Fish & Game to celebrate 200,000 acres of protected land

This Tuesday, the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) and Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) invite us to celebrate the protection of 200,000 acres of conservation land for Massachusetts citizens and wildlife. We are encouraged to join Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan, DFW Commissioner Mary Griffin, DFW Director Wayne MacCallum, and the Fisheries and Wildlife Board at the Maple Hill Wildlife Management Area in West Stockbridge. The recent 192 acre acquisition and addition to the Maple Hill WMA made by the DFW with the assistance of the Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) helped them to achieve this significant milestone. The celebration begins at 10 A.M.
Readers may recall that a couple of weeks ago I did a column about a habitat site walk on this new acquisition. Tuesday may be a good opportunity to see for yourself how valuable and beautiful this land is. It would be nice if a good contingency of local sportsmen and conservationists show up to demonstrate their support of the land conservation program. If you plan to attend, please let them know by emailing mass.wildlife@state.ma.us or by contacting the folks at the DFW Western Regional Headquarters in Dalton.
I only wish the late Attorney Sarah (Sally) Bell could be with us to share this celebration for she played such an important role in the acquisition of several parcels of land by the DFW here in the Berkshires. She passed away earlier this month. Tad Ames, President of the BNRC, in his October 14, 2013 Berkshire Eagle commentary Remembrance of Sally Bell put it this way: “She habitually underbilled the Mass DFW for legal services and she did even better for the BNRC.” Most of the time, she refused to take a penny for her time. The Lenox Land Trust also benefited greatly from her assistance.
A couple of years ago, I wanted to nominate Sally for the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen’s Appreciation Award and asked if she would accept it. Although greatly honored, she declined saying “maybe a little later”.
I’m sure Sally will be with us in spirit this Tuesday morning on Maple Hill. *****
Readers may recall my columns regarding the discontinuance of the Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Restoration program due to poor returns and federal budget cuts. Well, as anticipated, the Merrimack River Atlantic Salmon Restoration program drew to a close on September 5 for the same reasons.

According to Glenn Normandeau, Executive Director of the NH Fish & Game Dept (NHF&G) things had looked promising as recently as 2011, when more than 400 Atlantic salmon made their way to the Essex Dam Fish Lift in Lawrence, Mass. But in 2012, just 137 sea-run salmon returned, and this year only 22 returned.

The NHF&G would prefer to continue the program, but, like MA DFW they cannot take on the costs associated with a salmon hatchery operation. Normandeau noted that the US Fish & Wildlife Service will continue to focus on restoration of Atlantic salmon in the Saco and other Gulf of Maine rivers, the last remaining wild Atlantic salmon in the country.

“This was a hard decision, but the science tells us that there is little chance that we will successfully restore Atlantic salmon to the Merrimack,” said Wendi Weber, the USFWS Northeast Regional Director. “While the science is driving our decision, our declining budgets hastened it. We need to prioritize. With the lack of success, we need to shift our scarce resources to priority restoration efforts where we can make a difference.”

I have a bad feeling that we have not heard the last from her. Now we will have to watch out for hatchery closings. Hope I am wrong. *****

The Hoosic River Watershed Association is holding a State of the River Conference in Williamstown at the First Congregational Church on Saturday, November 2, from 9:30 to 11:30 am. The main discussion will be on PCB’s in the Hoosic River. Williams College chemistry professors David Richardson and Jay Thoman, along with students Amanda Schott and Austin Paul have analyzed crawfish taken from the Hoosic River and most recently from the Green River and North Branch. Professors Richardson and Thoman and Mr. Paul will report on their research findings and on other PCB studies going back to 1991. The conference is free and open to the public. *****

On another watery subject, the fall trout fishing has been excellent this year. The folks at the DFW have been saying all along that they stocked very nice rainbow trout this fall, some exceeding 14 inches. Its true! I had a spectacular afternoon flyfishing the Westfield River last week. How good was it? To quote a phrase sometimes used by expert local fly fisherman, Dr. Charles Wohl of Lenox, in describing a good fishing day, “It was obscene”. *****

According to the most recent Lenox Sportsmens Club newsletter, Board member Cliff White of Pittsfield competed at Camp Perry and came in as the highest Non-Distinguished revolver shooter, thus earning the distinguished badge #156 (that’s the total number of such badges in the country). *****

The Whitetail Unlimited (WTU) banquet which was held recently at the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club was a success. Some 120 folks attended and had a great time. Chris Sweet of Great Barrington won the preseason raffle called the “Pick of the Herd”. It is the top prize and if your ticket is drawn, you win your choice of any items in the auction. He chose the Mathews Z7 bow. Have you priced one of those bows lately? Incidentally WTU wants to form chapters in Berkshire County and if anyone is interested in starting one contact Bill Bailey, New England Field Director at 413-244-2304.

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