The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced that is has partnered with The Nature Conservancy to acquire an 80-acre parcel in Chesterfield at Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) in Massachusetts.
The land is located along the Dead Branch Brook, which provides critical habitat for several rare dragonfly species and for wood turtles, a species of special concern. The Lower Middle Branch and Dead Branch also provide the most promising mussel habitat in the entire Westfield River watershed, according to a recent survey of freshwater mussels commissioned by the Westfield River Wild and Scenic Advisory Committee and conducted by aquatic biologist Ethan Nedeau of Amherst-based BioDrawversity. Freshwater brook trout and Atlantic salmon rely on the clear, cold water in the Dead Branch Brook, while turtles and salamanders forage and travel in and alongside the streambed.
“These lands provide a great opportunity for the Refuge to continue to conserve vital habitat in the Connecticut River Watershed,” said Project Leader Andrew French. “We are thankful for our partnership with The Nature Conservancy that made this acquisition possible.”
“Acquisition of this land as part of the unique Conte Refuge creates a significant north-south conservation corridor that helps protect Dead Branch Brook and Long Pond as well as the high-quality forest that surrounds them,” said Wayne Klockner, director of The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts. “This is an exemplary use of the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, and we’re extremely grateful to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and former property owner Jeff Poirier for making it a reality.”
Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge was established to conserve and protect the abundance of native plants and wildlife that thrive in the Connecticut River Watershed. Covering 7.2 million acres, the watershed encompasses critically important diverse habitat. The Nature Conservancy and the Refuge are frequent partners in land acquisition projects in the Westfield River basin. Such projects are most often funded by the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, monies that the federal government collects from offshore oil and gas leases and directs to conservation work across the country.
"In light of current development pressures on the Westfield River watershed, it is increasingly important that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have the resources to preserve one of the most fragile ecosystems within Western Massachusetts,” said U.S. Rep. John Olver, who represents the 1 st District of Massachusetts. “The Lower Middle Branch and the Dead Branch Brooks have many sensitive species living within their waters and need to be protected for future generations.”
Addition of these lands will allow the Refuge to expand protection of the native plants, animals and wildlife habitats within the Connecticut River Watershed.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov. Connect with our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfwsnortheast, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwsnortheast, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/usfwsnortheast.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge
Media Relations Manager
The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts