Projects

Memorial Forest Update, Trails are Open

We are pleased to let you know that we have re-opened the Desert Loop Trail at Memorial Forest.
We are pleased to let you know that we have re-opened the Desert Loop Trail at Memorial Forest.

As an update regarding our ongoing efforts to restore pitch pine-scrub oak barrens, we are pleased to let you know that we have re-opened the Desert Loop Trail at Memorial Forest.  

We have posted new signs to help you find your way, especially now with the snow cover.  As the snow thaws we will continue to tidy up the trail corridor.

Please remember to keep to the marked trail, and, enjoy!

Gowing's Swamp Improvements Are Underway

Gowing's Swamp, Photo by Cherrie Corey

During the week of December 5, 2016, SVT and our partners at the Concord Children’s Center and the Concord Land Conservation Trust (CLCT) will begin the first phase of a multi-year effort to improve the Gowing’s Swamp Conservation Area in Concord. The project partners plan to improve the scenic beauty and ecological health of this unique ecosystem while simultaneously improving access to the area, which is also known as “Thoreau’s Bog.”

We have already installed a new information kiosk at the main entrance to the adjacent Playscape at Ripley.  The Children’s Center will be installing an inclusive carousel and an elevated viewing platform.  Part of the habitat restoration work will also improve visitors’ ability to view the bog wetland.

In the week of December 5—the first week of the invasive plant control project—contractors will mechanically remove invasive plants and shrubs as well as trees that were damaged by a tornado in August 2016.  This will be followed by several herbicide treatments and manual control techniques over the next three years.  Most of the work will occur in the first year.

We are seeking volunteers to participate in this project
on December 10, 2016. See below.

 
The herbicide applications will be targeted at invasive plants and will have very low impact on other plants. The herbicides we have selected are readily absorbed by plants and effectively kill them.

We are using environmentally safe techniques that have been used in many biodiversity protection projects across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. SVT, CLCT, and the Concord Natural Resources Commission are members of the Suasco CISMA (Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area) in which conservation professionals share their expertise and promote best management practices for invasive species management.

Questions? Contact SVT’s Laura Mattei at 978-443-5588 x134 or lmattei@svtweb.org.
  

This project is being supported by the Concord Community Preservation Fund
Additional funds provided by SVT, CLCT, Suasco CISMA, and neighbors of Gowing’s Swamp.


Volunteer Opportunity: 
Saturday, December 10, 2016, 9:30 a.m. – 12 noon. SVT will be holding a volunteer work session at Gowing's Swamp. Volunteers will be placing heavy plastic bags over the bases of cut glossy buckthorn stumps and manually removing small glossy buckthorn plants. If you would like to assist this effort, please contact Lisa Long at llong@svtweb.org.

 

Restoration Project Begins in Memorial Forest

SVT's Memorial Forest, Photo by Raj Das
SVT's Memorial Forest, Photo by Raj Das

On December 5, 2016, SVT will begin a tree-cutting operation as part of a long-term plan for barrens habitat restoration at the Memorial Forest in Sudbury. This work is expected to take three to four weeks. All trails that go through or are adjacent to the equipment operation and management areas will be closed temporarily (click on small map at left to see which trails are closed). Trails will be restored and reopened after the work is completed. 

The work area is located between the old rail line, Hop Brook, and Cranberry Brook. SVT will heavily thin 15 acres by the end of the month in preparation for a burn that will likely take place within the next few years. This treatment is similar to work we did on 14 acres to prepare for a burn in 2014.​

Another 35 acres will be thinned, but no further action will be taken for approximately 10 years or more. To learn more details, read our Frequently Asked Questions about this project.

The goal of the project is to restore habitats that support a diversity of wildlife, especially birds such as whip-poor-wills. The pitch pine-scrub oak barrens habitat, like that in the Desert Natural Area of Memorial Forest, is becoming increasingly rare in Massachusetts. Many rare and declining species depend on pine barrens for their survival, but the pitch pines and scrub oak that make up this unusual habitat are being crowded out by common white pines.

Based on established ecological management practices, SVT has determined that the forest needs to be thinned and burned to allow pitch pines, scrub oaks, and associated species to thrive. SVT expects this restoration will allow vanishing wildlife such as whip-poor-wills to survive and restore their populations at this site.

Richard T.T. Forman, a landscape ecologist and professor at Harvard University, as well as a member of SVT's Board of Directors, noted that the project will restore some of the heritage of Sudbury, Marlborough, Hudson, and Stow. “Like priceless resources in a museum or a town library," he said, "this habitat warrants our careful restoration and sustained protection.”

Forman observed that the rare pitch pine-scrub oak habitat is already reappearing because of SVT's past restoration efforts, and he predicted that in the future, Memorial Forest will be "bulging with uncommon plants and animals on sandy soils."

If you have questions about this work, please contact SVT Director of Stewardship Laura Mattei.

 

"Bee Hotel" Unveiled at Pollinator Party

SVT Members Help Build Bee Hotel at our Pollinator Party.
SVT Members Help Build Bee Hotel at our Pollinator Party.

On Saturday, July 16, SVT held a Pollinator Party at our Wolbach Farm headquarters to celebrate our year-long “Places for Pollinators” project.

Guests helped build a "bee hotel" on the SVT grounds, took a trail walk, and then enjoyed snacks and beverages that result from the hard work of pollinators. Items on the snack table included apples and apple juice, cranberries and cranberry juice, bananas, almonds, cashews, apricots, and blackberry juice.

Younger attendees enjoyed painting pictures of pollinators and seeking out bees and butterflies in our gardens.

Jesse Koyen, a MassLIFT-AmeriCorps member who has served at SVT for the past two years, coordinated the Places for Pollinators project and served as host of the party. He explained how SVT has worked to increase the abundance of quality foraging plants and nesting habitat for pollinators on land around the Sudbury River, which is a major migratory corridor for many insects.

Jesse reminded guests that by choosing the right plants and avoiding pesticides, they can also improve pollinator habitats in their own backyards

Guests at the Pollinator Party listen to Jesse Koyen describe SVT's year-long Pollinator Project.The Places for Pollinators project was partially funded through a $3,000 grant from The Sudbury, Concord & Assabet Wild & Scenic River Stewardship Council, an organization that protects the Sudbury, Assabet, and Concord Rivers and their outstanding resources.

Thanks to the hard work of staff members and dozens of volunteers, the project is already showing signs of success.

To begin, we fought non-native invasive species in the area: We introduced galerucella beetles to feed on purple loosestrife and prevent the plants from maturing and reproducing, and we physically removed plants such as Asiatic bittersweet and glossy buckthorn. These steps created room for native plants to spread and colonize.

Staff and volunteers then planted over 2000 native seedlings at Wolbach Farm and at SVT’s Greenways Reservation in Wayland. For this project, we selected plants that bloom at different times of year, so they provide benefits to pollinators throughout the growing season, from May through October:

  • Pearl Crescent Butterfly on Aster--Dawn Dentzer PhotoSwamp milkweed is a host plant for the caterpillar of the monarch butterfly.
  • Bee balm and clustered mountain mint are valuable nectar sources for many species of insects.
  • New England aster is an excellent nectar source and a host plant of the pearl crescent butterfly (see photo).
  • Turtlehead is a host plant of the Baltimore checkerspot butterfly and a food source for many pollinators including the ruby-throated hummingbird.

Jesse also worked with volunteers to build a “bee hotel” at Wolbach Farm. This open-air structure, which looks like a large bookcase with a roof, holds logs and sticks that provide nesting habitat for solitary bees and wasps.

To create the nesting habitat itself, volunteers drilled holes in logs and sticks collected on SVT reservations. Attendees at the Pollinator Party helped build the hotel by placing natural materials on the structure’s shelves. Because the logs and sticks are easy to replace once they deteriorate, we expect the structure to provide vital nesting habitat for many years.

Stop by Wolbach Farm and check out the bee hotel for yourself. The hotel sits right behind a recently planted patch of native seedlings, so bees and wasps who move in should soon find a bounty of food sources right nearby.

 

 

 

Stream Bank Restoration at Memorial Forest

SVT Stewardship Assistant James Farrell and SVT Land Steward Morgan Chambers preparing jute netting for a restoration area along Cranberry Brook at SVT's Memorial Forest.
SVT Stewardship Assistant James Farrell and SVT Land Steward Morgan Chambers preparing jute netting for a restoration area along Cranberry Brook at SVT's Memorial Forest.
Jerry, Paul, and Dottie, volunteers from Dutton Downs in Sudbury, worked to renovate the bridge over Cranberry Brook along the Pipeline Pass at SVT's Memorial Forest in Sudbury.
Jerry, Paul, and Dottie, volunteers from Dutton Downs in Sudbury, worked to renovate the bridge over Cranberry Brook along the Pipeline Pass at SVT's Memorial Forest in Sudbury.
SVT volunteers Kevin Paquin, Karin Paquin and Tariq Abu-Jaber prepare a restoration area near Hop Brook at SVT's Memorial Forest in Sudbury.
SVT volunteers Kevin Paquin, Karin Paquin and Tariq Abu-Jaber prepare a restoration area near Hop Brook at SVT's Memorial Forest in Sudbury.
SVT volunteer Tariq Abu-Jaber protects a newly seeded restoration site at SVT's Memorial Forest in Sudbury.
SVT volunteer Tariq Abu-Jaber protects a newly seeded restoration site at SVT's Memorial Forest in Sudbury.
SVT Land Steward Morgan Chambers and SVT Stewardship Assistants Nicole DiGiorgio and Emily Anderson gather planting soil for a restoration site at Memorial Forest.
SVT Land Steward Morgan Chambers and SVT Stewardship Assistants Nicole DiGiorgio and Emily Anderson gather planting soil for a restoration site at Memorial Forest.
Paul Bisson stands with the newly finished horseback rider bridge over Cranberry Brook in SVT's Memorial Forest.
Paul Bisson stands with the newly finished horseback rider bridge over Cranberry Brook in SVT's Memorial Forest.

SVT and our volunteers have been busy this season working to restore several areas of stream bank at our General Federation of Women's Clubs of Massachusetts Memorial Forest in Sudbury. Impacts from a variety of user groups where trails cross streams had resulted in loss of vegetation and, in some cases, erosion. Throughout late winter and early spring, we made changes to the rules on these trails in order to help protect the sensitive resource areas along these cold-water streams. With the help of two local riding groups (Dutton Downs and the Old North Bridge Hounds), renovated bridges over an intermittent stream and Cranberry Brook now allow horseback riders to safely cross the streams without impacting them. We've also started to see plant growth on newly stabilized areas near Hop Brook and another section of Cranberry Brook. We'll continue to work to improve these areas, as well as a few others this season. We ask visitors to help this effort by staying on the trails, and especially by leashing their dogs ahead of stream crossings. This will allow these areas to return to a healthy condition and prevent new damage at other areas.

Places for Pollinators

Common eastern bumblebee (Bombus impatiens) on a New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae). This flower was one of 1800 plugs planted at Greenways Conservation Area in June of 2015 as a part of ongoing restoration efforts there.
Common eastern bumblebee (Bombus impatiens) on a New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae). This flower was one of 1800 plugs planted at Greenways Conservation Area in June of 2015 as a part of ongoing restoration efforts there.

Sudbury Valley Trustees (SVT) is pleased to announce it has received a grant award of $3,000 from The Sudbury, Concord & Assabet Wild & Scenic River Stewardship Council through their Community Grants Program. These grants are intended to advance projects supporting and enhancing the protection and enjoyment of the Sudbury, Assabet and Concord Wild and Scenic River and its outstanding resources.

In 1999, 29 miles of the Sudbury, Assabet and Concord Rivers were designated as part of the national Wild and Scenic River System based on their outstandingly remarkable resources that include recreational opportunities, scenery, ecology, history and literature. The River Stewardship Council (RSC) was created to work in partnership with the National Park Service to protect these resources. Each of the shoreline communities is a member of the RSC, as well as three non-governmental organizations, the state and federal governments.

The RSC, guided by the River Conservation Plan, promotes the protection of these resources through collaborative efforts, educational programs, and the statutory authority of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. By working in partnership with other interested parties, the RSC encourages cooperation and coordination on river issues. Using authority in the Wild and Scenic River Act, the RSC with the National Park Service evaluates federal actions on the rivers to ensure their impacts are minimized. 

The goal of this specific project is to improve monarch and other native pollinator habitat located along the Sudbury River. Pollinators are in crisis. The monarch population has declined by 90% over the last two decades and last year U.S. beekeepers reported losing 40% of their colonies. Locally, changes in land use have resulted in a patchy distribution of food and nesting resources for native pollinators. Pollinating insects play a critical role in maintaining natural plant communities and ensuring production of seeds in most flowering plants. Bees and other pollinators are also responsible for the production of most fruits, nuts, and vegetables that humans consume. As a result, they are critical to our economy, food security, and environmental health.

In June of 2016, four plots will be solarized, planted, and mulched. Solarization entails laying plastic down to kill existing vegetation and seed bank. This method has been proven effective to prevent weed competition with new plantings. Unfortunately, the process also kills beneficial soil microbes; therefore we will be adding mulch to reintroduce the helpful microflora. One plot will be at Greenways Conservation Area in Wayland and three will be at Wolbach Farm in Sudbury. Of the approximate 1650 plants total in the spring planting, 1250 plugs will be ordered from local nurseries, 200 milkweed plants have been awarded by a grant through Monarch Watch, and 200 will raised by volunteers from seeds collected on SVT reservations.

This project will aid native pollinators by not only increasing the abundance of quality foraging plants and bee-nesting habitat along the Sudbury River, a major migratory corridor, but by reaching out to families in the community to promote the difference they can make in their own backyard. 

Cowassock Woods Deer Management

"There are no young, regenerating trees and many of our native plants and flowers have disappeared", a view of deer impacts at Cowassock Woods.
"There are no young, regenerating trees and many of our native plants and flowers have disappeared", a view of deer impacts at Cowassock Woods.
Starting in the fall of 2015, SVT is implementing a pilot project to begin to reduce an overpopulated deer herd that has significantly degraded the vegetation and wildlife habitat at Cowassock Woods in Framingham and Ashland.
To assist us in this effort, two SVT-approved bow hunters will be allowed to hunt at Cowassock Woods from November 18, 2015 through December 31, 2015. The property will not be open to hunting by the general public and there will be no use of firearms.
By taking this step, SVT is joining other conservation organizations and municipalities who are working together to address the serious impacts caused by too many deer who browse and devour young tree seedlings and wildflowers. These woods have no future. There are no young, regenerating trees and many of our native plants and flowers have disappeared. Invasive, non-native plants that deer don’t like are on the rise. In turn, we are losing the birds and other animals that use the understory for nesting and feeding.
In addition to the ecological impacts, there are also increased human health and safety impacts associated with an overpopulated deer herd. The incidence of Lyme disease has increased tremendously; deer are one of the principle vectors of Lyme disease. Deer-car collisions also increase in areas of higher deer densities.
SVT is a member and coordinator for the West Suburban Conservation Council (WSCC) which is a collaboration of over 40 local land trusts, municipal boards and other conservation entities. In 2010, WSCC identified deer impacts on forest health to be a priority for action.
SVT is joining many others in a regional effort to address this problem. Many towns, including Framingham, have begun deer management programs. Other towns in our area that have some level of deer hunting programs include Berlin, Concord, Dover, Marlborough, Northborough, Sudbury, Westborough, Westford, and Weston. The Trustees of Reservations has instituted deer hunting on approximately 3/4 of their properties in order to maintain the ecological health of their conservation lands. Greenbelt, a regional land trust north of Boston has had a hunting-by-permission program for many years.
You can find more information about deer impacts and deer management at the WSCC web pages.

Bluebird Box Monitoring

A Framingham nest box with a successful start tot he spring season, photograph by Pam Keeney.
A Framingham nest box with a successful start tot he spring season, photograph by Pam Keeney.
Although pesticides and competition negatively impacted bluebirds in the early and mid-20th century, they have recovered well in recent years and are stable or increasing both as breeding and wintering birds. In fact, the most recent Concord Christmas Bird Count - the 55th - recorded 643 of the birds; a number 40% higher than in any previous count. Much of this recovery is thanks to bluebird boxes that provide nesting locations for the cavity nesters. 
In 2015, SVT is monitoring a total of 48 boxes in Framingham, Southborough, Sudbury, Wayland, and Westborough by 12 dedicated volunteers. 
Monitoring nestboxes alerts us to problems birds may be having with predators and competitors. House sparrows (sometimes called English sparrows) and European starlings are non-native species introduced from Europe. Their aggressive seizure of cavity nest sites is a primary reason for declines in eastern bluebird populations.

Purple Loosestrife Bio-Control Project

SVT staff and volunteers ready the host plants for the raising of beetles at Wolbach Farm during spring of 2015.
SVT staff and volunteers ready the host plants for the raising of beetles at Wolbach Farm during spring of 2015.
Our wetlands are being severely threatened by purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria). Purple loosestrife is a highly invasive, perennial aquatic plant that grows from persistent roots. The annual stems can reach 9 feet tall and form a crown that can be up to 5 feet wide. The showy, magenta flowering stems end in a 4-16 inch flowering spike. 
In the mid to late 1800’s, purple loosestrife traveled to northeastern port cities as ship ballast from European tidal flats. When this ballast was dumped for the return trip to Europe, a major seed source remained along the eastern seaboard. For the next 100 years it was a pioneer species while it acclimated to the northeastern seaboard and the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Purple loosestrife outcompetes native vegetation and can quickly adapt to environmental changes. Wildlife and birds of all kinds are displaced from wetland habitat when they lose their food source, nesting material, and ground cover.
In order to preserve wetland ecosystems, many organizations across the country have initiated a purple loosestrife biological control program. Biological control is the control of an invasive species using a natural predator. These programs have had success in lowering the density and slowing the spread of purple loosestrife. The most popular biological control agent for purple loosestrife is Galerucella beetles. These beetles eat and breed specifically on purple loosestrife. 
SVT is participating with a purple loosestrife bio-control project in 2015. The program is being coordinated by the SuAsCo CISMA (Cooperative Invasive Plant Management Area). CISMA is a partnership of private and government conservation organizations working together to combat invasive species in our watershed.
To establish a population of Galerucella beetles capable of impacting purple loosestrife, large numbers need to be introduced. Luckily, these leaf-eating beetles are prolific given the right conditions.
We started by creating an “artificial wetland”, kiddie pools filled with water. Purple loosestrife root stock was dug up shortly after snowmelt and planted in individual containers in the kiddie pools. 
As the plants grew, we monitored for diseases, parasites, and any potential beetle predators. Nets were used to keep predators and parasites out and later to keep the Galerucella beetles in. Adult beetles were ordered from a lab in New Jersey and arrived in early June, when the loosestrife was large enough to support them. 
Ten to fifteen beetles were added to each plant and they quickly began to breed. A female will lay about 10 eggs a day for several weeks. Estimates range from 500-2,000 beetles that will be produced from one plant. 
The first generation of offspring will typically emerge in 5-8 weeks, depending on conditions. Ours started to emerge after 6 weeks and as of July 27th, 30 plants inoculated with beetles have now being introduced to purple loosestrife sites selected by CISMA along the Sudbury River.

Small Field Restoration

SVT staff, volunteers and neighbors are working to restore a historic field at the corner of Grove and Edmands Road in Framingham.
SVT staff, volunteers and neighbors are working to restore a historic field at the corner of Grove and Edmands Road in Framingham.
Sudbury Valley Trustees staff, volunteers and neighbors have been working together to restore the Waters and Weir field at the corner of Grove and Edmands Road in Framingham. SVT has had the field mowed annually (by the Hansons). However, over time, invasive plants such as multiflora rose and Oritental bittersweet vine have steadily encroached, negatively impacting the habitat and the view. Clearing out the invasive brush will restore the meadow habitat as well as provide for a more pleasant viewing experience. Additionally, SVT has been using biocontrol to reduce the abundance and vigor of the invasive purple loosestrife in the field. This entails the release of a beetle (Galerucella) that feeds only on purple loosestrife. The field hosts, among others, eastern bluebirds, common yellowthroats, and American woodcock. We would like to especially thank Pam Keeney, Dave Panich, Dave Moore, Bill Fadden and George Harrington for their efforts and support in moving this project forward.