Bolton Flats Wildlife Management Area

Bolton Flats WMA - Pine Hill Grassland one growing season after initial mowing (September, 2014).
Bolton Flats WMA - Pine Hill Grassland one growing season after initial mowing (September, 2014).

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 pdf format of Sandplain Grassland
natural community became established. This grassland community in turn supported small populations of Vesper Sparrows pdf format of Vesper Sparrow
and Grasshopper Sparrows pdf format of Grasshopper Sparrow
(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 pdf format of Pitch Pine - Scrub Oak Community
– to establish at the periphery of the grassland for the benefit of important early successional birds such as the whip-poor-will pdf format of Eastern 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.

Southwick Wildlife Management Area

Prescribed fire at Southwick Wildlife Management Area
Prescribed fire at Southwick Wildlife Management Area
This site has been identified as one of the highest priorities for long-term grassland bird conservation in Massachusetts.  This project involves restoring and expanding areas of fire-adapted sandplain grassland (170 acres) which is ranked as among the highest priority type of natural community in Massachusetts (S1: Critically Imperiled), benefits state listed animal species, and provides breeding habitat for American woodcock.  There is an additional 130 acres of CT DEP protected and managed grasslands just south of the MA state line which  makes these two combined areas one of the largest areas of permanently protected grasslands in the region.