Pond Watershed Land Preserved

Spotted salamanders depend on vernal pools for survival.

Spotted salamanders depend on vernal pools for survival.

By William F. Galvin, originally published in The Cape Cod Chronicle —

The Harwich Conservation Trust has received a strategic land donation centrally located between three ponds the town has identified as a high priority for protection because of recent algae blooms, which signal health issues in those water bodies.

One of the recommendations contained in the Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan calls for restoring the health to Hinckley’s Pond, which, along with Seymour’s Pond, has been experiencing algae blooms in recent years. Those conditions are exacerbated by development around those ponds. The town has invested a great deal of money in the restoration of Long Pond through alum treatment in recent years.

In recent years the Harwich Conservation Trust has focused efforts to preserve open space surrounding those ponds. They have been successful in obtaining a conservation restriction on 24 acres running between Hinckley’s and Seymour Pond.

Now they have a Christmas present, the donation of 1.44 acres adjacent to the 24-acre parcel running east toward Long Pond. The donation is close to Princess Brook, which connects Hinckley’s and Long Ponds, serving as a major passage into the headwaters for the Herring River herring run. All three ponds are important spawning grounds for this anadromous species.

Bonnie and Stephen Chandler recognize the importance of protecting those lands, thus adding protection to those ponds. Stephen Chandler is a former member of the town’s conservation commission, the agency charged with protecting water and wetland resources and buffer zones in Harwich. The Chandlers were in Florida on vacation and not available for comment.

“The Harwich Conservation Trust is grateful for the Chandlers’ forward-thinking action to protect land, water and wildlife,” HCT Executive Director Michael Lach said of the donation this week.

Lach called the donation the “missing piece of an open space puzzle,” citing its location between the three ponds on the west side of Route 124, protecting woodlands as well as wetland that buffer a certified vernal pool in the watershed of the three ponds.

The land serves to protect core habitat as designated by the state’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. It protects vulnerable habitat that harbors sensitive and unique species such as the spotted salamander and wood frog, Lach said.

The HCT executive director said the donation advances the trust’s Priority Ponds Project with a goal of preserving watershed lands that specifically protect pond water quality and habitat. Through this project, Lach said,

HCT has helped individuals and families preserve 105 acres with 5,700 feet of shoreline along eight different ponds.

The Chandlers took advantage of the state’s new Conservation Land Tax Credit Program when making the donation. Lach called the program “a powerful incentive for folks who are looking to preserve land and benefit tax-wise.”

He said outright donation of land to a non-profit is one of the simplest ways to protect land. The donor can potentially receive a federal income tax reduction for the value of the gift against 30 percent of adjusted gross income for up to six years.

Landowners can also benefit from the state’s new income tax credit. Lach said you do not have to live in Massachusetts or even pay taxes here to obtain that benefit. If you own the land, and the land qualifies, you qualify, he said.

If you are an eligible landowner, your state income tax could be eliminated for the year with the commonwealth issuing a check for the difference between the amount of that tax, and $50,000 or 50 percent of the land’s appraised value, which ever is less, the HCT executive director said.

HCT takes advantage of all opportunities to preserve land, including outright donations, conservation restrictions and purchasing land. Since its inception in 1988, HCT has helped to preserve hundreds of acres in the town.