Annual Meeting

The Harvard Conservation Trust’s Annual Meeting will be held on Wednesday, November 18th at 7:00 pm, and we invite you to join us. Our invited speaker this year is President of the Boston Mycological Club, Susan Goldhor. She will speak to us about fungi, conservation, and the ways in which they are related. Ms. Goldhor will begin speaking at about 7:30 pm, following the completion of the required Trust business.

This year’s highlights will include a review of a very busy year in land protection with a video tour of some recent successes, the introduction of HCT’s new Executive Director, Brian Colleran, and a significant change in Board composition. Matt Cronin, David Burney, Shannon Kelley, Lynn Thronton have all agreed to take part in Harvard’s Land Conservation Tradition. We sincerely thank Chris Candon, Tom Cotton, Trish Hurter, & Marc Sevigny who have completed this phase of their contributions to Harvard’s Lands, and we look forward to having them as valuable members of the Trust Community for many years to come.

If you would like to attend this year’s meeting, please register using this link. Once registered, we will send you an agenda for the evening closer to the 18th.

Brian Colleran, Executive Director

HCT Welcomes a New Executive Director

The Harvard Conservation Trust is excited to introduce our new executive director; Brian Colleran.

Brian has a long history of working to support the health of the land and its natural communities.  His previous experience spans public, private, and non-profit sectors and his technical expertise is in ecological restoration, with an emphasis on the climate resiliency implications of invasive species ecology and management along waterways.  Brian is also well-acquainted with conservation concerns surrounding the “sprawl frontier”, having worked as Ayer’s Conservation Agent, where he identified strategies to consolidate and utilize nearly five decades of wetland permitting data and created a geospatial database of all issues that had ever come before the Commission.

As Executive Director, Brian will help to further HCT’s role in preserving Harvard’s ecological health and increasing our landscape’s resilience to climate change vulnerability by focusing on linking parcels to create pathways aimed at increasing ecological connectivity and resiliency; and actively supporting existing and future agricultural land uses while increasing public engagement opportunities within our community.

Through his work as a wetland scientist and certified ecological restoration practitioner, Brian has raised awareness within communities of the connections between invasive species, climate resiliency, municipal planning, and ecological restoration, all relevant topics to the conservation and stewardship of Harvard’s unique landscape.  Brian lives with his wife and daughters in Newbury, MA.

We are thrilled to have Brian join HCT and help spearhead our ongoing mission to protect the unique character and natural resources of Harvard.

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