A Forest for Us All
A passionate birder leaves a legacy
On a mid-summer morning Fred Pratt sat on his cabin’s front porch, high on a Duxbury hillside, listening to birdsong from the surrounding forest. “There’s a yellowthroat down there,” he said. “And there’s a catbird, and robins of course, and another warbler, maybe a chestnut-sided.”
Later, Fred made notes, adding the birds he’d identified to records he’s kept for a half-century. He and his late wife, Chris, bought these woods in 1970, added adjacent land over the years, and built the cabin as a summer retreat. They worked to improve habitat for birds and embraced sound forestry practices.
Today, his land backs up against the 20,000+ acre Camel’s Hump State Park, and the peak of that iconic mountain can be seen, rising impressively to the north. Most of that land is conserved. Fred and Chris conserved their property with VLT in 2000.
But Fred’s vision for the land goes beyond simply conserving it. He wants the land used for education, research, and careful recreation, including birding. “I don’t want it to just sit here,” he said. So last year, Fred donated the property outright—more than 450 acres—to VLT.
One immediate plan is to hold an annual memorial bird walk, on his late wife’s birthday, August 29. It is hoped the walk can be open to the public starting next year, once we’re able to gather again.
Plans include forestry workshops, research on the invasive insect, the emerald ash borer, a study on adapting the forest for climate change, work with other woodland owners and, of course, more birding events.
“We see the property as a learning opportunity—a classroom and a laboratory,” said VLT forester Caitlin Cusack. “I feel humbled to work with Fred on this land and a deep sense of responsibility to honor the intention that he and Chris brought to the property.”
In coming years the public will be able to share in that vision and intention at events on the land, including the extensive birding records that’ll be on display at Fred’s cabin.
Story by Tom Slayton. Photo of common yellowthroat by Bob Heiser. This story appeared in our 2019-20 Year in Review.