Mass Audubon Knocks Back Invasive Species at Rough Meadows

Release Date:
January 19, 2016

ROWLEY – Mass Audubon has restored a swath of saltmarsh—including an almost total eradication of invasive common reed— at Rough Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary in Rowley. Rough Meadows is a 230-acre wildlife sanctuary comprised of lands owned by Mass Audubon and Essex County Greenbelt Association, which jointly manage the property.

The sanctuary, which is located in the Great Marsh, a 20,000-acre ecosystem that extends from Cape Ann to New Hampshire, consists of extensive salt marshes, fields, and coastal forests.

Common reed is a non-native invasive grass that displaces native plant species that provide important habitat for wildlife.  It was first documented at what is now the wildlife sanctuary in the early 1990s and has been spreading at an increasing rate in recent years.  An ecological management plan for the sanctuary identified common reed as a significant ecological threat and management priority.  

Funding for the control of common reed at Rough Meadows was provided by the In-Lieu Fee Program through a Coastal Habitat Restoration Grant.  This program provides funding for projects that compensate for impacts to aquatic resources in Massachusetts that have been authorized by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries was the sponsor of this program.

“Without the funding provided by this grant from the Corps of Engineers and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, it would not have possible to initiate this project at this time.” said Gary Clayton, President of Mass Audubon.  “This grant has made it possible for us to restore important coastal marsh habitat, which faces a number of major threats, including invasive species and climate change.”

“The grant provided three years of funding for implementing common reed control,” said Lou Wagner, Mass Audubon Regional Scientist and project manager. “This has resulted in an approximately 95 percent reduction in common reed on the sanctuary.  The intensive control work funded by the grant has reduced common reed to a level where we can manage it on an ongoing basis.  Without the funding provided by this grant, we would not have been able to devote the intense level of effort that was needed to achieve these results in such a short time.”

Mass Audubon’s efforts to control common reed at Rough Meadows complement similar efforts by others to control and prevent the spread of common reed and other non-native invasive plant species throughout the Great Marsh ecosystem. These efforts have included extensive common reed control work in the nearby communities of Salisbury, Newbury, and Newburyport.




Mass Audubon is the largest nature-based conservation organization in New England. Founded in 1896 by two women who fought for the protection of birds, Mass Audubon carries on their legacy by focusing on the greatest challenges facing the environment today: the loss of biodiversity, inequitable access to nature, and climate change. With the help of our 140,000 members and supporters, we protect wildlife, conserve and restore resilient land, advocate for impactful environmental policies, offer nationally recognized education programs for adults and children, and provide endless opportunities to experience the outdoors at our wildlife sanctuaries. Explore, find inspiration, and take action at