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.