MassWildlife was founded as a state fisheries commission in 1866 in response to citizen concerns about the loss of Atlantic salmon to dams and pollution. The continuing development of the agency from that time until the present reflects the will of the citizens of Massachusetts to protect and restore our natural resources.

The conservation - including protection, restoration, and management - of Massachusetts' fauna and flora is the statutory responsibility of MassWildlife. Specifically, MassWildlife's charge is the stewardship of all wild amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, and freshwater and diadromous fishes in the state, as well as endangered, threatened, and special concern species, including native wild plants and invertebrates. This responsibility is established and articulated in the Constitution and General Laws of Massachusetts.

As the base of scientific knowledge regarding the interdependence of all environmental factors has grown, coupled with progressive, pragmatic leadership, MassWildlife's mission has evolved to include all aspects of the environment. MassWildlife is committed to an evolving stewardship philosophy and to continued leadership in conservation and management of the environment.