MassWildlife recently announced the permanent protection of 186 acres of land on the south slope of Mount Watatic in the towns of Ashby and Ashburnham, near the New Hampshire border. The property will be managed by MassWildlife as part of the 1,036-acre Ashby Wildlife Management Area, and is the last major piece of land needed to conserve the entirety of Mount Watatic.
The property is centrally located within an extensive network of more than 3,650 acres of conservation land, including the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) 2,200-acre Ashburnham State Forest, the 280-acre Mount Watatic Reservation, and MassWildlife’s 140-acre Watatic Mountain Sanctuary.
The MA Department of Fish & Game acquired the 186 acres of land from the North County Land Trust (NCLT) for $995,000 in July, with half of the funding from state open space bond funds and half from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund grant program.
The Mikes North County Land Trust was intent on using all our resources, tools, partnerships, local relationships, and abilities as a private land conservation organization to see that it was permanently protected,” said Anna Wilkins, Executive Director of the North County Land Trust. “The dedicated staff at the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife were phenomenal to work with. We are thrilled to have seen this accomplishment through and look forward to continued collaboration and partnership with the state.”
The Ashby Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is open to passive recreation, including fishing, hunting, hiking, wildlife observation, and environmental education. The property includes the south peak of Mount Watatic and provides important and improved connections to the Wapack Trail and Mid-State Trail located on the abutting Mount Watatic Reservation. The Ashby WMA also offers excellent fishing opportunities on the upper portion of Watatic Pond, Bennetts Brook, and the South Branch of the Souhegan River. Opportunities for hunting on the WMA include waterfowl, furbearers, deer, wild turkey, and stocked pheasant. The area is also popular with birders, particularly during the hawk migration season from the peak of Watatic.