Westborough Land Trust NEWS
Spring 2014

Read About . . .

WCLT’s Membership Drive is On!

700 letters sent out to friends and neighbors [MORE]

Eagle Scout, National Honor Society, and Wheaton College Projects Benefit WCLT

Many thanks to Boy Scouts, NHS members, and Wheaton College seniors for their hard work [MORE]

Save the date: April 26

WCLT’s 16th Annual Town-Wide Earth Day Clean-Up [MORE]

Bring your family to meet live local wild animals

“The Nature of My Backyard” in March is WCLT’s Earth Awareness Event [MORE]

WCLT Offers Two $1,000 Scholarships

Encourage WHS Seniors to Enter WCLT’s Earth Day Essay Contest [MORE]

Long-Distance Charm Bracelet Hike and Shorter Bowman Conservation Area Walk

See the changes and improvements along these trail routes over the past 10 years [MORE]

Return of the Wild

Recap of Dr. Tom French’s Annual Meeting Talk [MORE]

WCLT’s Membership Drive is On!

700 letters sent out to friends and neighbors

The Westborough Community Land Trust (WCLT) membership drive is under way and already producing results.

“So far we have 49 new members,” reported WCLT president Scott Shumway. “At least 10 people have joined at the sustainer level with contributions of $100 and will soon be sporting the new WCLT t-shirt.”

WCLT t-shirt

Your land trust’s membership drive centers on a mailing of 700 letters to friends and neighbors urging them to join WCLT. A bright new WCLT t-shirt rewards people who choose to join at the sustainer level. A new Membership Drive page on the WCLT web site makes a case for joining WCLT.

Letter-mailing party
Letter-mailing party

The initial mailing of 600 letters went out with help from Kate Donahue, Maureen Johnson, the Membership Committee, and the Board of Directors. An additional 100 letters followed. Members Marge Fisher, Maureen Johnson, Scott Shumway, and Elaine Moore have sent out a total of 289 letters in a fierce competition to win prizes donated by Emery Family Farm and Nourse Farm.

What can you do to help? Ask your friends if they’ve received a letter from us, forward them this email newsletter, or send them the link to our membership drive page: http://westboroughlandtrust.org/member-drive-2014.php

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Eagle Scout, National Honor Society, and Wheaton College Projects Benefit WCLT

Stewardship News

Stewardship Committee Chair Marge Fisher is pleased to report that since the last WCLT e-news, a number of Eagle Scout projects helping WCLT have been completed or are in the planning stages and will be completed when weather permits:

Steps to Piccadilly Brook
Steps to Piccadilly Brook

  • Bradley Whitehall (Troop 100) and crew built steps at Bowman Conservation Area down to Piccadilly Brook
  • Nathan Adduci (Troop 100) and crew removed about 3,600 feet of barbed wire and 200 feet of heavy cable from Hidden Meadow
  • Jack Howarth (Troop 100) and crew built steps and did trail work at Bowman Conservation Area, off Bowman Street
  • Tim Askew (Troop 382) and crew will build steps and perform trail work at Bowman Conservation Area, off Bowman Street
  • Sean Travers (Troop 4) and crew removed invasive plants along the Malley Trail
  • Ethan Brush (Troop 4) and crew will remove invasive plants and relocate a portion of the Malley Trail

Sean Travers and crew
Sean Travers and crew

Also, Riley Taylor brought a crew of five Westborough High School National Honor Society (NHS) students to Gilmore Pond on November 9, 2013, to paint the new rail fence along the access road with wood preservative and to clear some downed brush. With this project, WCLT benefitted from the NHS “day of service.” The five who worked that day were Bradley Whitehall, Vishnu Prasad, Dongpeng Xia, Jacob Grosner, and Carlos Santom. Riley had previously completed a civics project for WCLT, rerouting a short section of the Malley Trail to drier ground.

Finally, Annie Bennett and Sarah Moore continued their Wheaton College senior honors thesis work at Gilmore.

Many thanks from WCLT to these Boy Scouts, NHS members, and Wheaton College seniors for their hard work on these projects that benefit WCLT, the larger Westborough community, and our precious local open spaces!

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Save the date: April 26

WCLT’s 16th Annual Town-Wide Earth Day Clean-Up

Save the date! Saturday, April 26th is the day for WCLT’s 16th annual Town-Wide Earth Day Clean-up. It’s a time to remove winter trash from Westborough’s roadsides and neighborhoods after the snow recedes and before spring flowers bloom.

“We’ll have our usual optional early start at Westmeadow Plaza and Bellows Road (behind the new St. Mary’s Credit Union where Friendly’s used to be) at 6:30 a.m. That early time lets us take advantage of safer, lower morning road traffic,” said Bruce Tretter, who once again is serving as clean-up coordinator—a role for which he received WCLT’s 2012 President’s Award. “We’ll then meet at the Lake Chauncy Beach parking lot at 9:30 a.m. to assign cleanup sites throughout town to volunteers and provide them with maps and trash bags.”

Last year, well over 100 participants helped to spruce up Westborough after a long winter and collected more than 150 bags of trash.

Route 30 before clean-up
Route 30 before clean-up

“Their efforts made a huge difference, as you can see in the ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos taken at the Route 9/Route 30 intersection,” Bruce noted. “Let’s do it again!”

Route 30 after clean-up
Route 30 after clean-up

If this year’s clean-up date doesn’t work for you, you can still take part in the effort by picking up litter in your neighborhood or elsewhere in town at another time. Your efforts still count! For example, last year a group from Berkshire Bank volunteered to clean up a stretch of Connector Road in June.

Volunteers from Berkshire Bank
Volunteers from Berkshire Bank

If you have questions or can suggest sites in town in need of litter cleaning, please call Bruce at 508-329-1360 or send an e-mail to earthday@westboroughlandtrust.org.

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Bring your family to meet live local wild animals

“The Nature of My Backyard” in March is WCLT’s Earth Awareness Event

Rick Roth with Jeff Corwin
Rick Roth (right) with Jeff Corwin of Animal Planet

As a boy growing up in the Drumlin Farm wildlife sanctuary, Rick Roth became convinced that he was destined to work with wild animals. And now, as a naturalist and director of Creature Teachers live animal programs, he is fulfilling that dream. Following in the footsteps of his father Charles, a noted environmental educator and writer, Rick stresses the critical importance of understanding and respecting wildlife and their habitats.

Gray fox
Gray fox (photo courtesy of Rick Roth)

He’ll bring local wild animals (such as a skunk, fox, flying squirrel, and fisher) to Westborough on Saturday, March 29, at 10 a.m. in the live animal program, “Nature of My Backyard.” To enjoy this event, bring your family to the Westborough Knights of Columbus Hall at17 Willow Street.

“‘The Nature of My Backyard’ is my favorite program,” notes Rick. “It highlights animals that kids see but have not had the opportunity to meet up close. We try to get across the importance of every single one of these animals to its environment. Every animal has a role—if one animal is removed, it affects the entire ecosystem.”

During the program Rick will explain predator/prey relationships, such as the fisher/porcupine relationship. Westborough families will have a rare opportunity to meet a live fisher during the program. According to Rick, he is the only person licensed in New England to do outreach programs with a fisher.

“In some places the forest in the early 1900s was being degraded because an overabundance of porcupines was destroying the bark of the trees,” says Rick. “Their natural predator, the fisher, had been over-trapped for its pelt. Once fishers were reintroduced, the balance was restored.”

Fisher (photo courtesy of Rick Roth)

“The fisher is a very effective predator,” adds Rick. “They are the only animals to pursue porcupines. Fishers have figured out that a porcupine has no quills on its belly or face, so it aims at those areas.”

In 2005 Rick launched Creature Teachers with idea of developing programs to help children understand and appreciate the diversity of wildlife. He continues to create new programs that highlight certain environmental themes. With state licenses and permits in hand, he acquires specific animals at six weeks old from breeders across the country.

“We never take animals from the wild,” notes Rick. “We socialize the young animals slowly to get them used to being around people. We want our animals to be very comfortable with the public and the format of the program.”

Rick and Sara
Rick and Sara with friends,
Victor and Carlos
(photo courtesy of Rick Roth)

Currently Rick, with his wife Karen and daughter Sara, care for and work with 80 different animals, ranging from a Brazilian poison dart frog to an Australian wallaby. The animals are housed on a 100-acre conservation area in Littleton, where the Roths act as caretakers of the property.

Creature Teachers programs have gone to schools, libraries, and camps throughout New England. In these programs, Rick stresses the importance of protecting open space.

“Preserving open space for habitats is key,” he says. “You can’t preserve an environment for wildlife if it is sold for development.”

“We hope the kids will be excited to be so close to a wild animal and leave with the message that wild animals deserve to be treated with respect. My goal is that the kids will get the message that they can make a difference and can effect change, so these animals will thrive into the future.”

“The Nature of My Backyard” is part of the annual Earth Awareness Program of the Westborough Community Land Trust to connect children with nature. The event is supported in part by a grant from the Westborough Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

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WCLT Offers Two $1,000 Scholarships

Encourage WHS Seniors to Enter WCLT’s Earth Day Essay Contest

Again this year, the Westborough Community Land Trust (WCLT) is offering two scholarships of $1,000 each to the winners of its annual Earth Day Essay Contest, which runs March 1 through April 4 for Westborough High School (WHS) seniors.

To apply, seniors must submit their Earth Day essays to the WHS Guidance Office by Friday, April 4, 2014. The scholarship forms and essay contest details can be picked up in the WHS Guidance Office as of March 1, 2014. Scholarships are awarded at graduation.

Essays should be 500–750 words and should address one of these three topics:

  1. An environmental issue in Westborough Describe an environmental issue that affects a natural resource in Westborough. Propose a solution that would address this issue and/or describe activities in which you have been involved that have worked towards solving this particular problem.
  2. Sustainable living in Westborough and beyond Discuss ways that you and others of your generation could live more sustainably on Earth. Include a description of changes you have made in your own life that have enabled you or your family to live more sustainably.
  3. Protection of Westborough’s natural heritage and special places Describe a place in Westborough that you think is especially important to protect, and explain why. Propose ways to protect or sustain this place or others that are part of Westborough’s natural heritage, and say how you have helped or can help.

“We learn a lot from what the students have to say in these essays,” says Annie Reid of the WCLT Scholarship Committee. “For WCLT, it’s not just about the winners. These students are the environmentalists of tomorrow, and we want to hear from them.”

Please support your land trust’s work by spreading word of the Earth Day Essay Contest and WCLT Scholarship program to your friends and neighbors.

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Long-Distance Charm Bracelet Hike and Shorter Bowman Conservation Area Walk

See the changes and improvements along these trail routes over the past 10 years

Charm Bracelet logo

What are you doing in early June? Celebrate the progress that has been made on the Charm Bracelet with a 10-mile hike from Minuteman Park to Hoccomocco Pond and the MBTA station on Saturday, June 7, from 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. You‘ll see that much has changed and improved along this route in the 10 years since WCLT‘s last 10-mile hike across the south side of town.

Or, as a shorter alternative, take a 3-mile walk around both sides of the Bowman Conservation Area and learn about the changes around Sandra Pond. For both the 10-mile and 3-mile hikes, meet at Minuteman Park on Upton Road.

Here are changes along the 10-mile route, in order:

  1. Tree clearing at Bowman Conservation Area and a new spillway
  2. Improvements to the trail at Bowman Conservation Area and newly added steps to the steep section (an Eagle Scout project)
  3. Clearing of invasive plants at Bowman West
  4. Fences removed at Hidden Meadow (an Eagle Scout project)
  5. Improvements to the trail up to Long Drive (an Eagle Scout project)
  6. A bridge crossing Upper Jackstraw Brook (an Eagle Scout project)
  7. Clearing of invasive plants at Gilmore Pond
  8. A new trail on the Staffier Easement between WCLT‘s Gilmore Pond and the Town‘s Libbey Conservation Area
  9. A new trail across Nourse Farm and an initial trail route through Headwaters Conservation Area
  10. Improvements to the Malley Trail
  11. A new dam at Mill Pond
  12. A bottle dump removed on the North Side Trail (an Eagle Scout project)
  13. A rebuilt Hoccomocco Trail (an Eagle Scout project)

If you would like to print out trail maps of various sections of the 10-mile route, or of the Bowman Conservation Area trails for the 3-mile hike, you can find maps at:

More specifically, click the titles below for the following maps:

Bowman Conservation Area

Bowman West

Upper Jackstraw Brook (including Gilmore Pond)

Libbey Conservation Area and Wile Forest

Mill Pond area (including Headwaters Conservation Area and the Hoccomocco trail)

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Return of the Wild

Recap of Dr. Tom French’s Annual Meeting Talk

Tom French
Tom French

Did you know that we now have almost every species that was here at the time of European settlement? From ravens, eagles, and turkeys to moose, bears, beavers, and fishers, many of these species had nearly or completely disappeared from Massachusetts, but they are now making a comeback, according to Dr. Tom French, Assistant Director for the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program at MassWildlife, who spoke at WCLT’s 2013 Annual Meeting last June. His own special area of work is endangered species, but he talked extensively about the rollercoaster history of wildlife in Massachusetts.

What causes species to become endangered? Loss of habitat, Tom emphasized, is the most common cause of endangerment here in Massachusetts—and in the world.

The historical context in Massachusetts

In 1620, with the arrival of the Pilgrims, European settlers began sending wild plants and animals back to Europe. For example, they sent sassafras from Cape Cod for use as root medicine. Early European settlers went to Canada for walrus, which were killed for oil and ivory until they were wiped out.

The 1700s were a time of pioneer expansion. In Massachusetts, forests were cut down to create farm and pasture land.

Deforestation peaked between 1830 and 1860. Only 2,000 acres were left uncut. The town of Florida in northwestern Massachusetts is one of the few towns where old growth forest still remains today.

From the Civil War period onward, people left Massachusetts for the Midwest and did not return. As agriculture was abandoned, forests began to regrow and have been doing so ever since, although development has continued to claim land.

Fate of wildlife species

Certain species were persecuted because they were viewed as threats to people or their livestock: bobcats, great horned owls, ravens, and timber rattlesnakes. A bounty system rewarded people for killing these predators and turning in evidence, for example, by bringing a dead animal’s foot to town hall.

Common redpoll
Common redpoll (photo courtesy of Garry Kessler)

Birds had no protection until the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Prior to that, some species became extinct due to overhunting, such as the passenger pigeon (1917) and the Eskimo curlew. Native songbirds are now protected all the time. Hunting of game birds is regulated by defined hunting seasons, limits on the numbers taken, and restrictions on the weapons allowed.

Today, wolf and mountain lion populations are long gone from Massachusetts, although occasional individuals show up. An example was a wolf that was killing lambs in Shelburne, MA in 2008.

What animals are doing well in Massachusetts?

Raccoon fishing for food in a tree
(photo courtesy of Garry Kessler)

Tom reported that raccoons, skunks, crows, and painted turtles are resilient species that are doing well. Also, red foxes and cottontail rabbits actually benefit from living near people because they find food nearby and get protection from predators. Beaver are now “everywhere,” as are white-tailed deer.

Black bear populations are expanding in Massachusetts by about 8 percent per year. Most black bears are in Worcester County and westward.

“They’re practically the mascot of Northampton, MA,” Tom said. A black bear even appeared on Cape Cod in 2012. These bears like to eat garbage and the black oil sunflower seeds that people put in bird feeders. There are about 60 to 65 home invasions by bears per year in Massachusetts.

Moose are expanding in Massachusetts. They had been absent since the 1700s, but rare sightings began to occur in the 1970s. Now they number about 1,100, with most in northern Worcester County. No moose hunting is allowed in Massachusetts. Young moose that are dispersing come here because they tend to go where there are other moose.

Due to their large size and long legs, moose are a danger on the roads, with one human fatality per 100 car collisions. When hit, moose tend to have their legs knocked out from under them and then fall heavily on the car. Moose are susceptible to brain damage from a brain worm that also infects—but doesn’t harm—white-tailed deer.

Fishers (a member of the weasel family) disappeared from the state in the early 1800s as the trees disappeared but are now common in most of the state. They returned with the trees.

Coyotes came to Massachusetts from farther west with the creation of an open-land patchwork of forests and fields. The first specimen dates from 1957. They are now everywhere (except Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard), numbering about 10,000. About 500 per year are taken by hunters. Tom noted that coyotes become aggressive only if people feed them. He said they’ll kill dogs for territorial reasons and cats for food.

Wild turkey
Wild turkey
(photo courtesy of Garry Kessler)

Wild turkeys are now common statewide and are often used as a symbol of the state of Massachusetts. They had been extirpated here by 1851 and first began to return in 1972.

Canada geese became common after the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Before that, some people used to keep Canada geese as decoys to attract migrating geese to hunt, but they released them when such hunting was no longer allowed. This led to the establishment of resident populations of Canada geese in the state.

Bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and ravens have been helped to begin their recoveries in Massachusetts. The last historic bald eagle nest was in 1905, but the first restoration nest in the state was in 1989. There are now 42 pairs of bald eagles in the state, with many chicks raised in wild nests.

Peregrine falcons were harmed by DDT, but the ban of DDT in the 1970s set stage for their restoration. Peregrine falcons now nest here on cliffs and ledges, such as those at Mt. Tom, and on buildings, as in Worcester.

Certain seagulls, namely herring gulls and great black-backed gulls, have been helped by the purchase of islands for them to nest on, after they had been wiped out in the area.


Rabies is a “wild card” because any mammal (including marsupials such as opossums) can get the disease. Bats, raccoons, and skunks typically get the raccoon strain of rabies. Other animals that are occasionally infected include woodchucks, foxes, deer, beaver, coyotes, and bobcats.

Managing people and how they act around wildlife is an ongoing challenge. More people than ever live close to wildlife these days. Some wild animals become quite used to humans and venture into neighborhoods and yards, even in the daytime, but people need to remember that they are wild, not tame.

Protecting rare species and their habitats

In his work at MassWildlife, Tom’s focus is rare species, such as arethusa
(a rare orchid), Hessel’s hairstreak (a rare butterfly that may inhabit Westborough’s Cedar Swamp), and marbled salamanders.

The following tools are available for the protection of rare species and, importantly, their habitat.

Bobolink, a grassland bird
(photo courtesy of Garry Kessler)
  • Land protection is important. MassWildlife owns about 200,000 acres. The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) also owns or manages about 300,000 acres.
  • Habitat management helps to preserve certain habitats; for example, through burns and mowing to maintain grassland habitat, or other management for grassland birds.
  • Ecological restoration includes invasive plant removal (targeting, for example, purple loosestrife and non-native phragmites in wetlands), as well as prescribed burns in fire-adapted habitats.
  • Education is important in reaching kids early, especially these days when kids are not getting outside very much. Tom commended MassAudubon for its educational programs.
  • Research provides information for further efforts.
  • Regulations and regulatory review are important. Key Massachusetts laws include the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act, Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act, and the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act. Of the 2,500 projects that NHESP reviews each year, 77% are found to need no change in order to conform to the regulations.

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