by Barbara Walvoord
In the coming weeks, you may see folks wearing wading boots and carrying clipboards walking around on both campuses. They’ll be from our own Land Conservation Committee, from Polatin Ecological Services (our contractor for invasives removal), and from the town Conservation Commissions (who give permission for invasives removal along streams and wetlands).
They will be here because we have received two grants, as well as resident gifts, to focus this year on the ecology of our brooks–Pine Brook on the north campus, and Bassett Brook on the east campus, as well as their banks, floodplains, and smaller tributaries.
So let’s begin our Year of the Brooks with the big picture. Both our brooks flow eventually into the Connecticut River, which makes them part of the 11,000-square-mile Connecticut River Watershed, encompassing New Hampshire (where the Connecticut River begins in a lake near the Canadian border), Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut (where the river empties into Long Island Sound).
Our watershed has many important titles: “The Silvio O. Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge” by an Act of Congress in 1991; a “National Heritage River” by President Clinton in 1998; “Wetlands of International Importance especially as waterfowl habitat” under the international Ramsar Convention treaty in 1971; and one of the “Last Great Places” identified by The Nature Conservancy in 1993. (http://www.mass.gov/eea/waste-mgnt-recycling/water-resources/preserving-water-resources/mass-watersheds/connecticut-river-watershed.html)
Every study of this very important watershed, every project to improve its health, all point to the critical importance of the thousands of little brooks, like ours, that flow into the Connecticut River–their ecology, their purity, their wildlife and plants. So this is the first of several columns about our important and amazing brooks.