Kestrel Land Trust acquires 40 acres at base of Mount Toby

  • Mount Toby in Montague and Sunderland rises above hills in the foreground as seen from Leyden. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

  • Kestrel Land Trust staff members Mark Wamsley and Marilyn Castriotta, cross a brook at Mount Toby. Contributed photo/Eli Smith

  • Kestrel Land Trust recently acquired a 40-acre parcel of land at the base of Mount Toby in Sunderland. Contributed photo/Eli Smith

Staff Writer
Saturday, May 30, 2020

SUNDERLAND — An Amherst-based conservation nonprofit recently purchased a 40-acre parcel of land at the base of Mount Toby to further local conservation efforts.

“It’s a beautiful piece of forestland that deserves protection,” said Kristin DeBoer, executive director of Kestrel Land Trust.

The parcel, sold to the land trust by Ann and Raymond Samson for $272,000, includes 10½ acres of land east of Cross Mountain Road and 30 acres west of it, according to the property listing on realtor.com. The parcels were sold together.

The land is forested with a brook that flows through it into the Sunderland Water District. According to DeBoer, Kestrel Land Trust’s purchase was part of an ongoing effort to protect the drinking water supply.

“Our drinking water is dependent upon healthy forests,” she said, explaining that when rain falls, it’s filtered through reservoirs or wells, which are the source of our drinking water.

The state recently awarded the protection project a $142,000 drinking water grant, she said.

The Sunderland Conservation Commission and Sunderland Water District each submitted letters of support as part of the application for the grant. In a letter to the Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Conservation Commission Chair Curtise Griffin wrote, “Sunderland is justifiably proud of its water quality, but even the best water is vulnerable if development encroaches.”

The Conservation Commission and Kestrel Land Trust are also each pledging $20,000 toward the project, and $64,000 is being requested in Community Preservation Act funding during June’s Annual Town Meeting.

About half of Mount Toby is already protected by the state, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Kestrel Land Trust and Franklin Land Trust. DeBoer said the protection of the most recent parcels will help to catalyze the partnership between Sunderland and Kestrel Land Trust to proactively conserve additional land with willing landowners on Mount Toby.