Over the years, nearly half a million acres of land have been protected by conservation agencies in the Commonwealth. These lands and waters represent an extraordinarily successful effort to protect our natural resources. However, in many cases the biological resources - the plants, animals, and natural communities - dependent on these conservation lands remain threatened. For example, alterations in water levels due to dam construction or water withdrawal or changes in water chemistry from offsite impacts can alter the plant and animal communities of a protected natural area. Many of our dry forests, shrublands and grasslands were managed with fire for thousands of years by Native Americans. Now, lack of occasional fire has caused significant changes in those communities, decreasing habitat for many of our rare plants and animals (see Prescribed Fire section). Further, many of our public conservation lands have been invaded by exotic species, which in the absence of their natural biological controls can outcompete our native flora and fauna (see Invasive Species section).
The Ecological Restoration Program, launched in January 1997, is a program funded through the Commonwealth's Biodiversity Initiative, paid for with Open Space Bond funds, and administered by the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program. The Ecological Restoration Program focuses on habitat restoration at sites of exceptional ecological significance identified from Natural Heritage's database that are on public lands under permanent conservation protection.
Successful ecological restoration requires a basis of thorough scientific understanding of the natural dynamics of any system to be restored or managed. The Ecological Restoration Program has funded several projects to understand the dynamics of the ecosystems involved along with others that have initiated needed management. For more information on the Ecological Restoration Program, please contact Chris Buelow, Assistant Restoration Ecologist, at email@example.com.