Retired Faculty Donate Valuable Forest to UMass

AMHERST, Mass. - Robert S. Bond and William P. MacConnell, alumni and retired members of the natural resources conservation faculty, have donated 234 acres of Princeton, Mass., forestland to the University for instruction, research, and timber harvesting/forest management purposes. The gift was accepted and acknowledged by the University''s Board of Trustees at its meeting in Amherst today, Nov. 7.

Bond and MacConnell are retired forest-management professors. The land, known as the Savage Hill Forest, is in the vicinity of Wachusett Mountain State Reservation and abuts state land managed by the state Division of Wildlife and Fisheries in the central part of the state. Earlier this year, the two owners signed a conservation restriction agreement with that agency to insure that the forest will be retained in perpetuity in its natural state, while permitting forestry uses.

"This land has a long and well-documented history of stand-level management unparalleled on probably any other private property in southern New England," said William McComb, chairman of the department of natural resources conservation. "Since it abuts other protected land within a suburban-rural environment, it has even more conservation value. It will be extremely valuable for teaching and demonstration purposes, not just because it has been so well-managed, but because such good records have been kept of everything that has been done on it since the two men bought the property together in 1965."

The two foresters bought the land together when forestland was inexpensive and readily available. According to Matthew Kelty of the natural resources conservation department, Bond and MacConnell wanted to put into practice what they were teaching at UMass. They used the forest as their own laboratory, where they worked with their students to develop new procedures and forestry techniques. "They wanted to see if they could earn money off the land by removing the poorer trees and leaving the better ones, and this practice allowed the forest to earn value over the years," explained Kelty.

Earlier this year, Kelty was named the first recipient of the William P. MacConnell Endowed Professorship in Forest Management. The professorship was established to recognize faculty of distinction or promise who can make a special contribution to the teaching, research, public service, and reputation of the department, according to McComb. A 1943 UMass graduate and long-time faculty member, MacConnell taught forest management at the University from 1948 until his retirement in 1998. He continues his association with the University as coach for the UMass ski team, according to Kelty.

Robert Bond, of the Class of 1951, served on the faculty from 1956-79. Kelty says the Bond family owned several acres of land on the edge of the forest, where they built a house and lived for a period of time. In 1979, Bond left the area for a similar teaching position at Pennsylvania State University, but he has maintained a connection to his home state through ownership of the Princeton property.

Kelty said UMass owns about 2,200 acres of forest, with the bulk of it in Pelham and Sunderland. In addition, there are a number of smaller parcels scattered throughout the state. "This forest has the potential to be a living endowment that will benefit the University far into the future, thanks to the hard work that Bob Bond and Bill MacConnell put into managing this forest over the last 36 years," he said.