By DAVID SMITH/ecoRI News contributor
NORTH STONINGTON, Conn. — A Rhode Island-based nonprofit recently acquired the conservation easement for 192 acres here. The easement and its provisions will help protect a section of the Pawcatuck River watershed from development, according to Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association (WPWA) officials.
The land, called Boulder Farm, is owned by Madeline Jeffery and her son, Jonathan. The easement to be monitored by WPWA will ensure that the farm remains in personal ownership with environmental restrictions. The entire property, including a 16-acre home compound, will remain as one block of land owned privately, with its lands restricted for conservation, agriculture and forestry in perpetuity.
The farm originally was the Israel Palmer Farm, before it changed hands over the years and came to be owned by the Jeffreys. The Jeffreys expanded their holdings over the years, acquiring more land. The three tracts have been consolidated into one tract by the conservation easement.
The Jefferys, who moved to North Stonington from New York City 45 years ago, will continue to live at the farm. Boulder Farm can be sold, but the conservation easement will remain in force.
The gift has created a significant preserve of a larger forested and wetland tract when other nearby properties are considered, according to WPWA. The farm is bordered on the east by a 48 acre parcel and on the west by a 177-acre parcel, both components of the Wyassup Block of the Pachaug State Forest belonging to the state of Connecticut.
To the south and east lies a 75-acre protected property belonging to the North Stonington Citizens Land Alliance. The Boulder Farm conservation easement now creates a nearly 500-acre block within the watershed that permanently protects the Pendleton and Hetchel Swamp brooks, tributaries of the Green Fall and Ashaway rivers, which feed out into the Pawcatuck River near the Rhode Island border.
Protection of small streams and wetlands is essential in ensuring good quality habitat for native species, WPWA program director Denise Poyer said.
“They (Jefferys) are thrilled to realize that not only have they protected their land but that there will be other caring owners in the future,” Poyer said.
Madeline Jeffery is a longtime environmentalist and president of the North Stonington Citizen Land Alliance. “She was familiar with us and because of her work with the North Stonington Citizen Land Alliance she didn’t want it to be a conflict of interest,” Poyer said. “It is a very generous donation. She paid for all the legal work.”
The Jeffery’s easement is the only the fourth held by WPWA.
Madeline, 85, said that for many years she had the restrictions outlined in her will, which will leave the farm to her son, a veterinarian who operates the North Stonington Veterinary Clinic.
“But then in the last few years I decided that I didn’t want to wait,” she said. “I wanted to see it done in my lifetime.”
Madeline said that leaving the land to the alliance wasn’t possible because of her longtime affiliation with it. Last year she attended the WPWA annual meeting, where she was honored for 25 years of volunteering with a water monitoring program. A few months later, she began to formulate the idea of giving the easement to the watershed group based in Hope Valley, R.I.
“I like their style,” she said. “I think they are activists, not a slick group. They are real. It just felt like a good fit.”
Madeline said the third-of-a-mile lane leading to her house is her favorite part of the farm. “Coming up my laneway is nice,” she said. “I feel like I belong here.”
This laneway is original to the farm, which was originally carved out of the woods by Palmer in the late 1700s. The lane has stonewalls on either side and there is a bridge over the Pendleton Hill Brook.
“I felt a connection and relief that it is appreciated by them (WPWA),” Madeline said. “They are so careful and thoughtful.”
She said she hopes the easement will help people feel better about protecting ordinary places. “There is nothing fancy about my land,” Madeline said. “The idea is to save pieces of land” for future generations.