Amherst is tremendously diverse in its flora, landscapes, wildlife, and land use. Open space in the form of conservation land and farmland helps maintain that diversity in the face of mounting development pressures. Public conservation land also serves as an important amenity for those who do not have sufficient private land of their own on which to recreate and directly experience the outdoors.
Conservation land helps maintain the town‘s rural character, provides adequate land area for traditional and modern forms of outdoor recreation, and protects important wildlife habitat for both game and non-game species. Protected farmland provides a permanent base on which present and future farm businesses depend, and helps farm supported (i.e. grain/dairy processing, equipment repairs) businesses maintain a significant presence in Amherst and adjacent towns. Protected land also ensures clean water for wells and reservoirs supplying Town drinking water.
Traditional resource-based economic activities such as agriculture and forestry, and traditional forms of recreation such as fishing and hunting, continue to play major roles in Amherst. The Conservation Commission and Conservation Department works closely with farmers and farmland owners to encourage the farm economy; carrying out ecologically-sound forest and open land wildlife habitat management on Town watershed lands in the three adjacent communities of Belchertown, Pelham, and Shutesbury; and renting out fields for farm production and community gardening.
The Town of Amherst is committed to protecting more land, which will help to preserve the community‘s open space and recreational opportunities even as new growth occurs. The Conservation Commission, with help from various town staff and departments, and through a valuable public input process, has determined the following to be Amherst‘s most urgent resource protection needs:
Conservation land is managed by the Conservation Department to maintain Amherst‘s natural resources, and may provide for passive recreation and outdoor activities such as hiking and fishing without being dedicated solely to playing fields or formal recreational facilities. Conservation land may include woodlands, pastures, trails or highly managed areas.
Management approaches include the following: