Congratulations—and many, many thanks—to all who helped Mass Audubon successfully complete the purchase of 450+/- acres of land in the Manomet section of Plymouth that will soon become our newest wildlife sanctuary—the Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary!
For many of us, the effort has been nearly all-consuming, as we pulled on the oars together to bring about this long-sought conservation outcome.
From the hundreds who generously donated funds to help reach the somewhat daunting fundraising goal, to the Mass Audubon Board, Council, and staff that worked so diligently for several years, to our valued partners—particularly at the Town of Plymouth, MA Division of Conservation Services and Department of Conservation & Recreation and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service—everyone played important roles.
I am well aware that others, who may not yet have visited Tidmarsh, or know much about it, may be wondering, “Why is this such a big deal, what’s all the fuss?”
Here is my best answer:
At a critical juncture, when the sobering realities of climate change are becoming broadly known, and when there are virtually no tangible, “on the ground” examples of meaningful human response, our Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary will be a shining and hopeful example of actions that humans can take to help nature be more resilient to the impacts of climate change—so that it can, in turn, help all of us withstand the impacts of climate change in the important years ahead. To me, this is the reason Tidmarsh is such a big deal—pure and simple.
The property has recently undergone a state-of-the-art ecological restoration—the largest freshwater wetlands restoration ever completed in the northeast. Our new wildlife sanctuary will showcase this amazing restoration (implemented masterfully by the very capable Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration), helping all better understand the important role that ecological restoration will play in conservation going forward. Due to restoration, the property is on a trajectory of change that will fascinate sanctuary visitors for many decades to come with the spectacle of “nature’s return.”
With Mass Audubon acquiring/protecting “Tidmarsh East”, and project partner the Town of Plymouth acquiring/protecting “Tidmarsh West”, 600+/- acres, located in the eastern (most populated) part of the third most densely populated state in the country, less than a mile from the current ocean edge, has now been conserved for all time. That alone is hugely important.
Acquiring Tidmarsh Farms also opens a pathway for Mass Audubon to collaborate with the Living Observatory, a non-profit learning initiative that has roots in the MIT Media Lab. The initiative documents and reveals the changing Tidmarsh landscape, illustrating the relationships between ecological processes, human presence, and climate change response. This collaboration has tremendous potential for Tidmarsh to be a sanctuary with deeper applied science and for presenting interesting citizen science opportunities for sanctuary visitors on any given day.
With this acquisition, Mass Audubon has established a land base for people to connect with nature in the Town of Plymouth. This has been a long-held goal in the fastest growing, and arguably the most biologically diverse, municipality in the commonwealth. Importantly, Plymouth (“America’s Hometown”) is celebrating its 400th anniversary in just two years, and has embraced an ecotourism future—we are very excited about establishing a beautiful, large wildlife sanctuary in that setting.