Frances A. Crane Wildlife Management Area Habitat Enhancement
MassWildlife is working to enhance and restore Sandplain Grassland and Pitch Pine-Oak Woodlands at Frances Crane Wildlife Management Area (FCWMA) to benefit threatened and endangered animals and plants as well as many game animals, which will in turn benefit people who enjoy these lands. This on-going restoration effort started in 1998 and continues in 2015 with forest canopy thinning and planting native warm season grasses. We sincerely appreciate the public’s support of this project and ongoing understanding. We are confident that the results of this work will provide critical wildlife habitat along with an aesthetically pleasing area that can be enjoyed by the public for generations.
The ecology of Cape Cod and the Islands has been shaped over millennia by fire, both from natural causes and the regular use of burning by Native Americans. The dry, sandy soils of the region naturally support a mosaic of highly specialized ecological communities that are dominated by fire-adapted plant species such as lowbush blueberry, scrub oak, pitch pine, little bluestem and other native warm-season grasses. The native animals found here are adapted to this harsh environment, including periodic fire.
Conservation of special ecosystems like Pitch Pine-Oak Woodlands and Sandplain Grasslands, and the many rare animals and plants they contain, is a priority for MassWildlife. Examples of healthy, intact Sandplain Grasslands and Pitch Pine -Oak Woodlands have become increasingly rare with the relatively recent exclusion of fire from the landscape. As these habitat types disappear, populations of the specialized plants and animals that live in them also decline—as do more common game and nongame species that rely on grass, shrub, and woodland habitats.
Habitat Enhancement within the Frances Crane Wildlife Management Area
Habitat Management at Frances Crane Wildlife Management Area (FCWMA) includes the use of prescribed fire, invasive plant control, tree removal, and mowing. Major mechanical operations began in 2014 and will end in 2015. This work involves two types of habitat:
- Sandplain Grassland Expansion: The goal of the current grassland expansion is to increase the area of high integrity Sandplain Grassland habitat on the site to approximately 400 acres and manage it with prescribed fire and mowing. Mechanical work needed for grassland expansion will be completed by summer of 2015 (tree clearing, harrowing, and planting of native warm season grasses), full establishment of warm season grasses at the site should occur during the summer of 2016.
Only 10% of the historic global Sandplain Grassland habitat remains, and the grassland at FCWMA represents the largest Sandplain Grassland managed primarily for conservation purposes in New England. The FCWMA grassland supports a wealth of unusual species, including State and Federally Endangered plants, significant populations of regionally rare and imperiled grassland birds, and a suite of globally rare moths, butterflies, and tiger beetles.
- Pitch Pine-Oak Woodland: Tree thinning and shrub mowing is designed to restore the semi-open structure of these woodlands that have been deprived of fire. Long-term maintenance of these woodlands will involve active management using prescribed fire and selective mowing.
Fire adapted woodlands typically have an open canopy structure with pitch pine and tree oak above a dense understory of scrub oak and lowbush blueberry with scattered small grassy openings. This is the classic habitat of whip-poor-will, eastern towhee, brown thrasher, ruffed grouse, woodcock, box turtle, and a suite of highly specialized and often rare moths and butterflies.
Our Goal: When complete, the habitat enhancement will look similar to the photo on the left and will include Sandplain Grassland (1) adjacent to open canopy Pitch Pine-Oak Woodland (2).