Habitat Restoration Continues at Memorial Forest
As part of a long-term project to restore pitch pine/scrub oak barrens that provide habitat for several threatened species, SVT and the City of Marlborough are planning a second prescribed burn for a section of Memorial Forest and the Desert Natural Area.
The nationally imperiled pitch pine/scrub oak habitat provides homes for many rare species. Of note at the Desert Natural Area are whip-poor-wills and wild lupine, which have been precipitously declining over the last 25 years.
In 2014, we conducted a prescribed fire on 14 acres, containing both City of Marlborough and SVT property. Two years ago, we cut, thinned, and removed trees in the area around the Desert Loop Trail at SVT’s Memorial Forest. Fifteen (15) acres around the sandpit were heavily cut and an additional 35 acres were thinned.
We are ready for the next step in the process. This year, as early as March, we will conduct two to three separate days of prescribed burns (see map of burn area). Scheduling of the burns is weather dependent.
Our consultants, Northeast Forest & Fire Management, have prepared a burn plan that has been approved by MassWildlife for restoration of rare species habitat. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has issued a burn permit. Both the Marlborough and Sudbury Fire Departments have met with our consultant and are supportive of the plan.
We will post information about the project in our kiosks on the property as well as on the project page of our website.
You can learn more about this habitat restoration project at these events:
Public Forum: Habitat Restoration at Desert Natural Area/Memorial Forest
Thursday, February 27
7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center
Habitat Restoration Site Walk
Saturday, March 7
9:00 – 11:30 a.m.
To be added to our email list for regular updates on the project, including dates when a burn is anticipated, please send a request to [email protected]
SVT's Comments on Eversource Project in Desert Natural Area
SVT continues to oppose Eversource's planned transmission line along the abandoned MBTA line between Sudbury and Hudson. The proposed underground utility line will cut through hundreds of acres of conservation land that was paid for with private, municipal, state, and federal dollars. This includes the Desert Natural Area, which sits at the intersection of Hudson, Marlborough, and Sudbury and incorporates SVT's Memorial Forest.
On August 8 of this year, Eversource issued a Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR). In response to the FEIR, SVT has expressed our concerns about the project to the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Agency. Read our letter regarding the FEIR.
Good News at Gowing's Swamp
At Gowing's Swamp in Concord, SVT and our conservation partners have been working to rejuvenate a valued habitat. The Gowing’s Swamp natural area supports a unique bog and other wetlands that are surrounded by a walking trail through pleasant oak-pine woodlands. Over time, invasive plants here have squeezed out the native plants that our native birds, bees, and butterflies rely upon for survival.
A few years ago, we set out to reverse this trend so native plants can thrive and provide food and habitat for our native pollinators and birds.
As of August 2018, the wildlfowers are back! What was once a field of invasive Japanese knotwood is now an expanse of black-eyed susans dotted with white vervain, pretty yellow partridge pea, and other native and non-invasive plants. We’ve also seen a resurgence of common milkweed, wild indigo, goldenrod, and dewberry.
We are thrilled with this progess, but of course our work is not done—the battle against invasive plants never truly ends. We will continue to fight the invasives and protect the health of this special ecological area. Read more about the Gowing's Swamp project.
Searching for Elusive Turtles
In September, I had the opportunity to join a group of field biologists as they searched for two rare turtle species at SVT’s Memorial Forest Reservation in Sudbury: the wood turtle and the eastern box turtle. The field biologists are conducting multiple visits to Memorial Forest in an effort to locate these rare and hard-to-find turtles.
Any wood turtles or eastern box turtles found during the survey will be fitted with radio transmitters for tracking. The information gathered will be valuable not only to Sudbury Valley Trustees, but to all conservation land owners. An understanding of the prevalence and movement of these rare species will help us create better land management plans for our reservations.
Wood turtles are medium-sized with orange coloration on their legs and neck. Wood turtles spend the spring and summer in mixed or deciduous forests, hay fields, and wetlands, while in late summer and early fall they move to streams for hibernation. These turtles occasionally exhibit a strange feeding behavior called “stomping.” The turtle stomps on the ground, alternating its front feet to cause vibrations in the soil. Earthworms, thinking that the vibration is rainfall, move to the surface to avoid drowning and are quickly devoured by the hungry wood turtle.
Eastern box turtles, in comparison, are small terrestrial turtles with oval, high-domed shells of variable coloration. This turtle can be found in several types of habitats—including brushy fields and woodlands—though it tends to hibernate in upland forest, burrowing under the soft ground to stay warm. The eastern box turtle’s name originates from its ability to completely enclose its head, legs, and tail within the shell. Both species are active from early to mid-April through mid- to late-October.
The biologists are conducting their survey in Fall 2017 and Spring 2018. They are using two survey methods—meander searches, in which they spread out and walk through the forest, and scent tracking, in which a trained dog searches for the turtles. Scent tracking is accepted by the Massachusetts National Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP) as a valid survey method for turtles. The specific dog working on this survey, Jadis, has been very successful on other projects. Biologist Scott Egan noted that in a previous survey, Jadis located more turtles than four biologists combined!
Unfortunately, we did not find turtles on the day I joined the survey team, but we did find other wildlife, including a yellow spotted salamander and a ring-necked snake, with its charcoal-colored back and its vibrant, yellow belly. Thus far, the biologists have not located turtles.
Although the turtle survey itself is exciting, the reason for its occurrence is not. Eversource is proposing to construct a new transmission line along the MBTA Right-of-Way that connects Sudbury and Hudson. This abandoned rail line serves as the northern boundary of Memorial Forest and bisects the Desert Natural Area, a biologically rich area which SVT and its many partners have been working to restore over the past two decades.
To determine the environmental impact of its proposed project, Eversource is being required to assess the importance of the area to these rare turtles. The NHESP has listed both of these turtles as “special concern” species of Massachusetts, and a common threat to their survival is new development. Sudbury Valley Trustees is opposing the transmission line due to the significant impact the project would have on the Desert Natural Area and its wildlife.
By Paige Dolci, Land Stewardship Coordinator, TerraCorps-AmeriCorps
Memorial Forest Update, Trails are Open
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
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 [email protected].
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 [email protected].
Restoration Project Begins in Memorial Forest
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
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
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:
- Swamp 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 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
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.