A woman’s relationship with the natural world is often unique and meaningful. For women who own land, this connection can be rewarding and challenging. Women landowners engage with their woods in various ways, including enjoying the beauty of their property, caring for wildlife and nature, and appreciating the privacy that owning land offers.
In 2006, Tracy Markham and Denise Niemitz fulfilled their dream of living in nature on their own land when they purchased their 40-acre wooded property in Hardwick. When they first bought the property, they didn’t know what was even possible in terms of forest management. As the years went by, Tracy and Denise’s dreams for their property grew and they considered how they could use their land more fully.
How do men and women’s roles and views of land differ? A recent landowner survey conducted by the Universities of Massachusetts, Maine, Cornell, and Vermont suggests that women play a unique and critical role in decisions about the land. Preliminary findings from the survey suggest that women feel less confident than men in their understanding of how to move forward making decisions about the land. Importantly, the study also suggests that when women are confident in how to move forward, they are more likely to choose conservation than men.
Women have a unique perspective when it comes to land management and their experience as landowners. In recognition of this perspective and in an effort to connect such landowners with each other Franklin Land Trust; in conjunction with UMass Amherst Extension, MA DCR, and North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership; held a workshop specifically for women landowners.
Keystone Cooperator, Kevin Weir, owns 326 acres of land with his wife on the corner of Amherst, Pelham, and Petersham. Like many of their fellow landowners, Kevin and his wife, Cynthia received the land after much discussion with the relatives who owned it previously. Learn more about deciding the future of your land.
When a Pennsylvania family wanted to find a way to make the world a better place, they convinced the Pennsylvania legislature to create an official state holiday called "Invite Your Neighbor to Dinner Day", on the second Saturday of January. Dinner day is a designated time when people invite not-so-familiar neighbors to have dinner with them with the hope that friendships will be formed which in turn will increase the strength of their communities.
Albert Adams seems to have fulfilled at least one of his dreams when he purchased some land five years ago, and he's been improving on it since. A sportsman and wildlife enthusiast, Albert was thrilled to get a good deal on 29 acres of woodland in Windsor, a parcel that abuts other woodlands and sits across the street from a wildlife management area.
"The Westfield runs through the back of the property," he says, "It's loaded with wildlife and just beautiful." Though 12 miles from his home in Pittsfield, Albert considers the property his big backyard and he visits often.
Landowners across the state are facing increasing property taxes which can make it difficult to maintain the land as undeveloped. The State’s current use programs (Ch. 61, 61A, and 61B) offer an opportunity to reduce property taxes in return for providing the public benefits that these lands provide. Chapter 61 has a focus on timber management, and requires a 10-year forest management plan. Chapter 61A is for agricultural lands.
Communicating your wishes for your land to your heirs is a critical first step in estate planning. Even more importantly, your wishes should be codified in your will. Luckily for Beatrice Riley, because she clearly and persistently communicated her wishes to her heirs, they worked hard to carry her wishes through, even in the absence of a legal imperative in her will.
Every day, landowners are making decisions about how to manage their land and what to do with their land when they pass on. Many landowners are making these decisions without the benefit of knowing all their options. These decisions not only affect the landowners and their family, but are shaping the landscapes within your community.