Massachusetts Protected 6,197 Acres This Past Year

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6,197 acres of key fish and wildlife habitat in 41 towns were protected in the past fiscal year (July 1, 2007 - June 30, 2008) through the efforts of the Department of Fish and Game and MassWildlife, These protected properties ranged in size from a .5-acre public recreation access point in Orange, to a 2,300-acre conservation easement (CE) in Montgomery and Westfield. These lands will be added to the list over 164,000 acres currently under the care and control of MassWildlife, most of which are Wildlife Management Areas (WMA). Most properties were purchased outright (in fee) but, on some properties, the agency purchased conservation easements (development rights), with the land held by the original landowner. A listing of the newly acquired FY 2008 properties is on the web, With the exception of a gifted CE, all lands are open to fishing, hunting, trapping, wildlife observation, hiking, and other passive wildlife related recreation.

"Conservation easements played a major role in our FY 2008 habitat protection efforts," said Bill Minior, MassWildlife's Realty Chief. "Seven CEs, including the 610-acre East Brookfield gift and the 2,300 acre Westfield Watershed CE, provided protection to over 3,650 acres at a cost of only 2.9 million dollars. CEs accounted for 59% of this years protected land but only 26% of the total cost. Although not DFG and MassWildlife's preferred method of protection, CEs are a useful tool when circumstances do not allow for fee acquisition."

The primary mission of the Department of Fish and Game and MassWildlife land acquisition program is to protect the ecological integrity of the Commonwealth. The agency seeks to ensure biological diversity by acquiring the most important fish and wildlife habitat and natural communities and to provide public access to the lands and waters of the Commonwealth. State WMAs include river corridors, wetlands, various type of forested upland, habitat for state listed endangered and threatened species and species of special concern, and high quality examples of other important habitat types. Maps for many state WMAs are posted on the agency website. Fishing and boating access information.

Support for the land acquisition program comes from several sources. The primary funding mechanism is the Commonwealth's open space bond authorization. Fishing, hunting and trapping license buyers also contribute a $5 fee to the Wildlands Fund for wildlife habitat acquisition as an additional revenue source. Some individuals and organizations make direct donations to the Wildlands Fund. A significant amount of funding is also leveraged or received through non-profit conservation organizations. Other organizations provided assistance with surveys, title searches, negotiations, and other administrative support activities.

"Together with our partners, DFG and MassWildlife permanently protected more acres of land in FY 2008 than it has in any of the last five years," said DFG Commissioner Mary Griffin. "Our success can largely be attributed to Governor Deval Patrick and Secretary Ian Bowles's commitment to land conservation and the hard work and dedication of our land acquisition team. The Governor and Secretary's increased investment in land conservation today will benefit fish and wildlife communities and the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for generations to come."