DFG and DFW own or manage several types of properties, which serve a variety of functions. Most properties are undeveloped areas that conserve valuable wildlife habitat and provide wildlife-related recreational access for the public. Some lands are in private hands, where the landowner has sold the development rights to the agency and agreed to allow public recreational access to their land. A very few properties (sanctuaries) prohibit certain recreational activities such as hunting, fishing and trapping. A final category of real estate includes the properties where DFW operates offices, hatcheries, or other facilities. Below is a detailed summary of the different types of agency properties and their functions.
- Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs)
WMAs are the backbone of the agency’s properties, where full wildlife-related recreational public access is available, including hunting, fishing, trapping, nature observation, boating, and hiking. Most WMAs include unmarked trails or woods roads and with simple, unpaved parking lots. These "lightly" developed areas keep wild places wild while giving people access to nature and an "off the beaten path" experience. A WMA is typically named with reference to a geographic or topographic feature. Activities at WMAs are governed by regulations , 321 CMR 3.01(1), which generally prohibit motorized vehicles, camping, campfires, and other potentially damaging activities.
- Wildlife Conservation Easements (WCEs) WCEs are properties where DFG or DFW has acquired development rights and public recreational access in the form of an easement. On these parcels, landowners have given up most of their rights to develop or use the resources on the property. There are some exceptions for forestry and agriculture, which are agreed upon on a case-by-case basis. The landowners also have agreed to allow public access on all or most of their property. Although fee title to the property is retained by the landowner, the land is open for all wildlife-related forms of recreation including hunting, fishing and trapping. Some WCEs have public access plans clarifying access rights and responsibilities.
- Access Areas
These parcels owned by DFG or DFW are primarily for providing recreational access to a water body or other conservation land owned by a third party. Access Areas encompass river, pond, marsh, and coastal access locations. [Note: These areas do not include facilities owned or operated by the Office of Fishing and Boating Access].
- Wildlife Sanctuaries
These are properties that usually have been donated to DFW and are governed by statute and regulation. See M.G.L. c.131, sections 7-10; 321 CMR 7.00 . Although public access is permitted, fishing, hunting and trapping are prohibited.
- Wildlife Conservation Restrictions (WCRs)
WCRs are properties where DFG or DFW has acquired development rights, but not public access rights. These lands, which are few in number, are not open to public access. State ownership of WCRs is often the result of donations of easements on property adjacent to a WMA or WCE. The benefit to the agency of owning WCRs is that it prevents unwanted development and protects wildlife habitat.
These real estate holdings include fee ownership of various locations. Most of these properties are for DFW offices and fish hatcheries.
Interested in where these properties are? Our Wildlands Map Viewer allows you to navigate to most properties that allow public access.