- Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
Media Contact for Achieving climate mitigation and wildlife conservation goals on WMAs
Marion Larson, MassWildlife
As part of ongoing efforts to support Governor Baker’s Executive Order on Climate Change, and to implement the Global Warming Solutions Act, the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) recently completed a detailed accounting of carbon storage and carbon release on state Wildlife Management Areas (WMA). The results from this carbon budget analysis showed that the amount of carbon released during selective tree clearing carried out during habitat management projects is a tiny fraction of carbon storage gained by tree and plant growth on the agency’s 170,000 acres of forested WMAs. Conducting habitat management provides a vital boost to rare and dwindling animals and plants that rely on open habitats, and allows MassWildlife to fulfill its mission. “MassWildlife is proud to incorporate climate change adaptation and mitigation principles into its mission to conserve biological diversity in Massachusetts,” says John Scanlon, MassWildlife’s Habitat Program Leader. “We are able to manage habitat for all kinds of wildlife while substantially contributing to carbon sequestration in Massachusetts.”
MassWildlife protects and manages over 220,000 acres of wildlife lands, including WMAs and Wildlife Conservation Easements, across the state for wildlife to thrive and for people to enjoy. The agency is recognized as a national leader in incorporating climate change adaptation and mitigation principles into its statewide wildlife conservation mission. Climate change is driven by increased concentrations of greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere. As they grow, trees and other forest plants help reduce greenhouse gases by storing large amounts of carbon in wood, root systems, and soils. MassWildlife is committed to managing the vast majority of its land as forest and recognizes that every acre the agency and its conservation partners permanently protect from development contributes to climate change mitigation efforts.
In 2006, MassWildlife habitat biologists conducted a comprehensive inventory of forests on WMAs and found that its wooded lands stored 10.3 million tons of carbon. Between 2007 and 2018, MassWildlife acquired additional lands which contributed to another 2.6 million tons of carbon storage. In addition, between 2007 and 2018, forest growth across all MassWildlife lands sequestered another 1.2 million tons of carbon. MassWildlife lands currently store a grand total of just over 14 million tons of carbon.
On the other side of the equation, MassWildlife staff calculated carbon release tonnage from habitat management activities. MassWildlife regularly performs habitat management on WMAs, which can include clearing trees. These actions restore and maintain open habitat types that are crucial to the conservation of many kinds of uncommon or rare animals and plants. These habitat management practices release carbon, but how much? The results from the carbon budget analysis showed that since 2006, MassWildlife’s habitat management activities have released about 20,000 tons of carbon. This is just 1.7% of the 1.2 million tons of new carbon storage gained on WMAs from forest growth since 2006.
Scanlon says that the agency’s habitat management activities are critical for rare and declining wildlife such as whip-poor-will, New England cottontail, and a variety of butterflies and moths. “Forest cutting also directly benefits game species like ruffed grouse and American woodcock. At the same time, we are doing our part to store carbon.” Scanlon notes that MassWildlife is currently working to calculate carbon storage and release measurements on its Wildlife Conservation Easement lands.
In 2006, MassWildlife conducted a forest inventory and estimated that WMAs stored 10.3 million tons of carbon. Since then, 2.6 million tons of storage has been added thanks to new land purchases. An additional 1.2 million tons of carbon storage was added by forest growth. Habitat management activities since 2006 released 0.02 million tons, amounting to just 1.7% of the carbon storage gained on WMAs from forest growth during the same time period.