The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently partnered with The Nature Conservancy to acquire 125 acres in Becket, Massachusetts to become part of Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. The parcel will become part of the Westfield River Division of the refuge, conserving more than 1,000 feet of key riparian habitat along the West Branch of the Westfield River.
The Westfield River Division contains a variety of important habitats, including a large area of high quality intact forestland, outstanding cold water stream habitat, freshwater wetlands, an extensive connected river network, and more than 78 river miles that have received National Wild and Scenic River designation.
“This investment in the larger conservation mosaic is a wonderful outcome that will benefit wildlife and people for generations,” says Andrew French, project leader at the refuge. “The Nature Conservancy’s efforts are key to these successes which enhance the accomplishments of the state and other members of the conservation community in this watershed.”
The forest habitat consists of mixed hardwoods, hemlock stands and vernal pools, which provide breeding habitat for a variety of songbirds. Bald eagles currently nest along the main stem of the Westfield River. This area of forest is part of an unusually large expanse of minimally fragmented forestland.
American shad and sea lamprey spawn in the main stem, and American eel inhabit most of the watershed. The Westfield River is particularly important habitat for shad, hosting one of the largest runs of any Connecticut River tributary.
The Nature Conservancy, the State of Massachusetts and the National Wild and Scenic River program have recognized the Westfield River as one of the most intact river systems in southern New England, and one of the healthiest tributaries to the Connecticut River. The Westfield Division will conserve a healthy, integrated system of forests, rivers, wetlands and rare and sensitive species.
“The opportunity to conserve this important forest habitat together with this exemplary freshwater system is remarkable. We are pleased to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on such meaningful conservation efforts” said Rob Warren, director of protection and policy for The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts.
Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge was established to conserve native plants, animals and their habitats in the 7.2 million acre Connecticut River watershed that stretches across four states. It is the only refuge in the country dedicated to a river’s entire watershed. The refuge works to protect land, form partnerships with citizens to foster conservation efforts, educate the public, and pass on the importance of the watershed to future generations.
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.
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.