Editorial: Appreciating Mount Grace Land Trust’s conservation work
The first project attributed to the 32-year-old Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust was the preservation of a tract of land that had been slated to become 200 house lots. But that 365-acre Lawton Tree Farm in Athol is now the Lawton State Forest.
And that was just the start. Since the nonprofit was formed, it has gone on to protect and manage more than 32,000 acres of undeveloped properties throughout the North Quabbin region. The trust is supported by 1,200 members and by private, state and federal grants to protect what it calls “significant natural, agricultural, and scenic areas.”
The trust isn’t any one person, but collectively its members and supporters are performing a great civic duty to benefit our environment and to preserve our natural areas for future generations.
It’s only fitting that Mount Grace Trust was selected as the North Quabbin Chamber & Visitors Bureau’s Citizen of the Year. The award was presented to land trust representatives at the chamber’s annual awards dinner this spring.
According to the chamber, Mount Grace was chosen from a “field of nominations,” all of which represent the “best of the region.” Familiar to the region, its mission statement reads, “Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust benefits the environment, the economy, and future generations by protecting significant land and encouraging land stewardship.”
It’s the way the trust performs its mission that contributed to the award, according to Mark Wright, executive director of the North Quabbin Chamber. In addition to creating collaborations between public and private entities to conserve land, Wright said that great attention is paid and energy devoted to stewarding the conserved land, reconnecting the public with agriculture, assisting farmers, exploring the current and future needs of sustainable food systems and implementing programs that help achieve those goals for everyone.
Mount Grace, which serves 23 towns in Worcester and Franklin counties, was incorporated in June 1986, when local citizens and land use professionals felt a need to address what they saw as rapid, unorganized development of productive farm and forest land.
The trust enjoys support from the region but also from state and federal preservation agencies and donors from across the country. Their stated common goal: to see the rural landscape and natural resources of north central and western Massachusetts conserved, so that all may enjoy and appreciate these lands in perpetuity.
Land trusts like Mount Grace are not against development, but for smart growth that recognizes the need for residential and commercial development as natural and inevitable — just not in environmentally sensitive and significant places like so many of our farms, fields and forests.
While, at times, some environmentalists react to development plans with pickets and protests, groups like Mount Grace Land Trust do the quieter conservation work proactively. It’s the slow and steady work that we don’t appreciate enough in our lifetimes but that our descendants will surely appreciate because they will still be able to enjoy those farms, fields and forests that are being preserved today.
Good citizen? Without a doubt, Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust is for this and future generations.