Beginning more than fifty years ago, members of the Allen Bird Club, especially Benedict Breitung, worked to acquire approximately 330 acres of land between Interstate 91 and the Connecticut River in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. This property became the Fannie Stebbins Memorial Wildlife Refuge, owned and managed by a separate Board of Trustees elected by Allen Bird Club members. William Natti and subsequently Edward Dzielinski played primary roles in maintaining and overseeing the property with the help of other members. Eventually the Town of Longmeadow began acquiring additional property in the area, leading to the protection of over 1000 acres. The Stebbins property and the larger floodplain area known as the “Longmeadow Flats” has been designated a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior and an Important Bird Area by the Massachusetts Audubon Society.
The area encompasses one of the largest remaining patches of floodplain forests and wetlands along this heavily human-impacted section of the Connecticut River. The wetlands provide breeding habitat for marsh birds and stop-over habitat for migratory waterfowl. During summer and fall the shoreline offers shallows and sandbars for resting and feeding gulls, raptors, shorebirds, and herons. The woodlands and brushy areas provide important habitat for many species of breeding, migratory, and wintering land birds.
In order to ensure the protection of the Stebbins Refuge lands in perpetuity, negotiations began with the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. They were interested in protecting and enhancing the natural value of the Stebbins Refuge through acquisition and restoration. This process, temporarily aided by The Nature Conservancy, is ongoing and should be completed in the next few years. Allen Bird Club member Kate Leary has led the lengthy transition effort, working with various committees and organizations to assure the land will receive proper care. The property is to be known as the Stebbins Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. Allen Bird Club members are encouraged to continue enjoying and birding the Stebbins property, and may wish to join the Friends of Stebbins group. Questions about the Friends of Stebbins may be directed to Kathryn Leary at Katebird244@gmail.com until the new Board of Directors convenes in the fall.
For directions and information about birding the Longmeadow Flats, click here.