Habitat Management

Person walking in the woods.

Mass Audubon protects more than 40,000 acres of natural habitat across the state. Since much of the Massachusetts landscape reflects the impacts of human activities, it's critical that we apply our knowledge of natural systems to optimize land for rare or declining species on our protected land and beyond.

Habitat management encompasses all the ways we work to maintain and enhance uncommon, exemplary, and vulnerable natural communities on our wildlife sanctuaries. This frequently involves a passive approach, which means monitoring our land to ensure our objectives are being met. However, in specific cases, this requires active intervention to improve conditions for plants and wildlife.

Our habitat management tools include climate-smart forestry, invasive species control, prescribed burning, mowing, and carefully planned restoration—all done within an adaptive approach in which monitoring informs ongoing management decisions. We also advise other conservation organizations, municipalities, and private landowners on habitat management options and implementation.

Forest Management

Forests of various ages provide many ecological services including wildlife habitat, flood and erosion control, public health benefits, recreational opportunities, and carbon sequestration. Protecting our forests from development is a crucial first step to secure these natural benefits. In addition to forest protection, there are also passive and active approaches to forest stewardship that retain or even enhance their ecological services. Learn more >

Climate-Smart Forestry

Climate-smart forestry (CSF) is an emerging approach to forestry that actively manages forests specifically with climate in mind. CSF practices promote healthy forests and support carbon sequestration under changing conditions, allowing forests to be part of the climate change solution. For these reasons, Mass Audubon is committed to climate-smart forest management on its wildlife sanctuaries and on lands across the state. Learn more >

Maintaining Resilience

Resilience is the capacity of a natural system to respond to disturbances by changing while maintaining basic functions such as pollination, plant succession and nutrient cycling. Climate change and other ecosystem stressors are altering the habitats of Massachusetts. Reducing as many stressors as possible increases resilience.  We strive to reduce ecosystem stressors on all lands we manage.  Examples include:

Invasive Species Control

Invasive species are one of the greatest threats to the nature of Massachusetts. These species out-compete, displace, or kill native species, altering the structure and composition of forests and other habitat types. We actively control invasive species on our own sanctuaries, work with partners on regional efforts, and educate landowners about what they can do. Learn more >

Reducing White-tailed Deer Density

White-tailed Deer are a native species in Massachusetts, but in the absence of their natural predators (wolves and mountain lions) these charismatic animals have reached an unsustainably high population density in many parts of the state. At very high densities, White-tailed Deer devour the forest understory—resulting in decreased plant diversity, destruction of nesting and perching habitat for birds and other wildlife, and removal of tree seedlings and saplings that would have been the next generation of our forests. Learn more >

Capturing Carbon

Mass Audubon has enrolled 10,000 acres of our forests in a California Air Resources Board (CARB) Improved Forest Management project, the first of its kind in Massachusetts. Since the carbon stored in these acres exceeded the regional average value, we were awarded more than 600,000 offset credits, which were then sold on the CARB carbon offset market. Learn more >


Where appropriate, we actively intervene to restore landscape function by undoing previous human development. We remove dams and other impediments to stream connectivity. We take down unused houses, barns, and other structures that fragment upland habitats. We convert former agricultural fields to native habitats such as floodplain forest.

Maintaining Habitats for Uncommon Species

Many species rely on habitats that require management to maintain suitable conditions. For example, grasslands and shrublands provide critical habitat for a particular suite of plants and animals. These species and habitats are among the most rapidly declining types in Massachusetts.

We employ mowing, grazing, prescribed fire, and other methods to maintain grasslands, meadows, heathlands, and shrublands from the Berkshires to the Cape and Islands. We also work with partners to create living shorelines and to restore eroding beaches to maintain nesting sites for coastal birds.