For Immediate Release - June 19, 2009

Public-Private Land Protection Project Expands Taunton River Wildlife Management Area

Protection of 230 acres in Southeastern Massachusetts contributes toward Governor Patrick's ambitious land conservation goals

BRIDGEWATER - Conservation partners from the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game (DFG), the Wildlands Trust, the Sheehan Foundation and the Bridgewater Natural Resources Trust today celebrated the protection of 230 acres of land along the Taunton River, more than doubling the size of the Division of Fisheries & Wildlife's (MassWildlife) Taunton River Wildlife Management Area.

"There are many parcels of significance along the upper Taunton River corridor, but few can match this property's diverse range of features - its open fields, abundant woodlands, and extensive river frontage create a mosaic of outstanding wildlife habitats and scenic vistas," said DFG Commissioner Mary Griffin. "I would like to thank the Wildlands Trust for working with us and for their significant investment that helped make this conservation purchase possible."

"The acquisition is a milestone in land protection efforts along the upper Taunton River Corridor, and is yet another affirmation of the critical role that partnerships play in land conservation," said Wildlands Trust Executive Director Karen Grey. "We greatly appreciate the energy, commitment, and resources that everyone devoted to this acquisition."

DFG spent $1.1 million and the Wildlands Trust invested $400,000 to protect the 230 acres. In March, DFG acquired 105 acres of the land for $485,000 and purchased a conservation restriction on 125 acres for $615,000. When the conservation restriction was in place, the Wildlands Trust purchased the same 125 acres.

The project calls for public access to the acquired land, including hunting, fishing, hiking, and nature observation. The property contains approximately 1.3 miles of frontage on the Taunton River, and is designated by MassWildlife's Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program as BioMap core habitat. In addition, the easterly part of the property is designated Estimated and Priority Habitat for rare species. There are at least 14 rare species in the Upper Taunton River watershed area, including the Blanding's turtle, eastern box turtle, eastern spadefoot toad, American bittern, pied-billed grebe, grasshopper sparrow, upland sandpiper, tidewater mucket, bridle shiner, and two rare plants.

In May, the Taunton River joined the Westfield River and the Concord-Assabet-Sudbury river system as the third Massachusetts river system officially designated by the federal government as a National Wild and Scenic River. The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System was created by Congress in 1968 to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of current and future generations. Uninterrupted by dams along its 40-mile length, the Taunton River is southern New England's most ecologically intact coastal river. It is also one of the most important river systems in Massachusetts for anadromous river herring.

This land acquisition was made as part of Governor Deval Patrick's historic commitment of resources for land conservation, with the Patrick Administration devoting more than $50 million per year for open space in fiscal years 2008 and 2009, which ends June 30. In fiscal year 2008, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and its agencies protected a total of 24,000 acres in the Commonwealth. Funds for the Commonwealth's land conservation program come from the $1.7 billion Energy and Environment Bond Bill passed in 2008.

DFG and MassWildlife's land conservation program targets the most ecologically valuable habitats in Massachusetts, and utilizes state open space bond funds and revenue from the Wildlands stamp for land purchases. The Wildlands stamp is funded by a $5 charge on the sale of fishing, hunting, and sporting licenses sold in Massachusetts, providing more than $1 million a year for the protection of open space. By the end of this fiscal year, DFG expects to have protected approximately 10,000 acres at a cost of about $13.2 million. In fiscal year 2008, DFG protected 6,225 acres at a total cost of $11.2 million. MassWildlife now manages approximately 180,000 acres of conservation land.

For more information on the Commonwealth's land conservation efforts, visit Land Use and Conservation and www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/habitat/land/land_acquisitions.htm .

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is responsible for promoting the enjoyment and conservation of the Commonwealth's natural resources. DFG carries out this mission through land preservation and wildlife habitat management, management of inland and marine fish and game species, and enforcement of the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. DFG promotes enjoyment of the Massachusetts environment through outdoor skills workshops, fishing festivals and other educational programs, and by enhancing access to the Commonwealth's lakes and ponds.

The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife (MassWildlife) is responsible for the conservation - including restoration, protection and management - of fish and wildlife resources for the benefit and enjoyment of the public. MassWildlife works to balance the needs of people and wildlife today so that wildlife will be available for everyone's enjoyment today and for future generations.