The Trustees of Reservations and Hilltown Land Trust (HLT) have been conserving land in western Massachusetts for decades. Since HLT’s incipience in 1986 as a volunteer-run land trust, the organization built both a trusted reputation and an impressive record of protecting and stewarding land in the hilltowns. The Trustees, the oldest statewide land conservation organization in the U.S, acquired the first of its 13 Reservations in the hilltowns in 1906 and has been actively protecting land and cultural resources in the region and the State with local land trusts and other active conservationists, including HLT for decades.
In 2009, Hilltown Land Trust and The Trustees made the bold decision to formally affiliate. HLT’s capacity was stretched by growing requests and permanent stewardship responsibilities for conserved properties. HLT’s volunteer board saw that land conservation was increasingly demanding professional expertise to manage finances, regulatory requirements and workload. The Trustees offer those services and provide long term stability, while allowing HLT to keep its identity and the flexibility required to respond to local needs. To support this affiliation, HLT raised funds to hire an Executive Director who also serves as a Trustees staff member, providing a stronger presence in an important region.
The affiliation between The Trustees and Hilltown Land Trust enables more land to be protected in the Hilltowns. HLT’s Executive Director also serves as Community Conservation Coordinator for The Trustees. Through this affiliation, in spring 2013, The Trustees added 26 acres to Bear Swamp Reservation in Ashfield. This generous donation from the Walker family helped fulfill part of Phil Steinmetz’s original vision for the Reservation and protects important water resources and wildlife habitat. Several other land protection efforts have happened since the HLT – Trustees affiliation including the addition of land to Glendale Falls Reservation in Middlefield, the expansion of the Bryant Homestead property in Cummington and the addition of 90 acres to HLT’s Stevens property in Westhampton. HLT has also protected three new properties through conservation restriction (CR) donations in Chesterfield, Westhampton and Chester. All of these conservation donations ensure permanent protection of immportant land in the hilltowns.
The affiliation with The Trustees has become invaluable to HLT. Many administrative tasks which are inefficient for a small organization are handled for HLT by The Trustees who have professional staff in finance, fundraising, marketing, engagement and more. HLT now has access to an impressive GIS mapping system, advice from experienced land protection staff, and training from some of the best Conservation Restriction program staff in the state. HLT’s history and volunteer base in the hilltowns gives The Trustees a stronger connection to an important region of Massachusetts. We are thrilled to be working together to steward and protect high quality land in the hilltowns and engage members of our communities.