Upland Game Bird Habitat Management in Massachusetts
Native upland game birds such as ruffed grouse, American woodcock, and northern bobwhite quail are an important part of the natural heritage in Massachusetts. Typically, upland game birds of Massachusetts are found in different types of early successional habitats (e.g., old field, shrubland, and young forests). However, these habitats and associated species have declined over the past several decades as a result of development, forest maturation, and suppression of natural disturbances (e.g., flooding, fire). Active habitat management has become a necessary tool to create, restore, and maintain early successional habitats required by upland game birds and numerous other species in Massachusetts so that we can continue to enjoy those resources in the future.
Habitat management activities beneficial to upland game birds are frequently conducted as part of MassWildlife's Upland Habitat Management Program (Upland Program) and Forestry Program. Management activities are conducted on portions of the 160,000 acres of Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) owned by MassWildlife. Upland Program activities reclaim and maintain early successional habitats primarily through management of post-agricultural or abandoned field habitats. The Upland and Forestry Programs coordinate on treatments of aspen-dominated forestlands, and the Forestry Program coordinates management activities on all other forested portions of MassWildlife lands. To date, the Upland Program has managed approximately 1000 acres of field, grassland, and shrubland habitat on WMAs across the state. The Forestry Program has established landscape composition goals that guide their management activities on WMA forest lands. Specific goals are to achieve approximately 15-20% early successional forest; currently about 5% of DFW forest lands are in an early successional stage.
Forested portions of MassWildlife's WMAs account for <5% of the total area of forest lands in the state, while >80% of forest lands are privately owned. Therefore, habitat management on private lands is key to the long-term preservation of early successional habitats and associated species. Programs such as MassWildlife's Landowner Incentive Program (LIP) or the federally funded Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) help private landowners plan and fund management activities on their lands. Each year, LIP and private landowners cooperate to manage about 2000 acres of upland habitats across the state. MassWildlife encourages active habitat management on private lands, biologists and foresters are available to provide technical assistance to landowners wishing to create and maintain habitat for upland game birds and other species through even aged forest management, field and shrubland reclamation and maintenance, and other appropriate techniques.
Declines in early successional habitat represent a serious threat to the long-term viability of upland game birds throughout Massachusetts. As a result, MassWildlife is committed to the creation and preservation of early successional habitats beneficial to upland game birds and numerous other species across Massachusetts. If you would like more information about upland game bird habitat management, or need assistance in planning and implementing early successional habitat management activities beneficial to upland game birds on your lands, contact MassWildlife's Upland Game Bird Biologist (David.Scarpitti@state.ma.us) or your local MassWildlife District Office.