Farmland is disappearing in Massachusetts. In response to open space loss, about ten years ago, the Mass Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, developed a continually updated document titled the Smart Growth Tool Kit. The Tool Kit website states, “We are losing agricultural lands and farming opportunities at an alarming rate….over 16,000 acres of open space is developed and lost in Massachusetts each year.” To try to stem the tide of farmland loss, the Mass Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) established the Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) program in 1979. It was a first-in-the-nation model for many other states. The MDAR website states, “the primary purpose of the APR program is to preserve and protect agricultural land, including designated farmland soils, which are a finite natural resource, from being built upon for non-agricultural purposes or used for any activity detrimental to agriculture, and to maintain APR land values at a level that can be supported by the land’s agricultural uses and potential.”
The APR program works by paying farmers the difference between the full market value of their land and the agricultural value of the land. In that way, the landowner retains ownership of the land, but cannot sell the land for anything but agriculture. The program has worked well. It has protected 800 farms and 68,000 acres in Massachusetts. read more
To answer that question, the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, a consortium of forty conservation organizations and government agencies has just published an important new document titled “The State of North America’s Birds”. More than 350 species of our migratory birds, such as the gray catbird, Baltimore oriole, and the wood thrush pass between Canada, the United States, and Mexico. The report combined citizen science bird data, collected on platforms such as e-Bird, to come up with the 2016 status report on the birds of all three countries, a total of 1,154 species.
The reports’ findings are alarming. It placed 37% of North American birds on a Watch List for Species in Urgent Need of Conservation. For some habitats birds are even more imperiled. For instance, 57% of ocean birds are on the Watch List. Birds of tropical forests, coasts, arid lands and grasslands are also in steep decline. For these habitats, up to 56% of bird species are in decline. In other habitats, such as temperate forests, tundra, wetlands, and boreal forests, up to 27% of bird species are on the Watch List. Westford is a temperate forest habitat, but our migratory birds spend the winter in the tropical forest. read more….
Grassy Pond is interesting right now because the water level is so low, and it really is “grassy”.
The low water level is probably caused by all the sunny days with little rain in recent weeks. It is said that Grassy Pond becomes entirely without water about once every 10 years.
By the way, Grassy Pond develops a chorus of frogs on summer evenings, particularly when it’s rainy. Here’s a recording I made on such a night, focusing on a barred owl. The owl is interesting, but the background of tree frogs, green frogs, and loud bull frogs is interesting too.
This free celebration features environmentally conscious organizations and artists, children’s activities, demonstrations, hands-on workshops, greenhouse tours, and local entertainment. It is a wonderful chance to learn about community gardening and what environmentally conscious organizations are accomplishing.
This family event is hosted by the Community Gardens Greenhouse and sponsored by the Lowell National Historical Park. It is held on Saturday, April 23, rain or shine! Food and drinks are available.
The event also kicks-off the annual volunteer season for the Community Gardens Greenhouse and Lowell National Historical Park. You’ll be able to learn about the season’s new projects and see what’s growing in the greenhouse!