Massachusetts Wildlife Action Plan

By the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

Perhaps because Massachusetts is a small state with a large population, where the negative impacts to wildlife populations are clearly recognized, development of the Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy was more a bringing together of existing plans rather than having to start the planning process from scratch.

For example, the BioMap project analyzed Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program data collected over many years to identify key wildlife habitats throughout the state. This information allows land-use planners from the most local level right on up to the broadest landscape perspective to understand why these areas are so important to the long-term conservation of declining wildlife populations. The Ecological Restoration Program funds research that assesses the dynamics of natural communities before initiating management actions to restore ecologically significant systems. The Upland Program restores and maintains early-successional habitats needed by so many declining bird and small mammal populations in New England.

Taken together, these pieces and many others described in the document lay out strategies to improve our knowledge of declining species populations and create partnerships that will engage Massachusetts citizens in actions that will conserve our wildlife legacy for future generations.

Management

The land trust movement began in Massachusetts. In 1891, Charles Eliot founded The Trustees of Reservations, the first non-profit land trust. With the Boston area rapidly developing, Eliot feared that city dwellers would lose touch with the countryside if specific places of natural beauty were not preserved. Today, Massachusetts leads the nation with a total of 143 land trusts in operation. The population of Massachusetts has grown by 28 percent from 1950-2000 but the area of developed land has increased by 200 percent.

Primary Challenges to Conserving Wildlife in Massachusetts

The loss of habitat and the secondary impacts to wildlands and wildlife from increased water usage and pollution are the main threats addressed in the Massachusetts Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. The primary challenge to conserving wildlife in Massachusetts is protecting enough habitat to support the species identified as being in greatest need of conservation. Whether habitat is lost to development, fragmented into smaller and smaller pieces that cannot support these species, or degraded by pollution and competition from invasive plants, the challenge before us is to protect enough habitat now before the opportunity is lost.

Working Together for Massachusetts’ Wildlife

Public involvement in policy issues such as the development of the Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy must include a formal public review process and be approved by the Fish and Wildlife Board. Once the Strategy draft was completed, it was presented at a public meeting of the Fish and Wildlife Board and the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Advisory Committee. The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife also made a special presentation of the draft Strategy to the Massachusetts Teaming with Wildlife Committee.

The draft Strategy was posted on the Division website for a six-week public comment period and received hundreds of visits. In addition to announcing the web posting at the public meeting, the Division sent out announcements by email, fax and mail to more than 4300 stakeholders and interested parties. Drawing on comments taken during this period, the Division revised the Strategy reposted it on the website, and scheduled a formal public informational meeting to field additional oral and written comments.

 

The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies represents all of North America’s fish and wildlife agencies, promotes sound management and conservation, and speaks with a unified voice on important fish and wildlife issues.

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