Habitat in Housatonic River Watershed to be Protected

By ecoRI News staff

State and federal environmental recently announced that $1,147,000 will fund three Massachusetts land-protection projects, in Egremont, Hinsdale and Great Barrington. Together, these parcels protect habitat for coldwater fisheries, rare bird, amphibian, reptile, plant and fish species, and waterfowl, turkey, deer, woodcock, black bear and ruffed grouse.

Settlement funds secured from General Electric by federal and state officials in 2000 continue to compensate the public for natural resources harmed by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) released into the Housatonic River. The recently awarded $1.147 million will protect 300 acres of wetlands, forests and riverside habitat in the three western Massachusetts communities.

Managed for habitat conservation, the Great Barrington property also will be open to the public for passive recreation, while the properties in Hinsdale and Egremont will offer recreational fishing and hunting opportunities.

The settlement, originally filed as a consent decree in 2000, provided more than $15 million to Massachusetts and Connecticut to compensate for natural resource damages caused by the release of PCBs from GE’s Pittsfield plant. PCB pollution impacted aquatic wildlife and habitats. Massachusetts was awarded $7.75 million of the settlement total.

The recent round of funding will be used on the following projects:

Great Barrington ($869,500): 218 acres of wetland, stream, riparian and upland habitat along the Thomas and Palmer Brook, a Housatonic tributary, will be protected and restored. The property includes more than 1,400 feet of river frontage, emergent marsh, meadow, early successional habitat and mixed hardwood stands.

Egremont ($187,500): 23 acres of riverine, floodplain and wooded upland habitat along the Green River, a Housatonic tributary, will be protected and restored. The property includes more than 2,500 feet of river frontage, as well as adjacent floodplains and mature upland forest.

Hinsdale ($90,000): 90 acres of wetland and field habitat, including an extensive scrub-shrub wetland, will be protected and restored. The property abuts land already owned and managed by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, and is within the Hinsdale Flats Watershed Area of Critical Environmental Concern.