The Amherst Land Trust was formed in the mid-1970s, at a time when the town's population was growing rapidly. A small group of dedicated citizens had the vision to establish this organization for the benefit of local citizens.
In those days, membership in the Amherst Land Trust was $10/year --- and the price of an acre of undeveloped land in town was less than $1,000. Board members identified several areas of concern that sound very familiar to us today. A review of their minutes show discussions of development pressure and escalating land values; loss of open space and wildlife habitat; and the cost of housing, particularly for elderly citizens and local young people.
For many years, the Amherst Land Trust’s vision for preserving open space was frustrated by a lack of funds. In the late 1990s, a new generation of Trustees began to explore alternative approaches to preservation. In 1998 they were able to persuade the Town Meeting to provide $50,000 in seed money to the Trust. This money enabled the Trust to provide funds immediately to a landowner who needed to sell her land quickly as she was going into care. Over the next year the Trust worked with Former Senator Warren Rudman to complete a 5-lot Open Space subdivision which resulted in 66 acres of protected open space, which the Trust donated to the Amherst Conservation Commission. The Huckabee Farm project provided a very good return to the Town for the $50,000 seed money – and demonstrated the kind of flexibility that makes the Amherst Land Trust able to accomplish things the Town Conservation Commissions may not.
Over the years the Land Trust worked cooperatively with the Amherst Conservation Commission to educate the public about the values of open space. In the 1990s they campaigned to get the Town Meeting to dedicate100% of current use penalties to conservation funds. In 2002 the ALT commissioned a Cost of Services study designed to quantify the cost-benefit to the Town of preserved open space.