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Types of MassWildlife properties

MassWildlife and the Dept. of Fish & Game 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 or municipal hands, where the landowner has conveyed conservation rights to the agency and agreed to allow public recreational access to their land. A very few properties prohibit certain recreational activities such as hunting, fishing and trapping. A final category of real estate includes the properties where MassWildlife 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. In some instances, marked trails cross WMAs, by permission, as part of a regional trail network.
  • Wildlife Conservation Easements (WCEs)
    WCEs are properties where the agency has acquired conservation rights and public recreational access rights in the form of an easement. By granting a conservation easement, a landowner agrees to manage the property in specified ways to avoid significant impairment of the conservation values- the particular features or qualities of the property identified for protection - as detailed in the recorded document. Forestry and agriculture, conducted in accordance with a management plan, are often allowed uses. WCE landowners have agreed to allow public access on all or most of their property. Although title to the property is retained by the landowner, the land is typically open for all wildlife-related forms of recreation including hunting, fishing and trapping. Some WCEs have established public access plans clarifying access rights and responsibilities.
  • Access areas
    These parcels  are managed primarily for providing recreational access to a water body or to publically accessible 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 properties, usually donated  with the condition that they be protected by a  statute governing such sanctuaries,  are managed in compliance with M.G.L. c.131, sections 7-10 and 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 MassWildlife has acquired conservation 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.
  • Installations
    This category includes facilities such as MassWildlife offices and fish hatcheries. Availability for recreational access is site specific.

Interested in where these properties are located? Our MassWildlife Lands Viewer allows you to navigate to properties that allow public access, and print maps to take along in the field.