Losing Ground: Nature's Value — At-a-Glance

Losing Ground VI cover image of wetland near road © Julie Archibald
© Julie Archibald

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The information presented here is a summary of the overall statistics reported in Losing Ground: Nature's Value in a Changing Climate. You can explore more detailed land protection statistics and interactive maps by town, county, watershed, or Regional Planning Agency (RPA). Data is provided for all 351 Massachusetts municipalities, including data on land use, development, amount of land protected, and ecological integrity, as well as changes over time. Explore statistics & interactive maps >

Overview of Massachusetts Land Use 2012 - 2017

from Losing Ground: Nature's Value in a Changing Climate

Total land area: 5.17 million acres
Permanently protected land: 27% as of June 2019
Developed land: 21% as of June 2017 (the latest information available)
Land area still available: 52%

Land Protection

76% of newly protected land was within the Green Infrastructure Network, a network of wildlife habitats and other natural areas that support native species, maintain natural ecological processes, and contribute to health and quality of life. This trend indicates that conservation efforts are largely focused on the most important lands.

  • The rate of land protected compared to land developed was over 4 to 1.
  • Massachusetts state government agencies, municipalities, private landowners, and conservation groups protected nearly 55 acres/day
  • 100,000 acres of land were protected, an additional 1.9% of the state's total land area.

Total Amount of MA Land Permanently Protected

1987: 10% 2009: 20.6% 2019: 27%
1997: 17.3% 2013: 25.2%  

Land Development

From 2012-2017, Massachusetts lost an average of 13.5 acres of land to development each day. Of that land, 9,300 of the total acres developed were within the Green Infrastructure Network.

  • 24,700 acres of land developed
  • 30,000 acres of forest lost
  • 9,000 acres of wetlands & open land gained

Towns with Highest Rates of Development (2012 – 2017)

1. Uxbridge 8. Shirley 15. Bellingham
2. Ayer 9. Wareham 16. Middleboro
3. Carver 10. Holliston 17. Rochester
4. Kingston 11. Plainville 18. Shrewsbury
5. Plympton 12. Dracut 19. Marshfield
6. Littleton 13. Ashland 20. Norfolk
7. Plymouth 14. Hopkinton