Upper Housatonic

 Groups Successfully Get Protection for
Upper Housatonic River

The Upper Housatonic River Area of Critical Environmental Concern nomination has been accepted March 30 by the Secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Worried that PCB cleanup may cause severe long-term damage to the Housatonic River, a union of conservationists and watershed stakeholders asked for special state protection for 12 miles of the Housatonic River corridor from Pittsfield to Woods Pond in Lenox. This corridor is rich in wetlands, floodplains, feeder streams, wildlife, a number of rare species and woodland habitats including the steep western slopes of October Mountain State Forest.


Everyone wants a clean and beautiful Housatonic River. But will cleanup wind up destroying critical habitats and natural beauty? "Save the Housatonic," a group of 16 organizations, joined forces last year to seek Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) designation for the upper Housatonic corridor.

ACEC designation helps protect unique areas. With the designation comes state support for careful land use management. ACEC designation launches locally generated stewardship planning and land use policies to ensure that the exceptional ecological and cultural resources of this unique region are protected.

The area included in the nomination is approximately 12,280 acres in Pittsfield, Lenox, Lee and Washington.  Designation will provide a process for all community stakeholders to get involved in long-term stewardship.

Fears about CMS proposal

In part, it is fears about GE’s proposed Corrective Measures Study (CMS) to clean the rest of the river that prompted this action. HVA recently commented on the CMS to the Environmental Protection Agency, noting that cleanup must be done in a phased approach allowing for newer and less destructive technologies to be employed as they arise. HVA also requested that EPA require cleanup that is to the best ability of technology regardless of time, money and temporary aesthetic damage in order to ultimately provide a clean, safe and naturally beautiful river for future generations. Massachusetts Audubon also pointed out that the CMS does not provide enough information to judge the cost and practicality of restoring areas damaged by remediation. This is critical to its riverfront conservation landholdings.

To learn more about PCBs, click here.


Save the Housatonic steering committee includes the following four organizations:
Berkshire County League of Sportsmen
Berkshire Natural Resources Council
Green Berkshires
Massachusetts Audubon Society.

The following organizations endorse ACEC designation:
Berkshire Environmental Action Team
Berkshire Litchfield Environmental Council
Citizens for PCB Removal
Housatonic Clean River Coalition
Housatonic Environmental Action League
Housatonic River Initiative
Housatonic River Walk of Great Barrington
Housatonic Valley Association
Northwest Conservation District
Stratford Action for the Environment
Taconic Chapter Trout Unlimited 
Trout Unlimited.