Choosing What to Conserve

During the past 47 years, the Trust has helped acquire or protect more than 850 acres of land in Harvard. Through the years, decision-making around which land to protect has depended upon the makeup of the Trustees and the opportunities that arose.  The Trust’s land preservation efforts are sometimes in the form of permanently protecting private land by placing a Conservation Restriction on a portion of the land, ensuring that land will never be developed, and will always retain its conservation values. Other times, the Trust has stepped in for land that the town wanted to preserve and acted as the lender, of sorts since the process of securing funding from the Town Meeting form of government takes much longer than the opportunity presented when land comes on the open market. The Trust has also been generously gifted land by residents, sometimes as part of their estate planning. But the Trust also pro-actively pursues land for protection, and that has been the strategy more often used in recent years as the cost of land has dramatically increased. Given limited financial resources, we need to be selective about which land purchases to pursue.

The Trust’s Land Protection Committee has worked deliberately to codify a process for determining the conservation value of land that is under consideration for protection. A two-dimensional matrix uses a point-value system for various attributes that results in an overall score of the value of a particular parcel. Qualities, such as ecological significance, public recreational opportunity, scenic value, project cost, acreage, agricultural value, are all assigned a weighted score that results in a score grade that helps drive decisions about what is worthy of the huge administrative, legal, and fundraising efforts that are required to complete a preservation project.

One characteristic that greatly drives the score is the adjacency, or connectivity to other conservation areas. Our goal is to provide trail connections for public recreation, and larger contiguous permanently protected areas for wildlife habitat and groundwater protection. Harvard has many modest sized conservation areas whose conservation values can be increased by “linkage” to other conservation areas. We have several projects underway to accomplish exactly that goal. We are anxiously working to bring these projects to a close and expand on our mission to compound the value of each protected parcel through these expansions or connections. These connections will provide greater opportunities for expanding our trail network and avoid the fragmentation of habitat that development creates. You can help by contributing to HCT to enable us to cover the expenses associated with the purchases and target more opportunities in the near future.

Thank You and Farewell

HCT Members and Friends,

There is a conservation legacy in Harvard that is important not only for the town, but for the region and the broader conservation community, and it has been a privilege to serve as HCT’s executive director for the past five years.  HCT is a sound and effective organization because of the talent and dedication of thousands of volunteers and members since 1973.  Thank you for the tireless commitment, generosity, and energy that you bring to the ongoing work of protecting and caring for the forests, fields, and farmland of Harvard.  It’s inspiring, a true example of collective effort, and it has made my time with the Trust a pleasure.  I look forward to staying connected with HCT and local conservation efforts in the years ahead, and I wish you continued success in preserving the land and natural resources of Harvard and beyond.

Thank you and farewell,

D.O.

 

Read open letter from the President

HCT Seeks Next Executive Director

Executive Director – Job Description
Cherished as an asset to the residents of Harvard, MA, and surrounding communities, the Harvard Conservation Trust, HCT, is a private, charitable, non-profit land trust whose mission is “to preserve the unique character and natural resources of Harvard”. Since its inception in 1973, HCT has helped to permanently protect more than 850 acres of land for conservation, through purchase, conservation restriction, and easement. With the full support of its Board of Directors, the Trust seeks an Executive Director to execute the strategic vision of HCT – to preserve natural resources through conservation and to create a fully connected network of protected lands.

To read the full job description follow this LINK.

Application Procedure: Interested individuals should send a cover letter with résumé to president@harvardconservationtrust.org . No phone calls, please. Harvard Conservation Trust is an equal opportunity employer.

Free HCT Membership

In the spirit of community and togetherness, HCT will provide a free one-year membership and our Trail Guide to area residents who are new to HCT and the trails of Harvard.  To sign up, simply email your name and mailing address to, info@harvardconservationtrust.org, under the subject line “New Member” by June 30, 2020 (email addresses are never shared).  If you are a current or past member of HCT and would like another trail guide, contact us by phone (978-456-9292) or email (info@…).  Our hope is this small gesture might help those who would like to visit conservation lands and trails in Harvard during these difficult times, but may not know where to go.

A complete list of Harvard’s conservation properties, along with printable trail maps, can be found online here.  For everyone’s health and safety, please follow the provisional trail use guidelines under COVID-19 State of Emergency.  Though we may be practicing social distancing at the moment, ultimately, connecting with land and nature can bring us together as a community and strengthen the bond that comes from a shared sense of place.

Getting Outside During COVID-19

The heart of HCT’s mission is the ability of people to enjoy the beauty and natural resources of Harvard.  HCT and the Town have opted to keep our trails open for use, under new provisional guidelines, as these outdoor resources are needed more than ever.  We hope everyone in our community will take advantage of the range of different properties and recreational trails that have been preserved and cared for through volunteer efforts. Conservation areas are open from dawn to dusk and can be safely used and enjoyed under the posted rules (found at https://harvardconservationtrust.org/trails/ and https://www.harvard.ma.us/home/news/mud-season-and-harvard-trails) as well as the provisional guidelines below, developed in response to the current COVID-19 public health emergency:

• When parking please be respectful of others; avoid blocking other cars and do not park beyond specified areas into hayfields or adjacent natural lands. If parking area is full upon arrival, please choose a different property to visit, and/or return at another time.

• Limit the number of people in your group; ideally, 2 or less, and under no circumstances more than 5. Avoid congregating at trail heads, scenic overlooks, benches and rest areas, etc. Consider only using trails with members of your immediate family or those from your household.

• Maintain the physical distancing criteria advised by public health experts, at least 6 feet, at all times; including in the parking area, at the trail head, on the trail, on bridges, etc. When encountering others on the trail traveling in the opposite direction, step off the trail to provide a safe distance while passing. Likewise, when running, biking or otherwise overtaking a trail walker, pause and negotiate safely distanced passing.

• Keep pets leashed, or heeled, to reduce the potential for inadvertent contact with other trail users through the interaction of pets.

• Adult ticks and nymphs are active now, please take precautions such as wearing appropriate clothing and performing “tick checks” during and after walks.

A complete list of Harvard’s conservation properties, along with printable trail maps, can be found online at http://www.harvard-trails.com/mapindex.html.

Note Regarding COVID-19

As we all take the necessary precautions to help our community stay safe and healthy, please keep in mind that Harvard’s conservation lands remain open from dawn to dusk.  Getting outside to walk, run, or ride the trails keeps the body fit, while sitting quietly at the edge of a field or pond can calm the mind and relieve stress in these worrisome times.  We ask that you respect the space of others you encounter on the trails and maintain appropriate distance.  Please also refrain from visiting conservation lands in groups of 10 or more.  Though we may be practicing social distancing at the moment, in the big picture, connecting with land and nature can bring us together and strengthen community bonds through a shared sense of place.

The Harvard Conservation Trust

Harvard Conservation Trust New Year’s Walk

Per tradition, the Harvard Conservation Trust will ring in the New Year with a stroll among Harvard’s forests and fields. Nothing sets the tone for the year ahead like a leisurely walk with friends and neighbors in the crisp rejuvenating air of January. The walk will take place at 11:00am. HCT Membership not required. Location details will be provided at sign up. The walk will require a moderate level of fitness. Hiking poles, or good foot traction will be helpful if conditions are icy. Expect the walk to take approximately 1 hour. Dress for comfort and warmth. In the event of hazardous weather, the walk will be cancelled. Registration is necessary at : http://bit.ly/HCTNewYear.  Happy New Year from HCT!

Honoring the Memory of Marylynn

We are saddened to share the news of the passing of HCT’s first Executive Director, Marylynn Gentry (read obituary). Marylynn was a leader, a passionate naturalist, and a committed champion of land conservation in Harvard and beyond.  She will be greatly missed and the example she set will continue to inspire our work for years to come.

Opposed to Article 18, Citizen’s Petition

The Harvard Conservation Trust (HCT) manages over 325 acres of land in the Town of Harvard.  As stewards of this land, we have a responsibility to take a holistic and long-term view in caring for our natural heritage.  While passive land management has often been the default approach, it is not always sufficient or responsible.  Managing land well is an adaptive endeavor that requires careful consideration of complex and dynamic natural systems.  For this reason, we endorse maintaining all of the options and tools available, for the long-term.  At the October meeting of HCT’s Stewardship Committee, a recommendation was made to oppose the Citizen’s Petition to ban hunting on Town Conservation land in Harvard as it removes a potentially important management tool from the Conservation Commission’s land management tool box.  The Board of Trustees voted on October 16th to support a recommendation to oppose Article 18 at the October 28th Special Town Meeting.  While the Citizen’s Petition to ban hunting on Town conservation land does not apply to HCT’s land, natural systems function across property boundaries, and limiting the Conservation Commission’s options for managing Town land could result in negative consequences for HCT conservation lands by extension.

Participation on Town’s Deer Management Subcommittee

The Harvard Conservation Trust (HCT) was glad to have representation on the Town Conservation Commission’s Deer Management Subcommittee (DMS). We are a non-profit organization with a charitable mission to preserve the rural character and natural resources of Harvard. It is in HCT’s interest to keep abreast of important ecological and land management issues in the Town and region. Deer are a common species in our landscape and trying to better understand their potential impacts on forest ecology as well as other social and environmental issues is prudent.

The DMS included one HCT Trustee as a representative on the committee. Two other members of the committee are currently HCT Trustees, but they were not representing HCT on the DMS and their membership on this municipal committee pre-dated their election to HCT’s Board.  The recommendation of the DMS (a subcommittee of Town government) does not reflect any position or policy of HCT (an independent non-profit organization). We will continue to keep abreast of this and other conservation-land stewardship matters taken up by the Town. Currently, there is no change in HCT’s hunting policy, which remains, hunting is prohibited on HCT lands.

We wish to thank our board members, and all those who generously volunteer their time on civic boards and committees in Harvard.