Gene Chague | Berkshire Woods and Waters: Over 1,300 acres of local land protected by MassWildlife

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In his October report to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Western District Supervisor Andrew Madden announced that MassWildlife completed 14 land protection projects — totaling more than 1,300 acres — in the Western District in fiscal year 2018. Lands were protected for wildlife habitat as well as for hunting, fishing, and wildlife dependent recreation.

Local DFW Land Agent Peter Milanesi had a busy and productive year. Some of the projects he worked on had been previously noted in this column earlier this year, such as the 57 acres in Otis, 170 acres in the Hinsdale/Peru area and 232 acres in Hancock.

In West Stockbridge, two parcels of land were acquired. One was 15 acres named the Maple Hill Wildlife Management Area. This was a gift by the Pachas family and consisted mainly of land along the Williams River, which is stocked annually by the DFW. The Berkshire Natural Resources Council was instrumental in helping DFW acquire the property by removing an old building on the property. At this time, there is no public access to the property but hopefully sometime in the future public access can be acquired. It protects a section of river behind the Ida Lane area, downstream of downtown West Stockbridge

The second piece in West Stockbridge was a 2.5 acre lot which abuts the Maple Hill WMA.

In Egremont some 59 acres were persevered, thanks in part to NRD Funds and with the help of the BNRC (removed another building). Part of the Jug End Fen WMA access is off of Route 23. Karner Brook flows through part of the land.

Two pieces of land totaling approximately 7-plus acres along Notch Road in Cheshire were also acquired. The land abuts the Chalet WMA.

DFW acquired a Conservation Easement on 26-plus acres near the Plainfield/Cummington town lines thanks to a donation by the Franklin Land Trust.

Another piece of Plainfield property where DFW acquired a Conservation Easement was Guyette Farm, which has some 99.66 acres of land. Once again, the Franklin Land Trust donated the easement. Situated on Gloyd and South Central Roads and named the Meadow Brook Wildlife Conservation Easement, it has full public access.

Also, working with the Franklin Land Trust and using Landscape Partnership monies, some 466 acres of land in the Plainfield, Cummington and Ashfield areas were protected.

Incidentally, on Nov. 3, from 10 a.m. to noon, the Franklin Land Trust will celebrate this newly conserved Swift River Wildlife Management Area at the Plainfield Town Hall. It is free and open to the public.

Hear from MassWildlife's John Scanlon and Brian Hawthorne about the role this important piece of land plays in the broader landscape and the special habitat found there. An optional walking tour of Swift River WMA will follow. Light refreshments will be served. Call 413-625-9151 to reserve your space.

About 87 acres of land was preserved in Worthington. There is access off of West Street but there is no formal parking area. It is now part of the Fox Den WMA.

Lastly, a 102.73-acre parcel of land was purchased in South Lee along the Housatonic River behind the old Country Curtains, on both sides of the river. The access points are through the Windsock Industrial Park near the cul-de-sac on the western side, and on the eastern side from Meadow Street which connects with the existing Hop Brook WMA. The Housatonic River, which runs through this property, is a premier trout catch-and-release area.

All new land has been added to the MassWildlife Land Viewer system and can be viewed at www.mass.gov\masswildlife.

Loon project showing signs of success

After four or five years of dragging a loon raft out onto Cleveland Reservoir, DFW Supervisor Madden reported that his group had its first successful nesting pair of loons in Berkshire County. They were able to band the adults and the young ones.

The DFW actually built the loon raft and "it was nice to have it actually work", said Madden. They are now looking at some additional sites.

There is a program in the eastern part of the state where DFW got some loons from up in Maine and brought them down as chicks and put them out in the wild and they also are getting returns.

If there is a sound that epitomizes the remote northern lakes and ponds it is the call of the loon, especially during the quiet twilight hours. It truly is a call of the wild. Once you have heard its call, you will never forget it. Rarely will you hear its call from close proximity for it is a shy, elusive bird. If you hear one at all, it will usually be from a great distance.

An important part of my trips to northern Maine, and eastern Canada is hearing the sound of these birds echoing across the undisturbed, remote ponds in or near God's country.

Unfortunately, these magnificent birds are susceptible to picking up and digesting fishermen's lead sinkers, presumably mistaking them for pebbles for their craw, and many have died from lead poison because of it. Some years ago, Massachusetts established regulations banning the use of lead sinkers and jigs under a certain size.

Although it was an inconvenience for the fishermen because they had to divest themselves of the lead sinkers and use other materials such as tin, bismuth, steel, and tungsten-nickel alloy, I believe the rewards of having the loons in our midst again makes it all worthwhile.

Incidentally, if you are unfamiliar with the sound of loons, just google "loonsong," sit back and enjoy their music.

Pistol shooters

Remember my column from July 1 of this year (State title for Lenox) where I mentioned that the Lenox Sportsmen's Club Pistol Shooting team took first place at the state finals? According to team captain David Cimini, that could be the first state title ever for the club and perhaps for a Berkshire team — at least in recent memory.

They scored 4,126 out of 4,500 possible points, beating the second-place Merrimac Valley Pistol League by 21 points.

The Lenox team shooters were: team captain David Cimini, co-captain Ray Scheufler, Peter Kirchner, Tom Greenleaf, Gregg Proctor and James Denault. All are Pittsfield residents except for Proctor, who resides in Hinsdale. The top shooter was Denault who scored 834 out of 900 possible points.

At that time, I mentioned that if I ever get a picture of these shooters holding their trophy I would run it. It took a while to get, but here it is. Congratulations gents! Might fine shooting!

Fisheries & Wildlife Board Meeting

The October meeting of the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board will be held this Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. at the Lenox Library, in the Welles Gallery, 18 Main Street, Lenox.

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

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