GREENFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A team of agencies will work with landowners to improve the wood turtle habitat in the Connecticut River watershed.

A grant was awarded to the Connecticut River Conservancy (CRC) from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to help protect wood and spotted turtles. The grant will fund landowner outreach by CRC and wood turtle site assessment by project partner, The Orianne Society (TOS).

According to the CRC, these turtles have suffered declines due to illegal collecting, development, agriculture, and stream alterations. CRC and TOS will work with federal and state agency partners in Massachusetts to find willing landowners and sites that will lead to improving working lands and water quality.

“Wood and Spotted Turtles thrive in environments with clean water, but they need space to roam on land as well, so improving habitat connectivity between land and water benefits them greatly. This not only helps rare turtles, but also creates habitat for other fish and wildlife, cleanses the water, and improves recreational opportunities. Farm Bill conservation programs also promote agricultural sustainability. Programs like this are a win for everybody,” said Kiley Briggs, Director of Conservation with The Orianne Society.

“Strong partnerships form the backbone of this project,” said Ron Rhodes, CRC’s Director of Restoration Programs. “In addition to working with landowners, CRC and TOS will collaborate with all three states and our federal agency partners to ensure we identify areas that are most in need of restoration and maximize the benefits to both the turtles and landowners. This work wouldn’t be possible without this grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.”