Bolton Flats Wildlife Management Area
A 130 acre portion of the Bolton Flats WMA (known locally as the Pine Hill section) sits upon an abandoned gravel mine on the western edge of the Nashua River. The industrial gravel operation resulted in a flat, open, sandy area that was colonized by little bluestem grass, a highly desirable native warm season grass that supports a variety of wildlife species. For many years this area remained mostly open, and a rare sandplain grassland natural community became established. This grassland community in turn supported small populations of Vesper Sparrows and Grasshopper Sparrows (both Threatened in MA). However, due to a lack of active management, this open area had begun to revert to a dense woodland unsuitable to these rare birds. In the spring of 2014, MassWildlife initiated the first step in restoring this important Sandplain Grassland community by mowing the dense tree growth that was beginning to overwhelm the site, squeezing out the little bluestem and associated grassland birds. The results were nearly immediate: little bluestem grass (the dominant species of the sandplain grassland community) flourished due to the increased sunlight, followed shortly by Vesper and Grasshopper Sparrows returning to set up territories in the reinvigorated grassland. MassWildlife intends to continue management of this site in the future with periodic prescribed fires in the grassland, and by allowing another rare natural community, a Pitch Pine-Scrub Oak Woodland – to establish at the periphery of the grassland for the benefit of important early successional birds such as the whip-poor-will , and globally rare Lepidoptera. Active habitat management by MassWildlife staff helps protect the substantial investment that the Commonwealth had already made by purchasing this land in the 1990’s.