Deer are often seen around the Quabbin (Globe photo)
By Beth Daley, Globe Staff
The area around the Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts is known as the “accidental wilderness” because no one envisioned a wildlife haven when four towns were submerged to build one of the world’s largest public drinking water supplies in the 1930s.
But today, the lands around the 39-square mile reservoir are a lure for dozens of species including bear, moose, fox, deer, porcupine, fisher and bobcat. Eight rare species - including the Harpoon Clubtail dragonfly and the American bittern – are also found in the region. Hikers, birdwatchers and cross-country skiers spend hours on trails in the quiet woods.
Still, the region around the Quabbin is not completely protected for all the animals that use it. But now, thanks to a four-year, 19-landowner, multi-million conservation project, close to 2,000 acres of forest are being conserved to allow wildlife to easily move between Quabbin conservation lands and other protected places.
Five of the 19 landowners sold their property outright to the state while the others sold conservation easements which allow them to continue logging their land - but never subdivide it. The 2,000 acres are now part of 80,000 acres of protected habitat among the rural homes and farms Phillipston, Petersham, and Barre.
Called the Quabbin Corridor Connection, the project was funded in large part with a $3 million grant from the federal Forest Legacy Program.
An additional $1.5 million was put up by the state, non-profits, local landowners, towns and through in-kind legal and other services. The project is a partnership between private landowners, Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, Harvard Forest, the Massachusetts Audubon Society, two towns, two state agencies, and the United States Forest Service.
"The complexity of the project meant several layers of bureaucracy, a challenge to the landowners and everyone involved,” Leigh Youngblood, Executive Director of Mount Grace. “For the animals and people, this Quabbin corridor is so important."
But she added, the protected lands also provide a suite of other benefits from air quality to keeping an “authentic rural character” intact for the region to help local landowners manage their forest for income along with wildlife habitat and recreation.
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