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January 20, 2013

Greenbelt tops 15,000 acres conserved

NEWBURYPORT — Greenbelt, Essex County’s Land Trust, is touting its efforts to aid in protecting 445 acres of farmland, wildlife habitat and scenic landscapes last year.

The group says it worked closely with local landowners, municipalities, funders and other conservation partners on 19 projects spread across the region.

The additional tracts bring Greenbelt’s total acreage conserved to more than 15,000.

“As a regional nonprofit land trust, Greenbelt is grateful to the landowners, members and countless supporters, including public and private funders, who make these projects possible,” Ed Becker, Greenbelt’s executive director, said in a press release.

“We are thrilled to be able to make several of these recently protected properties available to the public, free of charge, for outdoor recreation.”

All of the protected land parcels will serve to create or expand “greenbelts” or natural corridors, and act as a buffer to further development and protect air and water quality in our communities, he said.

A number of Greenbelt’s conservation projects closed in the month of December and used the new MA Conservation Land Income Tax Credit as an incentive for landowners to make a conservation decision.

In Newbury, Greenbelt worked with members of the Pearson Family to protect 4.5 acres of historic pastureland in Byfield center that has remained largely unchanged for 10 generations.

The organization teamed with neighbors to raise funds to purchase a permanent conservation easement on the property, which was offered by the owners at a discount from its fair market value. The easement allows the field to be forever available for cultivation. The remaining portion of the protected land covers wooded wetlands that have high ecological value and that feed the waters of the nearby Parker River.

Also in Byfield, Greenbelt received a grant from the George H. and Jane A. Mifflin Memorial Fund to purchase 40 acres of priority habitat abutting the state’s Martin Burns Wildlife Management Area. The wooded parcel contains important habitat for endangered species and will also provide a potential trail link to Greenbelt’s Indian Hill Reservation through its South Street woodlots.

Two contiguous properties in Ipswich, owned by separate landowners and totaling 60 acres, were also protected via conservation easements. As a result, a corridor of land including marshland along Essex Bay, running upland into agricultural fields and back down into the Ipswich River estuary, was permanently protected.

The 60-acre Bailey Farm in Haverhill that includes forests, streams and ponds was among the organization’s final efforts of 2012.

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