Here and there around New England, hikers encounter remote hills dubbed “Mt. Hunger,” a throwback to tough times in the countryside.
There is such a place on the border between Monterey and Tyringham in southern Berkshire County.
Also, it’s a long way from modern life – and people intend to keep it that way.
The state announced Friday that it will award $1.25 million to a project to prevent 836 acres of land from being developed in the area. Because other nearby properties have already been conserved, the venture will help keep large-scale wildlife habitats intact, especially corridors that allow animals to roam.
The Mount Hunger Conservation Project, as it is called, will use government and private funding to bring together four distinct lots that will be forever shielded from development.
The project, which is fueled by a grant from the Executive Office for Energy and Environment, calls for collaboration between the Berkshire Natural Resources Council and the state departments of Conservation and Recreation, and Fish and Wildlife.
“This is an incredibly important and important project,” said Jenny Hansell, the chairman of the Lenox nonprofit board. “It creates a tremendous amount of connectivity.”
The area is located off Mount Hunger Road on the far east side of Monterey and is near a 383-acre tract managed by the Monterey Preservation Land Trust.
The Department of Conservation and Recreation is purchasing 242 acres in the affected area. The municipality is buying 594 hectares in four pieces, according to maps provided by the Executive Office for Energy and Environment.
About a quarter of the acreage is classified as ‘core habitat’. The entire area is listed as ‘critical natural landscape’ by the state.
The state funding, which requires local matching donations, follows months of council work and is one of the largest recent efforts, Hansell said.
The project’s ability to close off wildlife corridors is vital, she said. “There’s a lot of sensitive and important habitat there.”
The Mt. Hunger project will cost a total of $2.9 million and will create a conservation corridor that will allow wildlife to be moved across an area of more than 14,000 acres, according to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Three quarters of the 836 hectares contain rare species or ‘unique communities’.
The grant is the only one of its kind announced by the state Friday. Aside from using wildlife, the tracts to be preserved will expand public access to the land, including for hunting, the state said in a statement.
State Representative William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox, said Friday that while some communities are right to oppose state projects that take property off the tax rolls, this venture has gained local support.
“Finding adjacent properties is always very important,” he said of the area to be protected.
Hansell said the Berkshire Natural Resources Council will likely continue to solicit donations to support the conservation project, to increase resources already allocated.
Due to the size of the project, multiple sources of funding are involved. “This may be the biggest in a long time,” she said.
The 242-acre DCR acquisition is located west of downtown Tyringham and includes land in both that city and Monterey, maps show. That tract touches on the 12,000-acre Beartown State Forest in the Southwest.
Of the Berkshire Natural Resources Council’s four lots, one, measuring 82 acres, abuts the DCR lot to the northeast, near Brace Hill and Jerusalem.
The other three—a total of 594 acres, in a single block—are located off Mount Hunger Road in Monterey, north of Route 23 and Lake Garfield. They measure 269 acres, 193 acres and 50 acres.
In statements Friday, Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito said the state’s investment will help secure public access to open land. “Increasing access to natural resources in open space across the Commonwealth has become more important since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Polito.