Sandplain Heathland Habitat Management Grant Received

The Nantucket Conservation Foundation has been awarded a $18,998 grant to undertake a sandplain heathland management project on our Head of the Plains properties, located in the southwest portion of the island. This funding comes from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) Habitat Management Grant Program, which provides financial assistance to open space landowners to improve and manage habitat for rare wildlife and game species and expand opportunities for hunting and other outdoor recreation. This program will be distributing $506,856 to support 18 different projects across the Commonwealth….and we are honored to be one of these!

Nantucket’s sandplain heathlands are globally significant habitats that support some of the highest concentrations of rare and endangered species in Massachusetts. The Foundation’s Head of the Plains properties represent the largest acreage of these habitats under its ownership. Tall, dense shrubs and trees have been slowly increasing in this area over the past century, primarily due to the end of historic sheep grazing and fire suppression. This has reduced habitat for many species of rare plants, animals and insects – a trend that will continue without some type of disturbance.

We will be using this grant funding to manage a 30 acre area of former sandplain heathland habitat that has been overgrown with taller shrubs and pitch pines. Woody vegetation clearing will be done during late winter of this year, with follow-up management during the summer growing season. The area to be treated is surrounded by grasslands and heathlands where past prescribed fire management has taken place, which will facilitate habitat expansion. Brushcutting will decrease the height of existing shrubs, improve habitat for grassland-associated plant species, reduce overall wildfire risk and improve access and visibility for hunting and public enjoyment on the property.

We are very grateful and proud to have been selected for this competitive funding. According to MassWildlife Director Jack Buckley, “Because 80 percent of Massachusetts’ lands where wildlife is found is owned privately, therefore as an environmental agency we should promote and apply science-based habitat management activities with committed municipal and private landowners, thereby protecting their investment in wildlife and habitat.”

The Foundation’s Science and Stewardship Department has a long history of partnering with MassWildlife on many conservation initiatives. We provide detailed data to their Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program database on population trends of rare species occurring on our conservation lands, ensure that rare beach-nesting shorebirds are managed according to state and federal guidelines, and incorporate feedback from their staff biologists into our property and wildfire management plans so that they can be approved for implementation.