Need and Opportunity
According to the Massachusetts Audubon Society report, Losing Ground, Harvard is within the “sprawl frontier” – where important natural resources are under the greatest threat of being lost or degraded due to impending rapid growth and development.¹ Since 2010, over $350M has been invested in road and rail improvements that will move commuters more quickly and easily along the Route 2 corridor. At the same time, the latest projections from UMass’s Donahue Institute show Harvard’s population increasing by just shy of 2,000 people over the next 20 years. In Harvard, land prices are climbing, number of days properties spend on market is falling, and speculative developers are buying. Population growth and new development are on the horizon.
Harvard is home to 20 different state-listed rare and endangered species, but over half of the 4,800 acres that support these species are unprotected. Orchards, pastures, and farm stands are a hallmark of Harvard’s landscape and a cornerstone of the local economy, but they are often the most prized for development purposes, and close to 1,500 acres could still be subdivided into hundreds of small parcels. Acquiring and holding land for conservation purposes is one of the most direct and effective ways of preventing degradation and loss of important natural resources, and ensuring the integrity of the agricultural landscape. The Harvard Conservation Trust (HCT) has been doing so since 1973, and has played a pivotal role in protecting many of Harvard’s most cherished conservation lands. Each project comes at a cost, but it pales in comparison to the long-term value we all gain. We need to continue the legacy of those who had the foresight to proactively protect land in town, and one of HCT’s founders – Erhart Muller – has given us that opportunity. Erhart bequeathed $1.5M to HCT solely for land protection in Harvard; in order to be used, these funds must first be matched 1:1 by private individual or foundation contributions.