Gene Chague: Celebrating the protection of state's open space



Approximately 85 sportsmen, hikers, bird watchers and conservationists gathered last Tuesday in West Stockbridge on top of Maple Hill, in a field across the road from the Maple Hill Wildlife Management Area. We were there to celebrate the State's landmark achievement of acquisition and protection of 200,000 acres of open space for the benefit of the public and, fisheries and wildlife and natural communities of our state. All of it is open to the public for passive recreation.

There were five major speakers, and I will cover their comments in this and next week's column.

Department of Fish & Game Commissioner Mary Griffin thanked Governor Patrick and Energy & Environment Secretary Rick Sullivan for their conservation leadership and commitment to land protection. Over the last seven years, more than $64 million has been invested and 40,000 acres of open space was conserved.

During that period the DFG and Division of Fisheries & Wildlife (DFW) worked with 75 partners to preserve that land, partners such as the Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC), various land trusts and private landowners. Support from the legislature in the form of passage of environmental bond bills was crucial.

Sullivan said that we are celebrating the hard work of land owners and land trusts in putting the lands into conservation.

"We are preserving a quality of life," he said.

Referring to Governor Patrick's conserved 40,000 acres, he said the administration will have left the Commonwealth in a much stronger position in terms of quality of life preservation than they found it.

These acquisitions were part of the state's economic development; for every $1 invested in land conservation, $4 in natural goods and services were returned to our economy. It is part of an economic development strategy, especially in Berkshire County.

He said that recreation generates approximately $10 billion in consumer spending and returns approximately $739,000 in state and local revenues and produce 90,000 jobs in the Commonwealth.

But it is time to do more, he said; time to double down on those investments. In the recently initiated Landscape Partnership Program, they are looking to create partnerships with land trusts, state and citizens to put together large tracts of land of 500 acres or more.

Comments from Narain Schroeder, Director of Land Conservation with the BNRC, DFW Director Wayne MacCallum and F&W Board Chairman George "Gige" Darey of Lenox will be covered in next week's column.


Congratulations to the Stockbridge Sportsmen's Club skeet shooters. For the eighth time in the last nine years, they won the annual Tri-Club Skeet Championship, defeating Sheffield and Lee clubs. According to the Club newsletter, top shooters were: Tom Gansowski, who hit 146 out of 150 clay targets; followed by Joe Ary and Gary Johnston with 143, Gregg Charbonneau and Darren Coffey with 139, Gary Harrington with 138 and Bob Cameron with 131.


If Vicki and Cliff White of Pittsfield have their way, the Berkshires will continue to produce expert skeet shooters. With help from other members of the Lee Sportsmen's Association, they are heading up a youth skeet shooting group called the LSA Buckshots.

They are affiliated with SCTP (Scholastic Clay Target Program), which includes 23,000 athletes in 43 states. SCTP provides youth development through the shooting sports. Girls and boys in Grades 5-12 can participate in skeet, trap, and sporting clays with supportive, trained coaches while learning lifelong skills, such as goal setting, leadership, teamwork, self-confidence and safe firearm handling.

They currently have five students who this year competed at the Mass. ATA Shoot in Billerica, the Northeast SCTP Championships in Walpole, the GOAL Crushing Clays in North Leominster, and at the Fall Addieville Sporting Clays in Mapleville, R.I. The Buckshots had four medal winners at the Mass. ATA event, and in Addieville, they beat many college groups.

Vicki White is the head coach, and she is assisted by three assistant coaches: Doug Frank, Ken Pixley and Cliff White. They had to be certified as coaches in order to work with the athletes on the field. In order to become certified, they had to attend a two-day course. They also accept adult volunteers to do other jobs and any adult volunteer or coach must pass a CORI check.

If you are interested in joining, please contact Vicki at 442-8107 or


There are turkey shoots, ham shoots, etc, but have you ever heard of a turkey trial? That's what they are having at the Berkshire Beagle Club next Sunday. It is a fundraiser being used to help a well known field trial judge who has run into some bad luck health-wise. Tom Chaney, a field trial judge who has judged everywhere from Kentucky to Michigan, New England and Canada for more than 17 years, developed lung and brain cancer. He does not have health insurance because he recently changed jobs.

National Championships will run a raffle to help out, but such raffles do not typically make a lot of money. So they decided to hold a turkey trial. Instead of ribbons, the winning dog owners will win turkeys. Each beagle club in the Northeast will contribute something to the effort. Because their running grounds are so highly regarded, the Berkshire Beagle Club in Richmond was asked to provide the grounds for the trial. Other clubs will contribute in various ways, with marshals, turkeys, food, etc.

What a wonderful way to acknowledge and help Chaney. As one local beagle owner said, with tongue in cheek, "I would rather win a turkey any day over a ribbon. They are better tasting."


The late black bear hunting season opens tomorrow, and runs until Nov. 23. Be sure to check the regulations to see DFW's request for assistance in aging your bear.

To reach Gene Chague:,
or (413) 637-1818.


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