Francis Sargent Conservation Award earned by BNRC



Last Tuesday, the Berkshire Natural Resources Council received the Francis W. Sargent Conservation Award from the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board for its conservation of the Commonwealth’s natural resources and for its contributions to the sporting community.


Members of the BNRC, including Board Chairman Tim Crane of Windsor and President/CEO Tad Ames of Williamstown, were on hand to receive the award – a hand-carved wooden loon decoy created by Geoff Walker of Hank Walker Decoys of Newbury – at a ceremony held at the Steadman Pond Reserve, Monterey and Tyringham.  In addition to Chairman George Darey and the F&W Board, the ceremony included Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) Director Jack Buckley, Department of Fish and Game Commissioner George Peterson, other state officials and representatives from the sporting and conservation community.


The BNRC has been working for more than 45 years protecting the open spaces of Berkshire County to ensure the ecological integrity and public enjoyment of the region’s outdoor resources. It owns and manages 8,600 acres and protects an additional 10,011 acres through conservation restrictions.


Various user groups have benefitted substantially from the DFW/BNRC partnership. Thousands of acres in Berkshire County have been opened for hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, bird watching, etc. as a result of that cooperation.   The importance of hunter access is becoming ever more apparent as wildlife populations expand and proper management is required to maintain social and ecological tolerance.


Several wonderful speeches praising the great accomplishments of BNRC were delivered by the above mentioned dignitaries.   Let me quote what Tad Ames said when accepting the award:


“I’m just delighted to be able to accept this honor on behalf of the entire BNRC family, its Board of Directors, our staff and our many, many generous and compassionate supporters who really make everything we do possible.   This award is about history and what we and the DFW have done together, which has been defined by friendship and trust and nurtured over the years.  That friendship is one of utter reliance between the staff of the BNRC and the incredible staff at the DFW Western District.”


“It is also about saluting the sister agencies under the Mass Executive Office of Environmental and Energy Affairs, the Dept. of Agricultural Resources that protected many great farms in Berkshire County and the Dept. of Conservation and Recreation and its land acquisition team.”


“This award means that Berkshire County not only is a much better place to live, and visit and work, whether you are an animal or human, but that it will continue to be so.  We have no intention of resting on our laurels.  The DFW’s and BNRC’s core values are access to land for public use and enjoyment.  We do not conserve land so that we can put it in a glass case and observe how wonderful it is and pat ourselves on our backs for having set it aside.  We work together to conserve land so that people can feel the touch of bark under their hands, so that they can be startled when a grouse explodes from the brush, so that they can taste the sweet corn or the venison stew, so that they can see the wind in the canopy.   If we can’t get people out on the land and enjoying it and becoming richer for the experience, then we have not accomplished our whole job”.


“That is how we feel and we know we have great partners who feel that way, too.  Not only at the state agencies but at the statewide conservation organizations and local land trusts.  We at the BNRC have a vision for what this award means and what it will mean going ahead.  We want to see our great state wildlife management areas, state forests, farm blocks and land trust properties not as isolated islands of conservation but part of an uninterrupted and continuous network of conservation land that offers safe and healthy passage for animals or even plants that seek to adapt to a changing climate.  A continuous network that offers pathways from my house to yours, from town into nature and back again so that men, women and children alike can walk with a hiking stick in their hand or a fishing pole.  So that they can walk with a hunting bow, a pair of binoculars, camera or calipers and that they do so with a fine awareness of how much all of us depend on the benefits from nature and how deep our obligation to care for it.”


“We call this vision of a continuous, uninterrupted network threaded by paths, the Berkshire High Roads.    The Francis Sargent Conservation Award is not only about celebrating all that we have done together in laying the cornerstone over the last 50 years, but that we are rededicating ourselves for the next 50 years to finish the job that we have all done so much to advance.”


Wow!  This wonderful acceptance speech was delivered from the top of his head without the use of notes. *****


After 9 years with the Western District Office of the DFW, Aquatic Biologist Dana Ohman will be leaving to take on a new job with The Nature Conservancy in Ohio working with the Stream and Wetland Mitigation Program.  In her announcement, she stated that it was not an easy decision because she genuinely respected and enjoyed working with everyone in the Division.    Her last day in the office will be October 9, following the fall trout stockings.


On behalf of the local anglers, many thanks Dana for your hard work in keeping an ample supply of trout available for our pleasure.  Thanks also for your various presentations to the classrooms and meetings of Taconic Trout Unlimited.


Recently, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced that due to the work and commitment of many conservation partners in New England and New York, the New England Cottontail (NEC) is on the path to recovery and will not be listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.  It had previously been classified as a candidate for Endangered Species Act protection. This once-common native species survives in five isolated populations across Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island.

The NEC is the only rabbit native to New England and the area east of the Hudson River in New York. A closely related species, the Eastern Cottontail, expanded across much of the area following introductions around the turn of the 20th century.  The two rabbits look alike— only skull characteristics and genetic samples can be used for an accurate identification.

Unlike the Eastern Cottontail, NEC rely exclusively on young forests and shrublands (early-successional habitats). These habitats are often associated with abandoned agricultural lands, wetlands, woodland clearcuts, coastal shrublands, scrub oak barrens, utility rights-of-way, or other areas where disturbance has stimulated the growth of young shrubs and other plants in dense thickets. The NEC’s range has drastically shrunk since the 1960s as development altered vast areas of the thick, brushy shrubland required by it and other young forest-dependent wildlife.  The remaining forests matured into older and taller woods with little ground-level shelter or food for the native cottontails.

Recognizing both the urgency and the opportunity to conserve the NEC, state and federal biologists began a coordinated, rangewide, science-based conservation initiative that has supported the rabbits’ ongoing path to recovery. The New England Cottontail Initiative represents an extraordinary effort to combine funding and cooperative efforts to advance the conservation of an animal that could have been federally listed.

“Unfortunately, many people view a species listing as a victory, when in fact the real victories are like today’s when we take collaborative action to avoid a listing,” said Jack Buckley, Director of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife ((DFW)  “Proactively managing the rabbit’s conservation needs and keeping it unlisted allows for flexible management options, less conservation action implementation costs, and fewer land use or hunting restrictions.”

Conservation activities for NEC in Massachusetts are focused in southeastern Massachusetts and southern Berkshire County and are led by DFW and a broad range of committed partners. These activities include the following:

  • Conducting habitat management activities such as prescribed fires, tree clearing or thinning on state, federal, and private lands in the Bay State.  To date, over 1,100 acres of pitch pine and scrub oak habitats were thinned and/or burned and nearly 300 acres of trees were cleared to create young forest and shrublands to support NEC populations.  These land management actions took place on lands owned or managed by DFW, MA Department of Conservation and Recreation, Joint Base Cape Cod, Mashpee-Wampanoag Tribal Land, UFWS, land trusts, municipalities, sporting clubs, and other private landowners. Additional habitat management activities are scheduled in the upcoming year are as follows:
  • Providing initial funding for landowners both public and private to create NEC habitat.  Primary funding sources in Massachusetts included the USFWS, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and State Wildlife Grants.
  • Collecting rabbit carcasses and pellets to locate NEC in the state.  Many hunters and other conservation-minded groups and citizens in Massachusetts contributed to this statewide effort, with the University of Rhode Island conducting genetic testing.
  • Live trapping and radio-collaring rabbits to learn more about their life history needs, to monitor movements and habitat use, and to provide stock for a captive breeding program.  DFW, USFWS, Mashpee-Wampanoag Tribe and the MA Air National Guard were all involved in this effort.
  • Analyzing vegetation on lands for habitat suitability and monitoring the resulting vegetation growth following habitat management alterations.
  • Continuing the collaboration with state and conservation organization partners across New England and New York. The New England Cottontail Conservation Initiative, consisting of representatives from all of the above mentioned conservation partners will continue oversight on the recovery effort for NEC across New England and New York, providing an important administrative mechanism that allows for conservation coordination across boundaries.

“Though the NEC is not listed, there is still much to be done,” said Director Buckley. He noted that DFW and its conservation partners are seeking help from landowners willing to create and maintain young forest and shrubland habitats. More information about New England Cottontails can be found at  or contact MassWildlife at *****

This year, woodcock hunting runs from October 7 through October 24 and from October 26 through November 21.   Hunting hours are 1/2 hour before sunrise to sunset (except on Wildlife Management Areas stocked with pheasants, where hunting hours begin at sunrise). A Harvest Information Program (HIP) Survey is required.  All migratory gamebird hunters must register with the HIP each calendar year either on line at or anywhere hunting licenses are sold. State and Federal Waterfowl Stamps are required for hunting ducks and geese, but are not required for hunting woodcock. *****


DFW Western District Manager Andrew Madden recently reported that as a result of President Mark Jester and the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen efforts, the DFW will be implementing a new program similar to the highly successful National Archery in Schools (NAIS)  Program.  Called the Explorer Bowhunting Program it will be designed for other programs or after school programs (Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, etc.)  It was not designed to replace the DFW Bowhunter Education Program but it is a little more hunter based than the NAIS.  There will be more to come on this in the near future.


MassWildlife reports that the freshwater algae Didymosphenia geminata (a.k.a Didymo or “rock snot”) was recently observed by Dr. Caleb Slater, a fisheries biologist with the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW)  in the West Branch of the Westfield River in the town of Chester.  DFW collected samples and made the preliminary identification which was later confirmed by independent experts.

This is the second occurrence of didymo in the state.  The first was in 2013 in the Green River in Alford and Egremont.  The Green River algae bloom began in May of 2013, lasted only a short time and had no detectable impact on the resource.  Didymo was virtually undetectable in samples collected later in the summer of 2013, and no visible blooms have been found in the Green River by the Division since that time. There have been no reported changes to fisheries resulting from the Didymo blooms.

Didymo is a freshwater diatom that occurs in North America. It is unknown how many streams in Massachusetts contain Didymo, as it is visually undetectable unless in bloom. Blooms may appear gray, brown, or white and has a texture of wet wool or cotton balls. Blooms, which happen only when certain conditions (including flow, nutrients, light intensity, and water chemistry) are present, can produce a dense covering on rocky substrate and eventually result in long stalks. Extensive Didymo blooms can temporarily cover river bottoms almost entirely. Didymo generally occurs in cold, clear, nutrient-poor waters with a neutral or slightly basic pH. Conditions typical of the Upper Westfield River drainages should greatly limit the occurrence of Didymo blooms.

Didymo blooms have been observed in several surrounding states:  NH, VT, CT, NY, PA, VA, MD and WV.  Whether it was always present in the Massachusetts waters where blooms have occurred or is a recent introduction is unknown. Click onto the MassWildlife web site to see what this stuff looks like.

There is no known method for eliminating or controlling Didymo blooms. “Basically, the bloom has to run its course,” says Todd Richards, Assistant Director of Fisheries for the DFW. “All recreational users should always thoroughly wash their equipment/clothing/waders/boats in hot, soapy water. Boats/equipment and other non-absorbent materials should be scrubbed. Soft, absorbent materials should soak in hot, soapy water for a minimum of 30 minutes. This is particularly important with felt-sole waders or other slow drying material such as sneakers, towels, and related items.” *****

On Tuesday, September 29, the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board will present its highest award, the Francis W. Sargent Conservation Award, to the Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC).   The event is scheduled to take place at 1:30 PM. and will be held at the BNRC’s Steadman Pond Reserve (a Department of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) Conservation Easement), which is located  on the Monterey-Tyringham Road in Tyringham.

The award was established in 2000 by the Fisheries and Wildlife Board to recognize someone who has made significant contributions to the conservation of natural resources in the Commonwealth and is presented whenever warranted by the Board.  The Sargent Award is named for former Governor Francis W. Sargent, an avid conservationist and outdoorsman who served as DFW in 1963 and ’64.


The BNRC is a non-profit land conservation organization working throughout the Berkshires to preserve threatened lands.   BNRC, DFW and other partners have put together many projects totaling thousands of acres ensuring free access to the general public.  They are instrumental in helping land owners to conserve their lands in perpetuity.  Tens of thousands of acres of open spaces and scenic vistas have been conserved and most, if not all, of them are open to the public for passive recreation.

You may recall that the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen (BCLS) presented them with the 2012 Silvio O. Conte Sportsmen’s Appreciation Award.

If you are not doing anything that Tuesday, you might want to head for Tyringham to observe the awarding. If not, I’ll cover it for you and write about it in a future column.  I’m sure many fine words will be spoken about them, all richly deserved.

Prior to that event, the Fish and Wildlife Board will hold its monthly public meeting at 10:00 A.M., at the Tyringham Town Hall at 116 Main Road. *****

There will be a Gun Owners Action League Seminar at the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club on Tuesday September 29, from 6:00 to 9:00 PM.  The 3 hour seminar, entitled MA Gun Law for Citizens, will be presented by Jon Green, Director of Education and Training for GOAL.  It will help to separate fact from fiction.  Jon’s presentation will provide a basic understanding of current Massachusetts gun laws and regulations, including an overview of changes resulting from the enactment of MGL Chapter 284 last August.  It is free to residents of Berkshire County, courtesy of the SSC.


RSVP to Robert McDermott, Tel. 413-232-7700 or Robmcdermott so they can plan seating for this event.   *****


The Pittsfield Sportsmen’s Club will be having a buffet dinner at the ITAM Lodge on Friday, October 2, which will benefit its Land Development program.  Cocktails served at 6:00 and dinner at 7:00 PM.  There will be a 50/50 and other raffles.   Tickets, which cost $15 for adults and $8 for children under 10, can be obtained from the following people: Travis Delratez – (413)441-7979, Fran Tremblay – (413)443-5133, Dave Pemble – (413)443-0646 and Mike Furey – (413)822-1959. *****


CIVITAN will be putting on a training tournament at the American Legion pond in Dalton on September 26.  It is a concerted effort between CIVITAN, BCLS and Special Olympics.  Some 350 trout will be provided by the Berkshire National Fish Hatchery.  Training will be conducted by DFW’s Angler Education folks.  About 30 people are expected to participate.   The public is invited to watch, and hopefully, help out. *****   Phone/fax:  (413) 637-1818


MassWildlife issues several safety warnings


The first warning is to help prevent firearm accidents. Responsible hunting is a time-honored tradition that plays an important part in managing Massachusetts’s wild game populations. Responsible hunting means respecting game animals, hunting ethically and, perhaps most importantly, hunting safely.

Because this is a time of year when a lot of firearms are in use and in transport, MassWildlife and Project ChildSafe are urging hunters to take action to prevent firearm accidents in the field, at the range, at home, and everywhere in between. That means remembering that “The Hunt Isn’t Over Until Firearms Are S.A.F.E. and Secure.”

S.A.F.E. stands for Secure your firearms when not in use; Be Aware of those around you who should not have unauthorized access to firearms; Focus on your responsibility as a firearm owner and Educate yourself and others about safe firearm handling and storage.

Safe and secure storage of firearms when they are not in use is the number one way to prevent firearm accidents. For more information on safe firearm storage and to find out how to get a free firearm safety kit, including a gun lock, visit *****

The second warning comes because fall is the breeding season for both moose and white-tailed deer. MassWildlife reminds motorists to be mindful of increased deer and moose activity, especially during early morning and evening hours.  Moose, found in parts of central and western  Massachusetts, breed in September and October.  White-tailed deer breed from late October to early December.

Moose on the road are especially hazardous. The dark color and height of moose make them difficult to see in low light; moose eyes rarely shine like deer eyes because their eyes are above headlight level. In addition, long legs and heavy top bodies make moose very dangerous to motorists when struck.

MassWildlife recommends that we observe road signs for moose and deer crossings and slow down. Do not swerve to avoid hitting a deer because it may lead to more risk and damage than hitting the deer.  Moose are less likely to move from the road than deer, so stay alert and brake when you see a moose in or near the road.

Deer and moose/vehicle collisions should be reported to the Environmental Police at 1-800-632-8075.  In the event of a deer/vehicle collision, the driver or passengers of the vehicle involved (MA residents only) may salvage the deer by bringing it to a DFW Wildlife District Offices to be officially tagged. *****

The third warning involves paddlers in kayaks and canoes. They must wear life jackets from September 15 to May 15 every year. According to the Massachusetts Environmental Police, most boating fatalities in the Commonwealth result when boaters fail to wear life jackets while in small craft in cold water or cold weather. Waterfowl hunters using canoes or kayaks are reminded that this law also applies to them.  Obviously, stand up paddleboarders, should wear them also. *****

MassWildlife is in the process of compiling a Field Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Massachusetts. While they have a substantial selection of photographs of most inland native species on file, they are lacking high quality photos of most of the Sea Turtles. Most of these pelagic animals only visit our waters for brief periods each year, or only occasionally, and spend most of their lives in tropical and sub-tropical waters. MassWildlife is most interested in photos of the Kemp’s Ridley and Hawksbill sea turtles, but will also consider quality shots of the Green, Loggerhead, and Leatherback sea turtles. Underwater photographers or anyone with good quality, identification-rich photos are encouraged to submit their work to them for consideration.

They prefer dorsal shots of the entire animal showing carapace (upper shell) and shell scute/head scale patterns. Photos selected must be sharp and of reasonably high resolution. They cannot pay for the use of any photos they select for publication but they will credit the photographer in the publication and will provide a complimentary copy of the book to the photographer when it is published. If you’re interested in submitting photographs for consideration, contact Editor Peter Mirick at  *****

On August 26, 2015 at the Erving State Forest, Jack Buckley, Director of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife), welcomed home MassWildlife Habitat Biologist Rebecca DiGirolomo from a firefighting deployment in Oregon. DiGirolomo, a resident of Worcester, was part of a returning Massachusetts crew of 20 state and municipal firefighters sent to battle blazes in Oregon for the previous two weeks. Their deployment was in response to a request the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation received from the U.S. Forest Service and the Northeastern Interagency Coordination Center in Camden, NH.  During the deployment, the crew was assigned to the Eldorado Fire, located near Unity, Oregon.

“On behalf of both the Fisheries and Wildlife Board and the Division, we salute Rebecca’s courage, commitment, and contribution to the western wildfire fighting effort,” said Director Buckley.  “We are proud to provide the services of our highly trained and skilled personnel in this time of urgent need.”  Buckley noted that should there be a request for additional deployment, additional MassWildlife staff are prepared and willing to answer the call. *****

Since 1972, the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife has offered paraplegic sportsmen and sportswomen the opportunity to hunt deer in several locations across the state during a special three-day season. This year’s hunt dates are October 29 –31, 2015. Among the locations are two properties in northern and southern Berkshire County.  Licensed paraplegic hunters who have an interest in participating in this hunt should contact Trina Moruzzi at (508) 389-6318 or by email at for more details.  Do it by October 23 to ensure you can get your permit in time.

Some hunting seasons open this Tuesday.



Can you believe that some hunting seasons are here already?  Bear season couldn’t come soon enough for the corn growers and honey producers.  This Tuesday morning the first of three black bear hunting seasons begins.  Hunters are reminded that there have been some changes to the bear hunting seasons and regulations since the 2015 Fish & Wildlife Guide (abstracts) came out. The first season runs from Tuesday September 8 through Saturday, September 26.   The second season runs from Monday, November 2 through Saturday, November 21.


New this year is a third bear hunting season which takes place during shotgun deer hunting season, November 30 through December 12.  The regulations are complicated when it comes to determining which hunting implement is legal in which season, so I have included a grid which was furnished by MassWildlife and may be of some help.





**Except on Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) stocked with pheasant or quail during the pheasant or quail season.


Also new this year is the ability to hunt bears statewide in all WMA’s.  MassWildlife felt that these changes were necessary to help manage the rapidly increasing black bear population  statewide.  Hunters are still advised to review page 33 of the 2015 Fish & Wildlife Guide to find out how and when to report the harvest and other important information.  Remember, a permit is required to hunt black bears.


Also on Tuesday, September 8, the Early Canada Goose hunting season opens statewide and runs through Friday, September 25.   The bag limit is 7 and possession limit is 21.  The hunting hours are from 1/2 hour before sunrise to sunset (except on WMAs stocked with pheasant or quail during the pheasant or quail seasons when hunting hours begin at sunrise and end at sunset).


Migratory game birds may be hunted with shotguns no larger than 10 gauge.  Shotguns capable of holding more than 3 shells may not be used unless plugged with a one-piece filler which limits the gun’s total capacity to 3 shells and which cannot be removed without disassembling the gun.

Each waterfowl hunter 16 years or older must carry on his person a valid federal waterfowl stamp and each hunter 15 years or older must purchase a Massachusetts waterfowl stamp. The federal stamp must be signed across the face in ink.  Stamps are required for hunting ducks,  geese, or brant, but not required for hunting rails, snipe, woodcock, or American coot. Non-toxic shot is required for all waterfowl and coot hunting; no lead shot can be in your possession.

All migratory game bird hunters are reminded they must complete an online Harvest Information Program (HIP) survey each calendar year.  If you have not completed the HIP survey, visit a local license vendor, MassWildlife office, or go to to be sure you have completed the survey. Your license must have either the notation “HIP Survey Completed” or “Waterfowl Stamp” when printed.

Massachusetts has a Youth Waterfowl Hunt for youths aged 12 to15 on Saturdays September 26 and October 10 for ducks, coots, mergansers, and geese. All youths must be accompanied by a licensed adult hunter with a valid Massachusetts waterfowl stamp.  Only one firearm is permitted.  Adults may not hunt and may carry firearms only when unloaded and cased. No license or stamp is needed for youths ages 12-14.  A license and Massachusetts waterfowl stamp is needed for youths aged 15.  No federal stamp is required but all other hunting regulations/bag limits apply. *****


The Lee Sportsmen’s Association (LSA) is having a Basic Pistol Course on Mondays, September 14 and September 21 from 5:30 to 9:30 PM.  The course costs $100.  To sign up, contact Larry Karlquist at (413) 442-7807.

Also, the LSA will be holding an International Defense Pistol Association (IDPA) match next Saturday.   Participants are urged to register.

IDPA is a combat format competitive match that forces you to use different styles and methods to complete each stage.  Your score is your time plus any penalties.  According to spokesman Andrew Swanton, new shooters are welcome but should be well experienced in the use and operation of their firearms.  This is not a match for a novice shooter but rather a club level match, but one should not feel intimidated that it is a high pressure match.  Safety is the biggest concern and classroom orientation for new shooters begins at 10 AM.


Then on Sunday, September 13, there will be an IDPA Classifier.  That is similar to an IDPA match but uses standardized stages to place a shooters in division based on their score.  Watch for the schedule and announcements. *****


The Lenox Sportsmen’s Club is having its Annual Steak and Lobster Dinner on Saturday September 12.  It begins at 6:00 PM.  Music will be provided by DJ Russ Davis.  BYOB.  The cost is $25 pp. Contact Tom Ferguson for tickets at 413-443-3224.


Incidentally, its turkey shoots begin on Sunday September 13.  Tickets go on sale at 12:30 PM and the first shoot is at 1:00 PM.  The cost is $3 per shot. There will be food from the grill. Contact Brady Kerr at 413-212-0894 for more information. *****

The Berkshire Hatchery Foundation is holding a free kid’s fishing derby at their lower pond in Hartsville next Saturday, from 9 to 10:30 AM.

Incidentally, according to the Berkshire Record, the Foundation had a record attendance of 175 at its Lobster Fest at the hatchery last week.  I was there and certainly ate my share of the delicious food (lobsters, raw clams and oysters, chowder, steamed clams and more, prepared and served by The Other Brother Darryl’s Seafood Market in Otis. Approximately $4,000 was raised for Foundation activities which include providing brook trout for local sportsmen’s club fishing derbies, scholarships and more.


Good news for environmentalists and conservationists


There are two good news stories to relate to you.   First, at a recent event at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito announced $480,568 in grants from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust (MET) for projects to protect and restore rivers, watersheds, and wildlife across the Commonwealth.

“The Environmental Trust has been investing in the waters of Massachusetts for over twenty-five years,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “Our coastal regions and rivers are just some of the natural resources that make Massachusetts such a great place to live and visit, and these grants will continue to improve these incredible resources.”

Since it was founded in 1988 as part of the Boston Harbor cleanup, MET has awarded more than $20 million in grants to organizations statewide that provide a wide array of environmental services, from supporting water projects in communities to protecting coastal habitats. Funding for this program comes from the sale of the state’s three environmentally-themed specialty license plates: the Right Whale Tail, the Leaping Brook Trout and the Blackstone Valley Mill.

“The grants being awarded by the Baker-Polito Administration will help to open miles of rivers to fish, improve water quality, and provide new recreational opportunities,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “This funding has been made possible because over 40,000 drivers in Massachusetts chose to purchase one of the three environmental license plates, and I applaud our state’s residents for their continued commitment to the Commonwealth’s environmental well-being.”

The grants will help support twelve projects in Arlington, Barnstable, Belmont, Bourne, Boxford, Chilmark, Falmouth, Hanover, Milton, Pittsfield, Wareham, and Wellfleet.

“This award will help the Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT) implement a visionary partnership with local college students focused on protecting Berkshire County’s most valuable natural resources,” said State Senator Benjamin B. Downing.  “The Massachusetts Environmental Trust has funded such initiatives across the Commonwealth for decades, and I am pleased to see the Baker Administration continue to support these important environmental protection efforts.”

Congratulations to BEAT which has been awarded $35,682 to develop a program for training citizen scientists to survey stormwater outfalls during dry weather conditions. They will create a digital survey form for mobile phones that can be used in the field and take photos that will be geocoded and downloaded at the end of the survey.  A GIS layer will be created with attached photos and forms documenting the size, material and condition of the pipe, and note any problems associated with each outfall. When dry weather flows are found, trained personnel will sample the flows and the samples will be tested by a certified lab and by Berkshire Community College students for a new water quality course.


The second bit of good news is that the US Fish & Wildlife Service proposes to double the amount of land it conserves around the Connecticut River over the next several decades.


The proposal to acquire the land is part of the draft management plan for the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.  The Conte Refuge was established to conserve, protect, and enhance native fish, wildlife, and plants, and the ecosystems they depend upon throughout the Connecticut River watershed.

The 7.2-million acre watershed represents the refuge’s legislated boundary, and covers portions of four states: Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The watershed provides important habitat for hundreds of breeding and migrating birds, numerous migratory fish, and several federally listed threatened and endangered plant and wildlife species. As of October 2013, the refuge consisted of 35,989 acres on 9 refuge divisions and 9 refuge units across the watershed.  The largest refuge divisions are the 26,605-acre Nulhegan Basin Division in Vermont and the 6,405-acre Pondicherry Division in New Hampshire.

The USFWS has put out four options for the future of the Conte Refuge.  The agency’s preferred pick would increase the amount of land bought for conservation from the current goal of 97,830 acres to 197,296 .  That would include parcels in Hadley, Northampton and Westfield.


You can download a copy of the full-text draft online at: yourself some time for the summary alone is about 45 pages.

Two public meetings are scheduled in our area.  The first will be on September 14 at the Becket Town Hall and it will focus on the Westfield River.   Currently some 125 acres are in the refuge there and they would like to increase it to 6,520 acres.  The second meeting will be held on September 23 at the Chesterfield Council on Aging Community Center/Grange Building at 400 Main Road, Chesterfield.  It will focus on the Dead Branch area which currently has 97 acres in the refuge and the preferred plan is to increase it to 6,012 acres.Following the meetings, there will be a 90 day review and comment period.

Our late US Congressman Silvio O. Conte would have loved this news.  His dream was to see the Connecticut River cleaned, fishable, swimmable and with salmon restored in abundant numbers.  We know what happened to the salmon program but the rest is certainly good news. *****

All first-time hunters who wish to purchase a Massachusetts hunting or sporting license must complete a Basic Hunter Education course.


There will be a Basic Hunter Education Course taught at the Becket Town Hall,  557 Main Street,  on the following dates:  September 21and 23 from 5:30 to 9:30 PM and on Saturday, September 26 from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM.  Participants must attend all class dates and times to successfully complete the course.  To enroll, call (508)389-7830. *****

The Lee Sportsmen’s Association is having a Basic Pistol Course on Mondays, September 14 and September 21 from 5:30 to 9:30 PM.  The course cost is $100.  To sign up, contact Larry Karlquist at (413) 442-7807.

The Mass Division of Ecological Restoration –What it does.

In last week’s column I mentioned that Tim Purinton, Director of the MA Division of Ecological Restoration (DER) will be guest speaker at today’s Berkshire Hatchery Foundation Lobster Fest.  I mentioned that because of the DER’s excellent work, it deserves more coverage in this column.

Massachusetts has more than 10,000 miles of river, but unfortunately, many suffer from over-allocation of water, polluted runoff during rain, and habitat fragmentation. In many cities and towns, rivers are separated from residents and businesses by concrete walls, fences, and buildings.

The mission of the DER is to restore and protect the Commonwealth’s rivers, wetlands and watersheds for the benefit of people and the environment.   It focuses on revitalizing urban rivers and undoing the effects of more than 3000 dams and 40,000 culverts.

Thanks in part to the DER, Massachusetts is leading the Northeast in river restoration efforts.  It maintains a strong focus on dam removal, as well as other innovative techniques to heal rivers and streams at a larger, system-level, not only to benefit of fish, but to restore dozens of ecological processes that define river health.


Physical restoration techniques such as culvert and bridge replacement, stream naturalization, and dam removal are designed and implemented to maximize restoration benefits for aquatic habitat while minimizing negative impacts to infrastructure, cultural resources, and the built environment.  Many streams, especially in eastern Massachusetts, are subject to excessive water withdrawals and other manipulations of the natural hydrologic regime.  Restoring natural stream flow through impoundment management, water conservation, and infrastructure planning are techniques that can be used to improve aquatic ecosystem functions.

Working in partnership with public, private, and non-governmental organizations, DER has completed over 100 restoration projects, restoring over 1,000 acres of tidal wetlands and miles of rivers and freshwater habitats. The number of its active projects in development at any given time typically exceeds 50.

Dams block fish and wildlife, degrade water quality, and stop the flow of water, sediment, and organic material.  Undersized and inappropriately place culverts block fish and wildlife.  Both cause public safety risks as they degrade and eventually fail catastrophically.  DER works with dam owners to remove unwanted dams and with cities, towns, and the state to replace undersized culverts.  DER also works with communities to improve water quality and stream habitat in urban settings.

It works on twenty to thirty dam removal and three to five culvert projects at any given time. Locally, some past projects included removal of two dams on Yokum Brook in Becket, the Briggsville Dam on the North Branch of the Hoosic River in Clarksburg, the Stroud Dam on Kinne Brook in Chester and the installation of a new culvert on Thunder Brook in Cheshire.  It is involved with the Hoosic River Revival in North Adams, Pecks Brook in Pittsfield and is working with partners to improve stream flow below recreational dams in Pittsfield and Stockbridge.

DER is working with the Housatonic Valley Association, the Town of Pittsfield, and lake associations to assess adjustments to drawdown management that consider both downstream flow regimes and lake user needs.  Pittsfield is piloting an alternative approach at Onota Lake/Pecks Brook.

Future local projects involve the removal of the Tel-Electric (a.k.a. Mill Street) Dam, located on the West Branch of the Housatonic River in downtown Pittsfield.  The removal of the dam is part of a larger effort by the City of Pittsfield to revitalize the surrounding neighborhood.

Another future project involves the removal of the Columbia Mill Dam, located on the Housatonic River in Lee.  Removal of that structure, and potential remediation of impounded sediments, will help to improve water quality, restore upstream fish passage, address risks posed by aging infrastructure, and improve local recreational opportunities.

I have barely scratched the surface of the wonderful projects in which the DER is involved, the employment benefits, how its leverages state dollars, the various important awards received and how restorations generate substantial economic value by improving ecosystem services.   Click onto to learn more about it.  *****

All first-time hunters who wish to purchase a Massachusetts hunting or sporting license must complete a Basic Hunter Education course.  This course is designed for first-time hunters and is standardized across North America.


There will be a Basic Hunter Education Course taught at the Pittsfield High School, 300 East Street, Pittsfield, on the following dates:  September 8, 10, 15, 17, 22 and 24 from 6:00 to 9:00 PM.  Participants must attend all class dates and times to successfully complete the course.  To enroll, call (508)389-7830. *****

Trapper education is mandatory for all first-time trappers and Problem Animal Control (PAC) Agents.     MassWildlife has announced the following Trapper Education courses:   At the US Fish & Wildlife Service office in Hadley September 9 and 19 and at the same place on September 10 and 20.  Courses will also be held at the Auburn Sportsman’s club in Auburn on September 2 and 12 and on October 7 and 17.  Course information can be found online at


If you are interested in any of these courses, call 508-389-7830 immediately to enroll; classes are filled first-come, first-served, and enrollment cannot be processed via email. *****


The Berkshire Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation has announced that after a 3 year hiatus, it will begin having its annual banquets.  This year’s banquet will be held at the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club on Sunday, September 13 with doors opening at noon and dinner served at 1:00 PM.  The cost is $65 per person which includes the meal and a one year membership along with a year’s subscription to Turkey Call magazine.   Chris Puntin of Becket will be heading it up and is looking for volunteers to join the committee to help with the banquet and other events.    Contact information is: 413-464-4036 or cpuntin1218@gmail. Com.  *****

Antlerless deer hunting permits are announced

The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) has recently announced that 42,375 antlerless deer hunting permits will be issued statewide this year, reflecting no change from last year.  Also, the permits for each individual Wildlife Management Zone (WMZ) will also remain the same.  The allocated permits by WMZ and odds for getting a permit are as follows:



Wildlife Management Zone 2015

Allocated Permits






1 400 1305 39%
2 175 1688 14%
3 1100 2344 57%
4N 375 2235 23%
4S 275 1645 26%
5 1250 3507 44%
6 450 917 65%
7 2250 3277 85%
8 2800 4502 77%
9 4100 4984 100%
10 12000 4045 100%
11 11000 7205 100%
12 800 1407 78%
13 2700 135 100%
14 2700 83 100%


*The Odds are calculated as allocated permits divided by total applicants, plus an adjustment to compensate for applicants that do not come back to pay for their permit (based on 2013-2014 data.


Sale of Surplus by WMZ will be staggered over the following days in October, 2015, beginning at 8AM:   Zone 11 permits will go on sale on Tuesday, October 6, Zone 10 permits will go on sale on Wednesday, October 7, Zone 13 and 14 permits will go on sale on Thursday, October 8. Once on sale, permits will remain available until sold out in each WMZ.


Hunters can only purchase permits through MassFishHunt, at authorized license vendor locations or at a DFW office.


Incidentally, I hope you noticed the number of people who deer hunt in Massachusetts.  Nearly 40,000 of them applied for the antlerless permit alone.


MassWildlife recently created a Youth Deer Hunt day in Massachusetts for hunters aged 12 to 17.  This Hunt provides youth with an opportunity to hunt deer with their own deer tags during a special single-day season that precedes the Commonwealth’s annual archery, shotgun, and muzzleloader seasons.  Hunters are reminded that all shotgun deer season regulations apply on the Youth Deer Hunt day.

The day will be held the 4th Saturday following Labor Day.  (October 3 this year). Hunting with shotgun, muzzleloader or bow and arrow is allowed.  Only one firearm/bow is permitted between youth and adult.  All shotgun deer hunting season regulations apply on the Youth Deer Hunt day.

The requirements are as follows: For 12-14 aged youth, no hunting or sporting license is required but a Youth Deer Hunt Permit is required.  The youth must be accompanied by a duly licensed adult.  (One adult per youth hunter).  For 15-17 aged youths, a Massachusetts hunting or sporting license and the Youth Deer Hunt Permit are required.

Youth Deer hunt permits are free, but must be obtained at a license vendor or MassWildlife office. These permits and tags are only valid for the Youth Deer Hunt day and cannot be used in later seasons.  Click onto the MassWildlife website for more information. *****

The Lenox Sportsmen’s Club (LSC) reminds us that the Massachusetts gun laws have changed considerably over the last several years.  Do you know the laws or think you know them?  Well, on Tuesday August 18, the LSC and the Gun Owners Action League are presenting a gun law seminar beginning at 5:30 PM which will cover some of these new laws.  It will be taught by Jon Green, GOAL Director of Education.  A $5 donation is requested and you are asked to pre-register.  For more information, contact Lorenzo Maranggoni at (413) 822-7412. *****


On August 21 and 24 MassWildlife Habitat Biologist Marianne Piché, along with Natural Resources Conservation Services and Department of Conservation and Recreation Service Forestry staff, will lead two New England Cottontail Habitat Management Walks at project sites in Sandisfield and Granville. They will discuss New England Cottontail conservation, habitat management planning, funding, and permitting.  One walk will be hosted by Chad Pease and the other by Charlie Sheets; two landowners who have completed habitat management on their properties.

You are invited to see these conservation efforts and learn what you can do to become involved.  The walks will take place from 5:30 – 7:00 P.M. at 228 Sandisfield Rd. in Sandisfield on August 21 and on Main Rd. (0.1 miles east of Sheets Rd.) in Granville on August 24.  Be prepared for a short walk on level but uneven and muddy terrain. Contact Marianne at 508-389-6313 or via email, for more details. *****

Tim Purinton, Director of the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration (DER), will be guest speaker at the 13th Annual Berkshire Hatchery Foundation’s Lobster Fest on Sunday, August 23.  It will be held on the hatchery grounds from 2 to 5 PM.  The Lobster Fest tickets, which cost $65 per person, can be obtained by contacting the Hatchery at (413) 528-9761.  Don’t delay as it is expected to be a sell-out.


Purinton and his staff at the DER work with community-based partners to restore aquatic ecosystems.  Their work brings clean water, recreation opportunities, healthy commercial fisheries and other ecosystem services to the citizens of Massachusetts.  The title of his talk will be Dams, Cranberry Bogs and Culverts, An overview of River Restoration Efforts in Massachusetts.

The excellent work of both the DER and the Berkshire National Fish Hatchery deserve more coverage in this column, hopefully next week.

Incidentally, The Berkshire Hatchery Foundation is holding another free kid’s trout fishing derby at their lower pond in Hartsville on August 22 from 9 to 10:30 AM.

Big bass caught in Becket waters



It was 5:10 AM on Saturday, July 25, when Gabrielle Graham of Becket made her first cast into a local pond in Sherwood Forest in Becket.  She was fishing with a large greenish worm imitation.  On that first cast a large fish gobbled up that worm.  According to Gabrielle, the fish was so strong that it towed her row boat, with two people in it, around the lake for several minutes. 


When she finally managed to bring it to the side of the boat she saw that it was a huge largemouth bass.  She did not have a net and had to grab it by its lower jaw and hoist it out of the water and onto the boat.  She said that it was so big that she had trouble lifting it. 


A friend took a picture of it and she immediately released it back into the water.  She didn’t want to kill that fish after it gave her such a thrilling fight.  Besides, she said, it is a catch and release lake.  By 5:19 AM it was all over and the fish was happily swimming again.


She didn’t have scales with her to weigh the fish but, according to Gabrielle, some estimated it to be between 8 lbs and 14 lbs.  She is no stranger to hooking and fighting large fish for she fishes the Salmon River in Pulaski, NY for steelhead and king salmon.  She feels that its weight was on the upper end of the estimations. 

Beginning this year, MassWildlife has a new Catch and Release category in its Sportfishing Awards Program and she could have probably received a pin.  However; in order for a fish to be considered it must be measured at the site of capture and photographed against a standard measuring device. The photo must include the entire fish and the measurement must be clearly discernible.  The clear, side view, close-up photograph of the fish must be included with an affidavit.

Too bad for Gabrielle, she’ll just have to go out and catch it again and this time bring a tape measure.  *****

In my June 14 column, I had mentioned that the MA Fish & Wildlife Board had appointed Division of Fisheries & Wildlife Acting Director Jack Buckley as its new Director, replacing recently retired Director Wayne MacCallum.  At the time, there was no press release as to Buckley’s bio or qualifications, but recently, the following information has been made available.


Buckley has been with MassWildlife since 1988 as Deputy Director of Administration, directly involved with the development of fisheries and wildlife management and policy initiatives.  He has provided general management and research guidance to the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program; represented the Division’s interest to the legislature; worked with various constituent groups to implement agency initiatives; supervised the Federal Aid Program; provided supervision and guidance to the Information and Education staff; and coordinated programs with the Department of Fish and Game, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and other conservation partners.


In addition, Buckley served on several committees with the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, including Legislative Affairs, Federal Budget, and International Affairs.  He serves as the regional representative for the Northeastern states to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Technical Working Group.


Prior to working for the Division, Buckley was the Chief of Fisheries Management in Washington D.C. for the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.  He was also a Project Leader at the Massachusetts Cooperative Fishery Research Unit at UMASS where he directed a multi-agency funded research project on the behavioral ecology and population dynamics of the endangered Shortnose Sturgeon.   He earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Fisheries Biology from UMASS and a Bachelor’s degree in History from Ripon College in Wisconsin.


“I am very grateful to the Board for giving me this extraordinary opportunity,” said Buckley. “While there are challenges ahead, I believe the future looks bright, and I look forward to working with hunters, anglers, trappers, environmentalists, and all citizens to fulfill our public trust responsibility to the people and natural resources of the Commonwealth”. *****


As you know, former Berkshire Eagle Sports Editor Brian Sullivan recently passed away.  His passing occurred when I was away and this is my first opportunity to write a few words about him.


It was Brian who interviewed me for this column back in February, 2004.  He was friendly and made me feel very comfortable during the interview.  He then introduced me to his boss, then had Ben Garver take my photograph and I left the Eagle Building that day with a new job.  I was very appreciative of the fact that he took a chance on hiring this retired, old bank auditor who happened to love to hunt and fish.  Thereafter, each week when I dropped off my column, he always greeted me with a friendly smile (a rare sight for an auditor) and words of encouragement. 


A year or so after that, Brian asked me to appear as his guest on his sports program which was aired on Southern Berkshire Cable TV.  Anyone who knows me knows that I would rather be water boarded than to speak in public, much less on TV.  But this was Brian, whom I owed so much, asking and I said yes.  The filming went well and once again he made me feel comfortable during the interview. 


He was my boss for the next seven or eight years and we had a very good relationship.  Even after he had left the editor position and was in ill health, we would meet here or there and he still had that friendly smile and kind words.


Brian Sullivan was a good man and he will be missed. *****


Catch and release fishing pointers


In recent years, there has been more interest in catch and release (C&R) fishing.  One reason could be the increase in C&R fishing areas.  In our area, we have stretches of the Housatonic River and Westfield Rivers which are designated as C&R areas with artificial lures only.  Other anglers are releasing their fish rather than eating them due to the health advisories of mercury, PCB’s etc.  On MassWildlife’s web site they list local waters where such advisories exist.  Some people just don’t like the taste of the fish and let them go.

At least once a year a fisherman asks me to do an article on how to properly release a fish unharmed.  That is a complex subject on which people have different opinions.  The following is my opinion:    If you wish to release a trout, my first recommendation is to not to use treble hooks which come on lures.  These barbed hooks frequently hook the trout on the top, bottom and side of the mouth at the same time.  That means that you probably will have to hold the fish firmly and twist the hooks out.  Do not place your fingers through the gills.  Do not hold the fish with dry hands.  That causes the protective slime on the fish’s skin to come off and the fish will probably die from some kind of fungus.  Keep your hands wet while handling the fish.   If the fish starts to bleed, forget it, that fish is a goner.  It is best to keep and eat it, if legal.  In a designated C&R water body, you must release all trout whether dead or alive. I recommend that you replace those treble hooks with a single, barbless hook or cut two of the three hooks off.     If you can’t get any barbless hooks, pinch the barb down yourself.

So will the fish get off with barbless hooks? If you keep tension on the line and don’t allow any slack, the chances are good that you will catch the fish.  Fly fishermen love barbless hooks because after they net the fish, the hook usually comes out of the fish on its own.  They don’t even have to touch the fish or take it out of the water.  And, if the hook sticks into the net it comes right out.  How many of us have had a barbed hook get stuck in the net and had to cut it out?   Incidentally, use C&R nets as the material is less abrasive and have soft or knotless mesh. Also, if you happen to stick the hook into your clothes or body you will be very thankful that it was barbless.

Don’t fight your fish longer than necessary.  Use sufficient line and equipment to bring that fish in rapidly.  So many times fishermen use ultra light equipment to enjoy the fight longer.  An exhausted fish will swim away, but will probably die later because of lactic acid which builds up in their systems during long fights.  Don’t allow the fish to flop around on streamside rocks or bottoms of boats because they harm themselves.  Never grab the fish by its eyes or gills.  Avoid squeezing it by its stomach.

When the rivers become warm during the summer, trout have decreased chances of survival after release.  You might consider switching to fishing in the early morning when the waters are cooler.  If you catch a trout from a river, especially during warm weather, hold your fish pointing into the current in slower sections until it is revived and swims away on its own.  Sometimes it takes a little time.

Release your fish as soon as possible and if you take photos, do so as soon as possible also.  Use needle nosed pliers, fishhook removers or hemostats to remove hooks.  Do not try to dig out a deeply hooked fish.  Most fly fishermen I know simply cut the tippet near the fly if it is deeply embedded in cartilage and let it go.  The fish will live and the hook will rust out after a short time.

If you are a bait fisherman, I recommend using circle hooks.  It is rare to gut hook a fish using them because they almost always hook the fish in the corner of the mouth.  If you decide to fish with bait and conventional hooks, set the hook quickly to avoid deeply hooking the fish.

Bass fishermen should lift the fish out of the water by its lower jaw and be sure to keep the body in an up and down (vertical) position.  Unlike what you see on those TV bass fishing shows, do not hold the fish by the mouth in a horizontal position.  They have lived their lives in suspension and experts tell us that such a hold can tear their internal organs, viscera and dislocate their spines.  Hold them by the mouth or jaw and support the fish under the belly.  I quit watching those TV bass fishing programs because many fishermen hold the fish horizontally by the mouth in front of the camera and carry on a lengthy conversation before releasing the fish back into the water.  I hate seeing that and don’t understand why the B.A.S.S. organization doesn’t get after them.

As one aquatic biologist put it, After the fight of your life, say going 12 rounds in a boxing ring or running a marathon, imagine having your air cut off!  That’s exactly what we do when we lift a fish out of the water.  Fish kept out of water for more than one minute have a greatly diminished chance of survival, once a fish has been out of water for three minutes, it has virtually no chance for survival, even if it swims away.

Questions/comments:   Phone/fax:  (413) 637-1818