Support Strengthens for $3.6M Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary Campaign
Michael P. O'Connor
LINCOLN, MA—State and federal land conservation grants totaling $2 million have bolstered Mass Audubon’s effort to acquire the recently restored Tidmarsh Farms—a former commercial cranberry operation in Plymouth—and create a 479-acre wildlife sanctuary.
The $3.6 million “Campaign for Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary – Welcoming Nature’s Return,” facing a June 30, 2017 project deadline, received along with partner the Town of Plymouth, a $1 million grant from the Massachusetts Landscape Partnership Grant Program in 2016. Last week, an additional million-dollar grant was awarded to Mass Audubon, in partnership with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Program.
Secretary Matthew Beaton of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA) and the Plymouth region’s legislative delegation have been particularly supportive in this effort.
Since 2010, the property has undergone a tremendous freshwater wetlands restoration—the most ambitious effort of its kind ever in the Northeast—in which wildlife agencies, including the state Division of Ecological Restoration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have been working with Mass Audubon and the visionary couple who currently own the property to convert the agricultural land into a vibrant and beautiful habitat for plants and animals that were once commonly found throughout southeastern Massachusetts.
For more than a century, a cold-water stream that previously meandered through coastal Plymouth to Massachusetts Bay was diverted to support the cranberry farm’s operations, thereby reducing rich and diverse wetland habitats. Over the past several years, current landowners Evan Schulman and Glorianna Davenport have overseen a remarkable transformation, as more than a dozen dams and culverts were removed, resulting in the restoration of a major freshwater wetland and a stream that again runs free.
Mass Audubon is collaborating with the owners to establish Tidmarsh Farms as an environmental destination that will engage people of all ages, both on-site and online.
As a permanently protected wildlife sanctuary, the property will invite visitors to explore a landscape as it “returns to nature,” and observe the rejuvenation of flora and fauna—including many bird species—that haven’t been present at this site for generations. Mass Audubon teacher/naturalists will incorporate the evolving landscape into education programs for both classrooms and community centers, with an emphasis on field trips and other opportunities for experiential learning.
The property is also home to a “Living Observatory,” developed largely by Davenport, a co-founder of the renowned MIT Media Lab. Through this state-of-the-art technology learning initiative, scientists, educators, and students will be able to interpret changes in the Tidmarsh landscape as it is documented using video cameras and hundreds of electronic sensors embedded in the habitats of the site.
“Part science, part experiment, ecological restoration provides a critical tool in our ability to impact climate change. However, restoration alone is not the whole story,” Davenport said. “For Tidmarsh Farms to succeed, we need to augment restoration with land protection and education. Mass Audubon is the perfect partner to help us realize these long-term goals.”
Mass Audubon President Gary Clayton, whose background includes developing and implementing programs to enhance protection of the Commonwealth’s freshwater and coastal wetlands, also recognized the importance of partnerships for an initiative with the scope and ambition of the Tidmarsh Farms project.
“As we envision how a new wildlife sanctuary on this remarkable site will engage people of all ages and backgrounds, it’s exciting to be collaborating with truly special partners, particularly Glorianna and Evan, the Living Observatory, the Commonwealth’s environmental agencies, and the Town of Plymouth” Clayton said. “And everyone who supports the Campaign for Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary will immediately become part of this extraordinary collaboration.”
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 www.massaudubon.org.