Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch… was the sound on Tuesday, February 4, 2014, as Kris Ramsay, Director of the Orleans
Conservation Trust (OCT), led a small group of hikers on a mile-long walk through the Meadow Bog Pond Conservation Area and the Cochran Gift off Davis Road. This land, which is made up of three land gifts and one land purchase, totals more than 75+ acres and stretches from Quanset Road all the way to Little Pleasant Bay.
As the group passed through the different acquisitions, Ramsay explained when and how the land was acquired, who the donor(s) were, and why each parcel was so important to preserve. Ramsay also explained the difference between lands the Trust held Title to vs. land that has been preserved through a private Conservation Restriction.
To date, land that the Trust holds Title to has been acquired by one of the following methods: outright donation (“fee simple transfer”), donation by will (bequest), sale at fair market value, or bargain/charitable sale. While there are other land preservation methods, such as a donation with a reserved life estate or an installment sale, the Trust has not yet acquired land with either of these methods (Note-If you would like to learn more about any one of the land preservation methods listed above we would be happy to meet with you to discuss each or any one).
Ramsay next explained that a Conservation Restriction, also known as a conservation easement, is a legally binding agreement between a landowner and an agency or organization (such as OCT). The landowner retains title to the property, but extinguishes certain development rights in the property. The Conservation Restriction typically restricts dumping, mining, paving and development of houses, while allowing traditional family uses of the property. The restricted land can be sold, but the restriction runs with the land to the new owner. Ramsay also noted that by extinguishing the property owner’s right to develop the property to the fullest extent, the Internal Revenue Service may grant income tax deductions and estate tax reductions. Lands with Conservation Restrictions are also often granted local property tax relief.
After passing by one of the Conservation Restrictions, hikers traversed a small section of roadway and then moved back into the wooded environment. No more than 20 feet back into the woods something caught the eyes of the hikers. It was large, graceful, yet completely silent. What could it be? It was the largest owl on Cape Cod, the Great Horned Owl! Without a single beating of its wings, the owl drifted out of sight, but in that quick second you knew you had seen something special.
Ramsay explained that with its long, earlike tufts, intimidating yellow-eyed stare, and deep hooting voice, the Great Horned Owl is the quintessential owl of storybooks. This powerful predator can take down birds and mammals even larger than itself (such as an osprey), but it also dines on daintier fare such as mice and frogs. Arguably the most prominent feature of the owl is the feathered tufts on the head. We were lucky to see this owl because like most other owls, great horned owls are nocturnal. But, since they like dense woods, particularly young woods interspersed with fields or other open areas like the one we were walking through, it was as good a place to see one as any other place in Orleans.
If you missed the walk and want the chance to see some of our local wildlife, join us for our next walk at the Baker’s Pond Conservation Area on Thursday, March 6th, 2014 from 3:00 – 4:30pm.
Directions: From Orleans shopping center follow Rt. 6A west towards Brewster for 1.1 miles. Take a left onto Baker’s Pond Road and follow for .6 miles. Town parking will be on your right. Look for orange traffic cones and a white Ford Ranger.