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 Dzielenski 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 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 protect the Stebbins Refuge lands in perpetuity, the Stebbins Trustees partnered with the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge to transfer the refuge lands to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who will manage and enhance the natural value of the habitats. The Nature Conservancy was a partner in this process, supervising a three-year project of floodplain forest restoration. Allen Bird Club member Kate Leary led the lengthy transition effort, working with the partners to assure the land will receive proper care. The property is now the Fannie Stebbins Unit of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. The Stebbins Trustees are now the Friends of Fannie Stebbins Wildlife Refuge, who continue to support the restoration and protection of wildlife and to promote opportunities for people to visit and learn about the refuge. The group offers public programs and volunteer opportunities. Allen Bird Club members are encouraged to continue enjoying and birding the Stebbins property and may wish to join the Friends of Stebbins. For more information about the Friends of Stebbins, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 413-567-3154.
For directions and information about birding the Longmeadow Flats, click here.