$1.1M in grants preserve watershed habitat in Great Barrington, Egremont, Hinsdale


GREAT BARRINGTON >> The town was one of three Berkshire County communities to share a total of $1,147,000 awarded by a consortium of state and federal agencies to protect key watershed habitat along the Housatonic River.

The funds are part of a settlement agreement won from General Electric in 2000 by state and federal officials to protect or restore natural resources damaged by PCBs released into the Housatonic River.

Great Barrington, Egremont and Hinsdale are the communities who were awarded the grants, according to George Peterson, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game.

"All three properties support a great diversity of wildlife," he said, adding that the land protected will support a variety of recreational activities for sportsmen and others, such as hiking, fishing and hunting.

Great Barrington won the largest award, a total of $869,500 for preserving a 218-acre habitat along the Thomas and Palmer Brook, a tributary of the Housatonic River on the eastern side of town, just northeast of Route 23.

The area protected will include about 1,400 feet of riverbank, as well as marshland, meadow and mixed hardwood tree forest, according to Theodore "Tad" Ames, executive director of the Berkshire Natural Resources Council.

"We greatly appreciate the continued support of the Housatonic River Natural Resources Damages Fund, which enabled BNRC to acquire a 218-acre conservation property close to the heart of downtown Great Barrington," Ames said. "This acquisition will make a significant contribution toward protecting wetland resources and increasing active outdoor options in the Berkshires. We're grateful the owners recognized the importance of conserving this special land."

In Egremont, a total of 23 acres of river, woodland and flood plain habitat along the Green River, another Housatonic tributary will be protected, at a cost of $187,000. This parcel includes about 2,500 feet of riverfront habitat.

In Hinsdale, an award of $90,000 will preserve a total of 90 acres that includes an extensive habitat of scrub-shrub habitat. This is part of the Hinsdale Flats Watershed Area of Critical Environmental Concern.

Massachusetts Secretary or Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton pointed out that the settlement funds from GE, totaling $6.4 million to date, have helped preserve properties in the state at no cost the taxpayers.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.

What's next

An additional $853,000 is available for land protection projects under the next subround of grants. An applicants' conference will be held at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Lenox Library, 18 Main St. Officials will review the grant announcement and application and address questions regarding the grant application process.

For information about the Housatonic River Watershed Restoration Program in Massachusetts, visit: www.ma-housatonicrestoration.org. For more information, call Karen Pelto at 617-292-5785 or by e-mail at karen.pelto@state.ma.us.


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