Tolland State Forest Expanded With 840-Acre Purchase

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TOLLAND, Mass. — The state has bought up 840 acres of forest and fields in Tolland to add to Tolland State Forest. The $3 million purchase will create a 5,000-acre preserve just over the border in Hampden County.

The parcel includes an 81-acre lake and extensive forest habitat. The acquisition, which greatly expands Tolland State Forest, is the largest state land acquisition since 2008 and was completed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation this week.

"What we protect is just as important as what we build," said Gov. Deval Patrick in a statement. "In pursuing this opportunity, the commonwealth turned an economic downturn to its advantage, preserving a beautiful forest at a great price to taxpayers, while increasing the conservation legacy we are leaving for future generations."

DCR purchased 782 of the 843 acres in Tolland from Twining Lake Properties Inc. for $3 million in capital funds – significantly less than the land's estimated value of $5 million. The property was being offered at $6.95 million for the development of more than 200 building lots. A conservation restriction on an additional 61 acres was conveyed to the agency at no cost, protecting the property from development in perpetuity. Equal the size of 17 Boston Commons, the parcel was scheduled to be sold by auction last fall, and DCR worked closely together with the sellers, Tolland officials and other parties to secure the property.

State environmental officials say the property is unique in its interior location, pristine condition and undeveloped lake shore.

"Large, unfragmented tracts like this one support wide-ranging wildlife species such and bear and moose and reduce the stress of habitat fragmentation, a significant threat to endangered and threatened wildlife species," said Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Mary Griffin in a statement.

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The Twining Lake tract includes approximately 2,700 feet of frontage on the Farmington River; more than 6,000 feet of frontage on the shallow Twining Lake; existing trails for pond access and wilderness-style recreational opportunities; habitat for a variety of large mammals, and interior forest nesting bird species, four hilltops forested with a variety of hardwoods, pine and hemlock, and a fast-flowing, rocky stream leading from the lake to the Farmington River.

It is designated a "Critical Natural Landscape" on Fish & Game's BioMap 2, representing the largest, and least fragmented forests in the state.

"This is wonderful news. I applaud the DCR and the governor for their continued commitment to preserving and protecting our natural beauty," said Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, whose Berkshire district adjoins the forest. "When we lose these precious lands, they are gone forever."

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