State helps bankroll creation of a 14,000-acre wildlife corridor in South County Southern Berkshires

Here and there around New England, hikers come upon remote hills that carry the name “Mt. Hunger,” a throwback to hard times in rural places.

There is just such a place on the Monterey-Tyringham border in southern Berkshire County.

It, too, is remote from modern life – and people intend to keep it that way.

The state announced Friday it will award $1.25 million to a project to keep 836 acres of land in the area from being developed. Because other nearby property has already been conserved, the venture will help keep large-scale wildlife habitats intact, particularly corridors that enable animals to roam.

The Mt. Hunger Conservation Project, as it’s called, will use state and private funding to pull together four distinct parcels that will forever be shielded from development.

The project, fueled by a grant from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, calls for a partnership involving the Berkshire Natural Resources Council and the state departments of Conservation and Recreation, and Fish and Game.

Jenny Hansell

Jenny Hansell, president of the Berkshire Natural Resources Council, says a land conservation project in Monterey and Tyringham is one of the nonprofit’s largest recent ventures. It secured a $1,250,000 state grant this week.

“This is an incredibly important and significant project,” said Jenny Hansell, the nonprofit Lenox council’s president. “It creates a tremendous amount of connectivity.”

The area is located off Mount Hunger Road on the far east side of Monterey and is near a 383-acre tract managed by the Monterey Preservation Land Trust.

The Department of Conservation and Recreation will buy 242 acres in the affected area. The local council will buy 594 acres in four tracts, according to maps provided by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

About one quarter of the acreage is classified as “core habitat.” The entire area is listed by the state as “critical natural landscape.”

The state funding, which requires local matching donations, follows months of work by the council and is one of its largest recent efforts, Hansell said.

The project’s ability to lock down wildlife corridors is vital, she said. “There is a lot of sensitive and important habitat in there.”

The Mt. Hunger project will cost $2.9 million in all and create a conservation corridor that enables wildlife to move about in an area of ​​over 14,000 acres, according to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Three-quarters of the 836 acres contain rare species or “unique communities.”

The grant is the only one of its kind announced by the state Friday. Aside from wildlife use, the tracts to be conserved will expand public access to the land, including for hunting, the state said in a statement.

State Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox, said Friday that while some communities rightfully resist state projects that take property off the tax rolls, this venture won local backing.

“Finding contiguous properties is always very important,” he said of the area to be protected.

Hansell said the Berkshire Natural Resources Council will likely continue to solicit donations to support the conservation project, to augment resources already allocated.

Multiple funding sources are involved, because of the scale of the project. “This one is perhaps the biggest one in quite a while,” she said.

The DCR acquisition of 242 acres is located west of Tyringham center and includes land in both that town and Monterey, maps show. That tract touches the 12,000-acre Beartown State Forest to the southwest.

Of the Berkshire Natural Resources Council’s four tracts, one, measuring 82 acres, abuts the DCR parcel to the northeast, near Brace Hill and Jerusalem roads.

The other three — 594 acres in all, in a single block — are off Mount Hunger Road in Monterey, north of Route 23 and Lake Garfield. They measure 269 acres, 193 acres and 50 acres.

In statements Friday, Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Govt. Karyn Polito said the state’s investment helps secure public access to open land. “Increasing access to open space natural resources throughout the Commonwealth has grown in importance since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Polito said.


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