Friday, January 22, 2010

Two families permanently protect rare brook habitat in West Wareham

WAREHAM - Malcolm (“Mack”) and Cathy Phinney and Peter and Heather Zine, West Wareham neighbors, donated conservation restrictions on nine acres of their abutting land to the Wareham Land Trust. In a binding legal document called a conservation restriction, the donors have agreed to limit future development of their land, and the Wareham Land Trust has assumed responsibility to ensure that the terms of the agreement are followed.

Patterson’s Brook runs along the property, providing a rare habitat in Wareham: a cold water habitat for brook trout.

Downstream from the property is the historic trout hatchery, once fed by the cool waters of this tributary to the Weweantic River. The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife has designated Patterson’s Brook as a cold water fisheries resource after conducting a survey and finding brook trout in the stream.

Brook trout, the only species of trout native to much of the eastern United States, require cool temperatures and clean water to survive. A once abundant resource, their populations are declining due to development, stream fragmentation and alteration of water flows.

“Brook trout are indicators of the health of the watersheds they live in. A decline is an early warning of an aquatic system at risk,” Heidi Blythe, land protection specialist for the Wareham Land Trust, said. “Their presence on the Phinney and Zine conservation lands is a significant natural resource, one of the primary reasons for the protection of this land.”

“The permanent protection of our land has been a long time goal,” Cathy Phinney, a nurse at Tobey Hospital, said. Her husband, Mack, is a retired science teacher and volunteers for several conservation organizations. His primary interest is protecting rivers and streams.

“Land surrounding small streams is a critical buffer,” he said. “Without the forested land along streams, the temperature of the water would increase, as would erosion rates and possible alterations of the water. Any of these could destroy this rare habitat.”

In addition to the rare cold water stream, the Phinney and Zine properties contain a certified vernal pool, habitat for fairy shrimp, wood frogs and spotted salamanders. Eastern box turtles, listed as a “species of special concern” by the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, also find refuge on the land.

In addition to rare species habitat, the program has identified the Phinney and Zine land as a “Riverine Priority Vegetation Community,” one of eight natural systems most critical to biological diversity.

The land also protects drinking water by providing a recharge area for Wareham’s sole source aquifer, as rainwater filters through the mossy ground of the forest and wetlands.

The conservation restrictions are located in West Wareham, where recent residential and commercial developments are changing the look of the once rural area.

“I want future generations of children to know what this area used to look like,” Mack Phinney said.

For Peter and Heather Zine, the reason to protect their land is personal.

“We want our daughter, Hannah, to grow up seeing the beauty of the natural forest and brook. It was an easy decision to permanently protect this for future generations to enjoy.”

“We are grateful to the Phinney and Zine families for protecting this truly rare cold water resource,” Mary McFadden, founder of the Wareham Land Trust, said. “We hope others will be inspired by this generous donation so we can protect a longer corridor along Patterson’s Brook and our other rivers and streams.”

The Wareham Land Trust is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the diverse lands and natural resources of Wareham. For more information about land protection options and about the organization, call 508-295-0211 or visit


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