Wildlife Management Areas important for rare species

Part of the land acquisition process is to incorporate rare species information and target sites for MESA listed species and priority natural communities.

For more information about Wildlife Management Areas check out our MassWildlife Lands Viewer. Below are some examples of sites that are important for rare species.

Monument Mountain, Agawam Lake, and Konkapot Brook

White Adder's Mouth. Photo by Bruce Sorrie.

Located in Stockbridge and Great Barrington.

The Agawam Lake Wildlife Management Area consists of a complex of calcareous wetlands that support a diverse flora, as well as much of the eastern face of Monument Mountain. A large and diverse example of a Black Ash-Red Maple-Tamarack Calcareous Seepage Swamp, an uncommon natural community, is located northwest of Agawam Lake and contains both forested swamp and marsh habitats. An open, wet Calcareous Basin Fen is located on the south and southeast sides of Agawam Lake. A large, high-energy spring feeds into Agawam Lake from the south. Agawam Lake and its associated wetlands drain via Agawam Brook to the Konkapot Brook and then empty into the Housatonic River.

Four state-protected rare plants are documented from the swamp and fen habitats. A good population of White Adder's-mouth (Endangered) has been observed in the forested swamp. Records of Swamp Birch (Endangered) in the fen south and southeast of the lake date from as early as 1915. Recent visits to this site, however, have documented dieback of this species likely caused by the elevated water levels due to beaver activity.

South of the Wildlife Management Area on the mountain, The Trustees of Reservations own the 500-acre Monument Mountain Reservation. North of the WMA is a private 600-acre property, protected from development by a conservation restriction held by the Berkshire Natural Resources Council. Both of these properties also support state-listed rare species. Together with DFW's Wildlife Management Area, most of this important natural resource site has been permanently protected.

Lilly Pond

Located in Goshen.

Lilly Pond, located in Goshen, Massachusetts, contains a high-quality Level Bog, recognized by NHESP as a priority natural community for protection. Lilly Pond is located less than half a mile east of nearly 2700 acres of state-owned protected open space: DFW's Westfield River Access Area and the Cummington Wildlife Management Area, DCR's Chesterfield State Forest, and the state-owned Westfield River Wilderness Area.

The Lilly Pond bog is undisturbed and surrounded by extensive intact hemlock-red maple-yellow birch-red oak woods. The bog mat at Lilly Pond is approximately 20 acres and has a floating dwarf shrub mat dominated by Leatherleaf with scattered Bog Rosemary and Bog Laurel. Herbaceous species include Pitcher Plant, Round-leaved Sundew, Virginia Cottongrass, and Rose Pogonia. A 20 to 30-meter-wide moat separates the mat from the upland woods. The southern portion of the bog grades into a very good example of a spruce-fir forest, which is then abutted to the east by a Red Maple shrub swamp. On occasion, Great Blue Herons nest in the dead snags emerging from the bog.

Identified as a priority for land protection in 2001, DFW has since protected over 300 acres at this site. In 2004, the 20-acre bog itself was donated to DFW by the previous owner, Five Colleges, Inc. Five Colleges, Inc., is the consortium of colleges and universities in the Connecticut River valley of Massachusetts, including the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mt. Holyoke College, and Smith College. These colleges had owned the bog as a site for ecological research.

East Mountain

Marbled Salamander. Photo by Bill Byrne.

Located in Holyoke.

East Mountain is the southerly extension of the basalt ridges that make up Mt. Tom in Holyoke. The section of ridge that is called East Mountain extends from Route 141 in Holyoke and Easthampton south through West Springfield and Westfield to the Massachusetts Turnpike. This circumneutral ridge of basalt continues south well into Connecticut.

Four properties in Holyoke and one in Southampton make up DFW's East Mountain and Southampton Wildlife Management Areas. North of Route 141, DFW owns a small parcel on the eastern slope of Mt. Tom itself (not shown on the map). A significant portion of East Mountain is owned by the Holyoke and West Springfield Water Departments, and other properties on East Mountain are protected by the City of Easthampton, the Connecticut River Watershed Council, and the Holyoke Conservation Commission . Together with the Mt. Tom State Reservation and lands protected by the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge and The Trustees of Reservation on the Mt. Tom ridge, much of the exceptional habitat on Mt. Tom and East Mountain is protected from destruction through development.

More than twenty state-protected rare plants and animals have been documented from East Mountain, including Marbled Salamander (Threatened), Wood Turtle (Special Concern), Swamp Lousewort (Endangered), and Green Rock-cress (Threatened).

The Metacomet-Monadnock Trail runs along the ridgelines of East Mountain and Mt. Tom, including through DFW land. Hiking this trail will give you spectacular views west towards the Berkshire foothills and, more importantly, a sense of the exceptional richness of natural communities and unusual bedrock making up these basalt ridges.

Bolton Flats Wildlife Management Area

American Bittern. Photo by Chris Buelow.

Located in Lancaster, Harvard, and Bolton.

The Bolton Flats Wildlife Management Area extends along the Nashua River in Harvard, Lancaster, and Bolton. The river here is slow and meandering, with adjacent High-Terrace Floodplain Forest and Low-Energy Riverbank. West of the river, a steep bank climbs up out of the floodplain forest onto a broad expanse of sand. Much of this sand has been mined away, but there is a remnant of Pitch Pine-Scrub Oak woods (on town-owned land) near the rail line.

The combination of a slow river, floodplain forest, and dry sand makes for excellent turtle habitat. In fact, Blanding's Turtles (Threatened), Wood Turtles (Special Concern), and Spotted Turtles have all been documented from this stretch of river. The marshes along the river also support rare marsh-nesting birds: American Bittern (Endangered), King Rail (Endangered), and Pied-billed Grebe (Endangered) have all been spotted here at some time of year.

Downstream of the Bolton Flats WMA is the 700-acre Oxbow National Wildlife Area, and west across the rail line is the former Fort Devens Military Reservation, about 5,000 acres, some of which is still used for military training, but much of which will eventually become protected for conservation. In the rapidly developing towns along Route 2 west of Boston, these three properties form a large block of important rare species habitat. Such large blocks of open land, particularly those with a mosaic of upland and wetland habitats, are essential to the long-term survival of the Blanding's Turtle, which wanders one mile or more in a single season traveling among feeding, nesting, and wintering areas.

Salisbury Marshes

Located in Salisbury.

At the mouth of the Merrimack River, in Salisbury, large expanses of Salt Marsh border the river on its north side, opposite the tidal flats and downtown buildings of Newburyport.  

The productive beds of Spartina grass here are at the bottom of the estuarine food web. In one way or another, these marshes feed roosting and wintering Bald Eagles (Threatened), Atlantic and Shortnose Sturgeon (both state and federally Endangered) heading upstream to breed, and Common, Least, Arctic, and occasionally Roseate Terns (all Special Concern except Roseates, which are both state and federally Endangered) diving for small fish in the tidal waters.

Burrage Pond Wildlife Management Area

Located in Hanson and Halifax.

The Great Cedar Swamp and Burrage Pond area of Hanson and Halifax was a very large Atlantic White Cedar Swamp, which was diked and altered for cranberry bogs. In 2002, DFW bought 1,638 acres here from the Northland Cranberry company, including the cranberry bogs, the open water of Burrage Pond, Red Maple Swamps, regenerating Atlantic White Cedar, and grassy marshes along the small streams draining the wetlands.

For decades this has been an important birding site, for its waterfowl, marsh birds, and migrating passerines. Wood Ducks breed here in good numbers, and Virginia Rails can be heard calling. In the June 2004 issue of Bird Observer, a journal covering the birds of eastern Massachusetts, Kathleen Anderson and Wayne Petersen wrote of the long history of birding at this site and note some of the birds and other flora and fauna to be found here.

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