Losing Ground IV Fast Facts

Losing Ground: Beyond the Footprint
Patterns of Development and Their Impact on the Nature of Massachusetts
1999 - 2005

 For key statistics and maps on development trends for every municipality in Massachusetts, including land protected and lost, visit www.massaudubon.org/losingground.

 Overview of Massachusetts Land

Total land area: 4,989,071, or nearly 5 million acres
Permanently protected land: 1,163,025 acres, as of December 2008
Total acres of developed land: 1,097,043 acres, as of December 2005 (the latest information available)
Land still available: 2,729,005 acres
Percentage of Massachusetts land area still available: 54.7%

Massachusetts Land Protected

From 1999 - 2005
    the rate of land protected compared to land developed was 2 to 1.
    Massachusetts state government agencies and conservation groups protected 43 acres per day.
    a total of 109,863 acres of land were protected, an additional 2.2% of the state's total land area.

Permanently Protected Wildlife Habitat in Massachusetts

1987: 10%
1997: 17.3%
2009: 20.6%

Massachusetts Land Developed

From 1999 - 2005, Massachusetts lost 22 acres of land to development each day, equal to the acreage of New Bedford, Lawrence, and Springfield combined every five years.

From 1999 - 2005, an estimated 47,600 acres of land was developed.
40,000 acres for residential houses

  • 30,000 acres of forest loss
  • 10,000 acres of agricultural land loss
  • 7,600 acres (other)

For every visible acre lost to development, an additional three acres loses its ecological function; in more rural locales, the less visible impact increases up to eight times that of direct construction impacts.

Total Ecological loss in Massachusetts

1971 - 2005: 23%
1971 - 1985: 6.9%
1985 - 1999: 8.7%
1999 - 2005: 9.0%

High-Vulnerability Areas

Sprawl Frontiers continue to spread west beyond eastern Worcester County and southeastern Massachusetts.

New! Sprawl Danger Zone: East of the Quabbin Reservoir and Connecticut River. These communities are of high ecological value (protection of water drinking supplies and most intact farms and forests in the Commonwealth). These towns are experiencing significant increases in new housing stock and have had significant impacts from development. What's more, they have large lot zoning and few planning tools and resources to manage sustainable growth.

Towns with Highest Rate of Development: 1999 - 2005

  1. North Attleborough
  2. Norwell
  3. Hanover
  4. Berkley
  5. Somerset
  6. Shrewsbury
  7. Grafton
  8. Northbridge
  9. East Longmeadow
  10. Upton

Towns with Greatest Loss of Ecological Function: 1999 - 2005

  1. Lancaster
  2. Rehoboth
  3. Alford
  4. Oakham
  5. North Brookfield
  6. Spencer
  7. Ashby
  8. Dighton
  9. Bolton
  10. New Marlborough

Towns with Largest Average Living Area: 1999 - 2005

  1. Dover 6,749 sq. ft.
  2. Lincoln 5,830 sq. ft.
  3. Brookline 5,434 sq. ft.
  4. Weston 5,245 sq. ft.
  5. Carlisle 5,202 sq. ft.
  6. Sherborn 5,122 sq. ft.
  7. Sudbury 4,692 sq. ft.
  8. Wellesley 4,614 sq. ft.
  9. Andover 4,559 sq. ft.
  10. Wayland 4,402 sq. ft.

Towns with Highest Percent of New Homes Built: 1999 - 2005

  1. Northbridge 33.8%
  2. Westborough 22.5%
  3. Rutland 22.4%
  4. Middleton 21.5%
  5. Mashpee 21.2%
  6. Grafton 20.0%
  7. Bolton 18.3%
  8. Uxbridge 18.1%
  9. Dunstable 17.8%
  10. Oakham 17.8%

 Key Demographics for Massachusetts

Land Use Change Due to Direct Residential Housing

1985 - 1999: 88%
1999 - 2005: 87%

 Average living space for newly constructed homes in Massachusetts

1970: 1,572 square feet
2001: 2,260 square feet
2006: 2,700 square feet

Source: Warren Group.

Year Population  Average household size
1970 5,689,170 3.12
1990 6,016,425 2.58
2000 6,349,097 2.51
2006 6,443,424 2.54

Source: U.S. Census Bureau.