Daily Hampshire Gazette

Easthampton couple donates 78 acres of forest in Whately for conservation

Mar. 31, 2022

WHATELY — An Easthampton couple has donated more than 75 acres of Whately forest to be conserved by the New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF).

Robert and Susan Boone’s 78-acre property in West Whately is broken into three parcels and will become a part of NEFF’s Pooled Timber Income Fund, which places wooded parcels under the organization’s stewardship. While under the organization’s care, timber is harvested from the forest — with conservation as the top priority — and money from that timber goes into a pooled fund, which is distributed annually to landowners participating in the program.

“It’s been in motion for a couple years now,” said NEFF’s Conservation Project manager Sophie Anthony. “We’re excited it finally came together.”

NEFF, which was founded in Littleton in 1944, is a nonprofit focusing on conserving forests and protecting their ecosystems through mitigating and adapting to climate change. The Pooled Timber Income Fund program, Anthony said, is a 3-year-old initiative that provides landowners a tax deduction and annual payments for donating their land to be conserved by NEFF. The Boones’ donation brings the total acreage of land donated to the program up to 1,740 acres.

“When a landowner joins the Pooled Timber Income Fund, they donate the land to NEFF and then the timber on the land goes to the pool,” Anthony said. “We definitely pride ourselves on managing land well.”

Anthony said the Boones’ conservation-first mindset and land are a “really good fit” for NEFF, and the organization is looking forward to working with the Boones and their management plan. Before any work is done, Anthony said they will survey the land and take inventory of the trees to determine the best course of action.

“We won’t harvest right away,” Anthony said. “We want it to be managed sustainably and don’t want to cut trees that aren’t ready to be cut.”

Attempts to reach the Boones for comment were unsuccessful this week, but the couple said in a statement that donating the land to NEFF ensures their dream of it being conserved.

“It has always been our desire to save our timberland from being developed, and New England Forestry Foundation has provided us with its Pooled Timber Income Fund as a way to accomplish this,” the Boones stated. “It was important to us that not only will the timberland be managed, but it will also be harvested in a sustainable way for the future.”

Anthony said Boone has “managed the land for years” on his own and his donation to NEFF is a great chance to preserve a large swath of forest, now called the Robert Boone and Susan L. Boone Forest, in Whately.

All NEFF land is open to the public and the Robert Boone and Susan L. Boone Forest and its streams, wetlands and hills will remain open for people to visit. Anthony said she isn’t sure if there are any trails running through the property, but the land is open to the public regardless.

“It’s a beautiful property,” she said.

Anthony said she hopes the Boones’ donation can be an example of how landowners can work with nonprofits to conserve their land.

“We really do believe in this being a great conservation tool,” Anthony said, “and we hope more landowners will consider this as an option when planning for the future.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.