Gene Chague | Berkshire Woods and Waters: Good things happening with the Williams River

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Recently, the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game's and the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife's Land Protection Program was awarded $13,447 in "In Lieu Fee Program" funds for the fee interest acquisition of a 49-acre property, located off Moscow Road in West Stockbridge. This property is adjacent to the DFW Maple Hill Wildlife Management Area and includes approximately 5,000 feet of frontage on the Williams River and 3.8 acres of freshwater wetlands. The property was under threat of development, with 500 feet of frontage on Moscow Road and potential for residential housing lots. The Williams River, which is a major tributary of the Housatonic River, is an identified Coldwater Fisheries Resource. Wetlands on-site are identified as State BioMap2 Wetlands Core habitat. The Williams River preservation parcel is of significance for connectivity, ecological integrity, and climate change resiliency; it is identified as a BioMap2 Critical Natural Landscape Upland Wetland Buffer, a DEP Important Habitat, and a TNC resilient site.

Acquisition and management of this parcel by DFW ensures the preservation of these aquatic resources and about10 acres of upland buffer.

BioMap2 is designed to guide strategic biodiversity conservation in Massachusetts by focusing land protection and stewardship on the areas that are most critical for ensuring the long-term persistence of rare and other native species and their habitats, exemplary natural communities, and a diversity of ecosystems across the Commonwealth. Critical Natural Landscape identifies larger landscape areas that are better able to support ecological processes, disturbances, and wide-ranging species.

Developed by UMass, the Massachusetts Ecological Integrity Maps (IEI) are based on a computer software program and a method to prioritize land for conservation based on the assessment of ecological integrity for ecological communities (e.g., forest, shrub swamp, headwater stream). Using the IEI values, the MassDEP maps habitat of potential regional or statewide Importance (MassDEP Important Habitats). They depict areas representing 40 percent of the landscape with the highest wildlife habitat value.

The Nature Conservancy's Resilient Sites for Terrestrial Conservation project identifies the areas estimated to be the most climate resilient for each of 62 characteristic environments in Eastern North America.

But wait, there's more!

The Masiero family of West Stockbridge recently conserved about 25 acres of land bordering the Williams River, across from the old West Stockbridge Sportsmen's Club. According to a Berkshire Natural Resources Council news release, the Masieros approached the organization over the winter and asked about conservation options for their beloved family land. Together they walked the scenic and unspoiled property on the banks of the Williams River — a clear conservation gem. Furthermore, and generously, the Masieros were open to the idea of public access to this beautiful place for fishing.

They discussed conservation options, including the option of working with MassWildlife, owner of the Williams River Wildlife Management Area which is directly across from the Masiero land. That WMA consists of 35 acres of land purchased in 2010 behind the West Stockbridge Sportsmen's club that contains nice wildlife habitat and a section of the Williams River which provides excellent trout fishing. The Masieros decided it made sense to work with MassWildlife, so BNRC connected them, and are now "thrilled" to announce the land is conserved, with public access to the river.

Incidentally, John Masiero was one of the founders and directors of the Friends of the Williams River group, an environmental organization which focused on the Williams River and its watershed. It leaned hard on George "Gige" Darey, Chairman of the Fish & Wildlife Board and the DFW back in the 1990s, to acquire land which ultimately became known as the Maple Hill Wildlife Management Area. Additional acreage was subsequently added to it in 2013.

During the same time, the FWR also urged fellow board member George Naventi to sell some of his property on Moscow Road to the DFW in order to preserve it. Unfortunately, the FWR became defunct before that could happen. It is so nice to see the previously mentioned. 49 acre "In Lieu Fee Program" purchase come about.

Never heard of the Friends of Williams River? Well, my good friend John Masiero and I were on that board and we should sit down and do a write-up about it for a future column or two.

Basic Hunter Education Courses

Hunter education is mandatory for all first-time hunters. By state law, all first-time hunters (18 years of age or older) must successfully complete a Basic Hunter Education course before they may purchase a Massachusetts hunting or sporting license. Government issued "certificates of completion" from any jurisdiction are accepted.

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Minors, 12 to 17 years of age, have separate rules to follow (https://www.mass.gov/service-details/hunting-regulations-for-minors). While minors are not mandated to complete Basic Hunter Education course to hunt, it is one option for minors 15-17 years of age to purchase a hunting license. It is also a prerequisite for all minors 12-17 years of age to participate in some youth programs such as the Youth Turkey Hunt Program and the Young Adult Pheasant Hunt Program. All courses are free of charge and open to the public.

A six-day Basic Hunter Education course will be held at the Pittsfield High School, located 300 East St. It will run Tuesdays and Thursdays on September 10, 12, 17, 19, 24 and 26 from 6-9 p.m. each night. To enroll, call 508-389-7830.

Hunter Education graduates aged 12-17 can participate in the Young Adult Pheasant Hunt. This program involves shooting instruction and practice, a pre-hunt workshop, and a mentored hunt prior to the regular pheasant season. All young adults between the ages 15 and 17 will need a hunting license and FID card to participate in this program.

The Young Adult Pheasant Hunt takes place on Saturdays in September and October; specific dates vary and are determined by participating sportsman's clubs. Applications must be received by Aug. 27. For more information and to view participating clubs, click onto Young Adult Pheasant Hunt Program (https://www.mass.gov/service-details/young-adult-pheasant-hunt-program).

Incidentally, the Youth Deer Hunt day is Saturday, Sept. 28. Youth Deer Hunt Day permits are available online. With this permit, youths may take either an antlered or antlerless deer in any zone on the Youth Deer Hunt Day. Learn more about the Youth Deer Hunt Day by clicking onto https://www.mass.gov/service-details/youth-deer-hunt-day.

Antlerless Deer Permit instant award period began Aug. 1

If you applied for an Antlerless Deer Permit by the July 16 deadline, you must now check back to find out if you have been awarded one. The award period began Aug. 1 and ends on Dec. 31. Your odds of being awarded a permit are the same regardless of when you check your permit status. You can check the status of your permit through MassFishHunt, or by visiting a MassWildlife office or license agent location. A $5 fee is charged only if you are awarded a permit. Good luck!

If you already know that you weren't awarded an antlerless deer permit, you might want to consider applying for a surplus antlerless deer permit in zones 9, 10, 11, 13, and 14 until sold out. The surplus permits, which will be sold by Wildlife Management Zone, will be staggered over the following days in September.

Zone 11: Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 9 a.m.

Zone 10: Wednesday, Sept. 25 at 9 a.m.

Zones 9, 13 and 14: Thursday, Sept. 26 at 9 a.m.

Surplus Permits are first-come, first-served. Surplus permits must be purchased within 15 minutes after being placed in your shopping cart. The MassFishHunt online licensing system only allows one session per customer, so do not log in on multiple devices or you may be kicked out of the system and need to start over.

You may purchase only one Zone 11 and one Zone 10 permit per day; up to four permits per day may be purchased for Zones 13 and 14.

Gene Chague can be reached at berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com or 413-637-1818.


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