Open Country Honoree: Berkshire Natural Resources Council

Massachusetts boasts a population density of roughly 850 people per square mile. Sure, big-city meccas like Boston skew that number … Continued

Massachusetts boasts a population density of roughly 850 people per square mile. Sure, big-city meccas like Boston skew that number pretty good.

But, compared to Montana’s density of eight people per square mile, it’s hard to imagine how the state could possibly have any areas of unmolested habitat left.

But it does. And the Berkshire Natural Resources Council is looking to add to the tally.

The Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts are one of the Northeast’s last, best places. While it isn’t the technical definition of a pristine wilderness, the area is home to sizeable swaths of habitat and some of the region’s classic mountain landscape.

The BNRC is a land trust organization formed in 1967 when the Miller family (who published the area’s newspaper) forged a partnership with Charles W. H. Foster, the commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Natural Resources.

The first land-conservation efforts of the organization focused on the protection and establishment of public parks. As the organization matured, the concept of land acquisition to be placed in trust took hold.

The Berkshire region quickly became an area of focus for obvious reasons – it’s a unique part of the area and provides Massachusetts with an area of relatively native habitat for outdoor recreation.

Protecting areas like the Berkshires is one thing. But the BNRC is doing so in a manner that one might not expect: They’re committed to public hunting and fishing access as well.

To date, the group owns nearly 9,000 acres and oversees conservation easements on an additional 10,000 acres with a long-term goal of connecting hundreds of thousands of acres on conservation land in the area with the Berkshire High Road trail system.

The BNRC is the ultimate example of Open Country and is a well-deserving recipient of Outdoor Life’s Open Country awards.

The group will be honored during a presentation at the SHOT Show on Jan. 21 in Las Vegas.