and wetlands. But the Conservancy has pioneered an effort called Weed-It-Now to remove invasive plants from 9,000 acres of critical forest habitat across Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York. Weed-It-Now has become a national model, and strategies developed in the Berkshires have been used across the world.
When a river floods its banks, it nurtures the soil with nutrients and silt, allowing wetland plants to germinate and grow. The trees and plants return the favor, filtering sediment, fertilizers and pesticides before they wash into the river. The Conservancy is working to reconnect floodplain forests along the Housatonic River and its tributaries by protecting land, removing invasive plants and planting native trees.
The Berkshires’ remarkable collection of calcium-rich wetlands sustains a vibrant array of native plants and animals and provides valuable services for people. The Conservancy deploys teams of interns each summer to map, monitor and remove invasive species in these wetlands. And our science staff continue to study the region’s unique hydrology and species like the bog turtle that make their homes here.
With resources that are important to the world and vital to local communities, collaboration at all levels is essential. The Berkshires program works with state agencies, other conservation organizations, local communities and individuals to develop strategies to address ecological threats specific to this unique landscape.February 09, 2011