More than 60% of Massachusetts is forested, and while we have diverse tree species, we have limited young and old forest habitat. Most of our trees are of a similar age because European settlers cleared the land for agriculture, and it remained cleared until around 100 years ago, when agriculture in the region died out and new trees established themselves in abandoned fields.
The uniform age of our forests is a problem for certain wildlife, particularly birds, that rely on younger forests for their habitat.
If you have a conservation restriction (CR) on your land, the CR may permit you to create a forestry plan to improve habitat for birds or other wildlife, and the costs can be offset by the sale of lumber or state funding programs. Any proposed work, though, must be in compliance with the terms of the CR.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has created 11 forestry districts, each with a dedicated Service Forester who can help landowners understand their options by providing a woodland assessment and reviewing funding programs; it may be possible to get financial assistance from the Commonwealth for habitat improvement projects.
The Massachusetts Bureau of Forest Fire Control and Forestry also offers helpful information:
- Forest Stewardship Program
- Working Forest Initiative
- Timber Harvesting License Program
- Service Forestry (Technical assistance and services to landowners and municipalities)
Another useful tool is www.masswoods.org, a UMass Amherst website dedicated to assisting landowners on making informed land management decisions.