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Newly protected land in the Salmon Kill Valley. Photo submitted

Preserving Salmon Kill Valley

SALISBURY — The Salisbury Association announced on Wednesday, Sept. 6, a contract has been signed to purchase 14 acres of land in the Salmon Kill Valley and bring it under the protection of the Salisbury Land Trust.

This acquisition, which is made up of acreage sold by Ann and Stephen Torrey and by Jim and Melinda Belter, will connect two existing conservation easements to form 394 acres of contiguous conserved land in the Salmon Kill Valley. The new parcel will add to more than 3,900 acres of land already protected by the Salisbury Association Land Trust (SALT), a standing committee of the Salisbury Association, through conservation easements and owned preserves.

The Land Trust has been working to bring the Salmon Kill Valley under its protection for decades to “preserve the rural character” of the town, said John Landon, co-chair of the Salisbury Land Trust and its head of acquisitions.

The discussion between the sellers and SALT over this particular parcel had spanned eight years, said Allen Cockerline, owner of Whippoorwill Farm in the Salmon Kill Valley’s basin.

Cockerline and his neighbor, Alexandra Lange, were instrumental in raising $300,000 in pledges from their neighbors in the valley, enabling the Salisbury Association to commit its own resources ($250,000) to the purchase.

The Trust is turning to the rest of the local community to fund the rest of the purchase. Lead donors are offering to match up to $80,000 for further donations, and the Trust is calling for “everyone to help shape the future of the Valley, preserve its rural character, and protect the ecology of the area.”

“We are happy to to accept any donation that someone gives,” said Landon, “We’re hoping that people will stretch, and give more than they usually would.”

Landon compared the Salmon Kill basin acquisition to the Land Trust’s 2010 purchase of Tory Hill on the Sharon/Salisbury town line, which preserved views from Route 41 and Long Pond Road, and which was also funded by community donations.

“There’s a lot of conserved land in town that people never even see, in the woods, on a mountaintop,” said Cockerline, who was board member at the Trust until 2019. “This is one piece [of land] that everyone can see, whether they’re riding a bicycle or running or walking or driving in their car—it’s accessible to everyone.”

The other principle objective of preserving the Salmon Kill Valley, said Landon, is the preservation of small-scale farming in Salisbury.

The property is being farmed as part of Whippoorwill Farm by Cockerline and his wife Robin. Cockerline estimated that he has been cultivating those fields for 38 years, and expects operations to continue as before under the new ownership.

“I spent a lot of time going over every inch of that field,” said Cockerline. “It’s one of the loveliest pieces. It gives [the valley] its character, just the way it rolls—it’s beautiful.”

The Salmon Kill basin provides habitat to several species “of concern” according to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, including the wood turtle and American kestrel.

The Association plans to restore and maintain the creek frontage in the new purchase by removing invasive plants and replacing them with native shrubs, trees, and perennials, but doesn’t expect that much conservation work will be needed. A five-year restoration of the Salmon Kill was undertaken by Trout Unlimited, a national habitat conservation organization, in 2013, as part of the state’s ongoing restoration of the Housatonic River Basin.

“I’m glad it’ll be there,” said Cockerline. “I’ll be here hopefully for a while, and it’ll be there quite a bit longer.”

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