Forest Legacy Feature Tract:
Audubon / Piretti, Massachusetts
No fewer than six entities were involved in the protection of the 77-acre Piretti tract in Lenox, Massachusetts. What's more, the Legacy acquisition was quickly followed by the protection of two adjacent parcels, essentially serving as leverage for the protection of an additional 91 acres. On June 5, 1995, the USDA Forest Service paid $180,000 to place a conservation easement on the Piretti/Audubon tract.
The tract, a sloping woodlot owned by the Piretti Family Nominee Trust lies near the quaint village of Lenox, home of the Tanglewood Music Center. Much of what goes on in Lenox and the surrounding towns is framed and back dropped by Yokun Ridge -- an eight-mile range that the Berkshire Natural Resources Council has been working to preserve since the early 1970's. Having succeeded in securing Forest Legacy Area designation for Yokun Ridge, the Resources Council turned to the task of preserving key tracts therein, including the Piretti tract. This potential Legacy tract was important for several reasons. The land lies adjacent to two major resources: Kennedy Park, a 450-acre reserve owned by the Town of Lenox and enjoyed by a multitude of cross-country skiers, walkers, hikers, and mountain bikers, and Pleasant Valley Sanctuary, a Massachusetts Audubon Society property beloved for its trails and nature-watching opportunities.
The town of Lenox, the State Bureau of Forestry, the Berkshire's Natural Resources Council and Audubon Society negotiated a deal under which the Society purchased the property from the Piretti family, then sold a conservation easement to the U.S. Forest Service under the Forest Legacy Program.
“Groups like ours may not have the deepest pockets, but we are nimble, and only too happy to move quickly to secure a property in anticipation of public acquisition down the road,” says George Wislocki, president of the Berkshire Natural Resources Council, which helped put the project together. “That's how this project worked in the end, and it's a good model for future public/private partnerships.”
The Forest Legacy Program protects important forests from conversion to non-forest uses. Important forests have important wildlife habitat; water quality protection; offer outstanding recreation opportunities; provide outstanding scenic views; are home to historic sites; and/or provide the opportunity to continue traditional forest uses. A Federal - State partnership allows landowners to keep their land private while at the same time ensuring it remains forest forever through the use of conservation easements.