Guide Myles Standish Complex Pine Barrens Restoration

MassWildlife and the Department of Conservation and Recreation are restoring nearly 2,400 acres of pitch pine and scrub oak barrens in the Myles Standish Complex. These barrens habitats are naturally sandy and fire prone. The Complex is one of the few places on earth where you can explore an expansive, intact pine barrens. Our work will reduce the risk from wildfire within the Complex and restore habitat for plants and animals that thrive in this kind of environment.

Table of Contents

Current work area

The following areas are currently closed:

  • Paved bike path from East Line Road to Cutter Field Road
  • Pine Barrens Path from East Line Road to New Grassy Pond Road
  • Pine Barrens Path spur from Cutter Field Road to main trail
  • East Line Road from Fearing Pond Road to New Grassy Pond Road

Please drive slowly, we are mowing along Fearing Pond Road and Cutter Field Road.

Habitat restoration

The Myles Standish Complex is a mix of barrens habitats that include pine oak woodlands, scrub oak thickets, heathlands, coastal plain ponds, and sandplain grasslands. Animals and plants depend on these open habitats, including many that are protected by the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. Without these special habitats, a number of rare animal and plant species would vanish.

Over the past 50 years, pine trees and tall shrubs have grown in high densities within the Complex. This dense growth increases the risk from wildfires in the area. Wildfires that start in the Complex can be extremely difficult to safely control. Major wildfires have occurred within the area in 1900, 1957, and 1964, burning thousands of acres. To make the area safe for visitors, nearby residents, and for the unique animals and plants to thrive here, we need to clear and thin the area of many trees and mow areas of tall, dense shrubs.

The expansion of southern pine beetles to Massachusetts is also a concern for the Complex. These beetles reached Massachusetts in 2015, when they were seen in beetle traps from the Connecticut River Valley to Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard. These beetles are responsible for widespread tree loss throughout the southeastern United State where they are native. These beetles have recently expanded their range northward due to warming winter temperatures. Decreasing the density of trees and managing the area with prescribed fire will help the remaining pitch pine trees resist the beetles and limit the beetle's ability to spread through the Complex.

The dense pine trees covering the Complex will be thinned to create a more open landscape with widely spaced trees and low rolling glades of plants like scrub oak, blueberry, and grasses. As a visitor to the Complex, you will experience more expansive views and clearer paths. You’ll also have the opportunity to hear and see more songbirds and other interesting wildlife. This work will result in enhancing native wildflower displays and fruit and food producing shrubs for all kinds of animals.

Machinery at the Complex

Additional Resources for Habitat restoration

Background information

The Myles Standish Complex consists of 4 conservation properties that are managed jointly to restore pine barren habitats:

Property Managed by
Southeast Forest Management Projects Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation
Southeastern Pine Barrens Wildlife Management Area Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
Camp Cachalot Wildlife Conservation Easement Boy Scouts of America
Maple Springs Wildlife Management Area Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife

The Complex is roughly 16,640 acres. It is an important area for recreation and conservation with its extensive acreage, many trails, and areas for hunting and bird-watching. The complex also features freshwater kettle hole ponds where you can fish and swim. Many of these ponds have seasonal water level changes and provide important shoreline habitat for delicate rare plants and animals. The Complex also helps protect and recharge the Plymouth Carver Aquifer, one of the largest sole source aquifers in Massachusetts.

Timeline

Restoration work began in 2016–2017 on portions of the Southeast Pine Barrens Wildlife Management Area and Camp Cachalot. Work is continuing in 2019–2020 on portions of the Myles Standish State Forest and Camp Cachalot. This restoration will be done in different stages over multiple years. Most heavy machinery work will cease during the camping season from mid-May through mid-October each year. Prescribed fires will be conducted throughout the year on the Complex, given proper weather and fuel conditions for burning and the availability of skilled crews to safely conduct these activities.

Impact of this work

If this work is not done, the specialized native plants and animals of the pine barrens will vanish from the area. As the barrens become overgrown with dense pitch pine and white pine, other plants such as low-bush blueberry or wild indigo cannot compete and eventually disappear. As their barrens habitat disappears, the many animals depending on these plants for food and cover will also disappear. In addition, if wildfires do occur, the current dense growth makes it harder for firefighters to suppress the fire and protect nearby property.

Agency contacts

MassWildlife and the Department of Conservation and Recreation are working together on this restoration project. For additional information, please contact:

Paul Gregory DCR Management Forester (508) 866-2580 ext. 39372
John Scanlon MassWildlife Habitat Program Supervisor (508) 389-6324

 

Frequently asked questions

What is the Myles Standish Complex? The Myles Standish Complex is a group of public and private conservation lands managed jointly to restore a resilient pine barrens ecosystem and reduce wildfire risk.  They include Myles Standish State Forest, Southeast Pine Barrens Wildlife Management Area, Camp Cachalot Wildlife Conservation Easement, and Maple Springs Wildlife Management Area. There are also federal, municipal, and private conservation properties within the greater Complex.
What are pine barrens? Pine barrens are open, fire-adapted natural communities that are globally uncommon and support a distinctive collection of plants such as pitch pine, scrub oak, low-bush blueberry, bearberry, crowberry, and little bluestem grass. They are dry, sandy, and harsh environments by natural design.
What endangered, threatened, and declining animals and plants does this work help? Over 50 rare and dwindling animals and plants live in the Myles Standish Complex. This restoration project will benefit many creatures and plants including the frosted elfin butterfly, barrens buck moth, barrens tiger beetle, New England cottontail, whip-poor-will, New England blazing star, and wild lupine.
What common animals benefit from this work? Ruffed grouse, wild turkey, American woodcock, northern bobwhite, common nighthawk, and white-tailed deer all benefit. 

 

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