A layered forest
Forest reserves are portions of state lands where commercial harvesting of wood products is excluded in order to capture elements of biodiversity that can be missing from sustainably harvested sites. Small (patch) reserves will conserve sensitive, localized resources such as steep slopes, fragile soils, and habitat for certain rare species that benefit from intact forest canopies. Large (matrix) reserves will represent the diversity of relatively un-fragmented forest landscapes remaining in Massachusetts today. Matrix reserves will ultimately support a wider diversity of tree sizes and ages than typically occurs on sustainably harvested sites, and will also support structures and processes associated with extensive accumulations of large woody debris that are typically absent from harvested sites.

Matrix reserves will ultimately include a wide range of tree sizes and ages, from large, old trees 200-500 years old, to small, young trees that occur in open gaps where old trees have died or been blown over. Matrix reserves will ultimately feature extensive "pit and mound" micro-topography that occurs when old trees are blown over and their roots are pulled from the ground. Pits are formed when roots of large trees are pulled out of the ground during a natural disturbance like a wind storm. Pits collect moisture, organic matter, and nutrients over time, and provide unique, protected micro-climates for plants and invertebrate wildlife.

Over time, the exposed roots of toppled trees degrade and form mounds characterized by extreme soil conditions of low moisture, low organic matter, and low nutrients that are markedly different from, yet in close proximity to pits originally occupied by the roots (Beatty 1984). The trunks and branches of large trees that are toppled during wind storms will accumulate as large woody debris in the forest, and will support decades or even centuries of activity by micro-organisms and invertebrate wildlife that occupy, feed upon, and ultimately break down these massive stores of organic material.

The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) agencies responsible for managing state-owned forestlands; Division of State Parks and Recreation -Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), Division of Water Supply Protection (DCR), and Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Department of Fish and Game, have proposed nine matrix reserves (Table 1) that will represent the diversity of forest ecosystems that occur within the remaining, relatively un-fragmented forest landscapes of Massachusetts.

Map of forest reserves in Massachusetts

Download full resolution map, Forest Reserves in Massachusetts pdf format of mass_reserves_map.pdf
file size 2MB

Table 1.

Potential large (matrix) forest reserve sites on state lands.

Site NameEcological TypeState LandsPotential acres State Land

Mt. Greylock
Map Link to the image file.

Taconic Mountains

ELU group 9

Portions of the Mt. Greylock State

Map Link to the image file.

Southern Green MountainsPortions of the Monroe State Forest7,100

Map Link to the image file.

Berkshire/Vermont Upland
ELU group 8
Portions of the Chalet, Stafford Hill and Eugene Moran Wildlife
Management Areas, and portions of
the Windsor State Forest.

Mt. Washington
Map Link to the image file.

Taconic Mountains

ELU group 9

Portions of the Mt. Washington
State Forest, and portions of the
Jug End State Reservation &
Wildlife Management Area

Middlefield / Peru
Map Link to the image file.


Berkshire/Vermont Upland
ELU group 7a
Portions of the Middlefield State

Map Link to the image file.

Berkshire/Vermont Upland
ELU group 6b
Portions of the Otis State Forest.769

East Branch Westfield
Map Link to the image file.

Hudson Highlands Ecoregion
ELU group 4a
Portions of the Gill Bliss State Forest, and portions of the Hiram Fox Wildlife Management Area2,638

Cunningham Pond
Map Link to the image file.
Picture Link to the image file.

Plateau Ecoregion
Portions of the Ware River Watershed Forest


Myles Standish
Map Link to the image file.

Cape Cod/Islands EcoregionPortions of the Myles Standish State
Forest and portions of the Sly Pond
Natural Heritage Area

Planning for forest reserves

The EEA agencies have jointly established the following goal, objectives, and benefits for matrix reserves:

GOAL: Capture elements of biological diversity that can be missing from harvested sites

  • Objectives:
    • Retain wood fiber that is typically extracted from the forest ecosystem.
    • To the greatest degree possible, allow natural disturbance processes to determine the structure and composition of the forest ecosystem.
    • Facilitate biological monitoring to establish baseline data on the species, natural communities, and ecological processes that occur in forest ecosystems reserved from commercial timber harvesting.
  • Benefits:
    • Allow comparison of species, natural communities, and ecological processes on harvested sites with sites reserved from harvest of wood products.
    • Provide late-successional forest habitats for wildlife that represent the diversity of forest ecosystems in Massachusetts.
    • Inform management of harvested sites with knowledge of structural attributes that develop on reserve sites.
    • Provide unique recreational and aesthetic opportunities in biologically mature forest habitats that will develop over time in reserves.

Does the general public support reserves?

EEA conducted four public meetings throughout the state in 2005 to obtain public comments on reserves. There was overwhelming public support for a balance of reserves and sustainably harvested sites on state-owned lands. For example, of the approximate 300 letters received after the meetings, more than 250 voiced support for the eight proposed large forest reserves and "Green Certified" forest management. Other letters expressed support for the large forest reserves at Middlefield and the Westfield River, support for adding the Jug End property to the proposed Mount Washington forest reserve, support for an added reserve at Mohawk-Monroe-Savoy State Forests, and support for no new snowmobile trails or communication towers in the Mount Washington reserve.

This information is provided by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Office of Policy, Land and Forest