The Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (NH&ESP) maintains a highly detailed, statewide database of rare and endangered species. Element Occurrence records form the core of this database, and include information on the location, status, population numbers, and condition of species protected under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. Element Occurrence data is collected using a standardized methodology to provide accurate and comparable information. Once the presence of a rare species has been documented, the population needs to be re-surveyed every 5-10 years in order to maintain current information and detect potential population declines while there is still time to implement management to prevent the population from disappearing. This data is used both locally and state-wide for conservation planning, environmental review, biological and ecological research and land acquisition prioritization.
Each year, the New England Plant Conservation Program (NEPCoP) Task Force works with Native Plant Trust and MA NH&ESP to generate a list of Element Occurrence records of rare plant species previously documented at specific locations on the Foundation’s properties that need to be re-surveyed. Surveys are timed to occur when a given species is most easily observed in the field (i.e. when it is in flower, has produced readily-observable fruit, etc.). Each site is visited and searched thoroughly for the rare plant population. Once detected, accurate locations are documented using a GPS unit and detailed data is collected on population size, structure, vigor, habitat characteristics, current and potential threats, etc. This information is then submitted to the NH&ESP, where it is recorded in the statewide Element Occurrence database. Our collaboration on this work with Native Plant Trust, the NEPCoP Task Force, and MA NH&ESP botanists provides current and accurate data on the rare plant species found on the Foundation’s properties. Furthermore, this data contributes significantly to our knowledge and understanding of the many rare resources found on our properties and is regularly incorporated into our property conservation management plans.