Mid Fork of the Westfield River Mid Fork of the Westfield River © Alden Warner

Stories in Massachusetts

A Legacy of Health in Western Massachusetts

For more than a decade, Markelle Smith, landscape partnership manager for The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts, and her colleagues have worked with the Kushi family on how to best preserve their land in Middlefield and Becket.

The family sought a way to honor the late Michio Kushi and his passion for human health and the environment. “He was someone who saw the link between nature and well-being very clearly,” says Michio’s son, Hisao Kushi. “Much of his work was on the importance of natural, plant-based foods and connecting with nature to better one’s health. So in his memory, we’re donating half of the land value to the Conservancy.”

The Conservancy provided the other half of the funds needed to conserve a total of 470 acres in Middlefield for generations to come. Abutting The Nature Conservancy’s 1,000-acre Coles Brook Preserve, the area is one of the last and best opportunities for large-scale forest conservation in southern New England.

Coles Brook flows into the Westfield River’s west branch, which is one of the only undammed rivers in the Northeast, making it an important habitat for many migrating fish—including brook trout. “In addition to helping protect fish habitat, this land is part of a corridor that ensures wildlife can move across the northern Appalachians, and into Canada, in response to climate change,” says Smith. “The property is important for people, too—its forest removes carbon from the air and filters water, ensuring clean drinking water for many downstream communities.”