Massachusetts State Forests & Parks

Mass Audubon plays an active role in supporting good stewardship of state lands.

The state of Massachusetts owns and protects 650,000 acres of conservation land: extensive forests interspersed with wetlands and waterways, fields, beaches, and unique habitats. The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) manages 450,000 of these acres as our state parks, urban parks, and public watersheds, attracting over 35 million visitors annually.

The Massachusetts State Parks system encompasses over 300,000 acres and is the ninth largest park system in the nation. It includes some of the most intact and remote large tracts of forest in the state as well as many recreational sites for swimming and camping. DCR is required by law to protect natural and cultural resources while providing recreational opportunities and also to conduct sustainable forestry practices. Balancing all of these responsibilities is a challenge, especially as budget cuts over the past decade have reduced visitor services and routine maintenance.

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You can help safeguard our state park and recreation lands. 
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These lands are critical to protection of natural habitats and wildlife that call them home. At least 68 different natural communities occur on DCR lands, supporting nearly 300 state-listed rare endangered species and thousands of other plants and animals. These lands also provide many other natural services including clean air and water, flood control, and carbon storage.

Vision for State Forestlands

Mass Audubon participated in and supports the DCR Landscape Designations and land management policies developed through the public Forest Futures Vision process, including:

  • Designation of 60 percent of the land as reserves and parklands where no commercial timber harvests will take place
  • Strong sustainability standards for forestry on the remaining woodlands
  • Focusing on forest stewardship to protect all of the values of public lands including:
    • Wilderness and scenery
    • Wildlife habitat
    • Recreation and tourism
    • Forest products
    • Carbon sequestration and resilience to the impacts of climate change.

Implementation of the Vision is also leading to a more integrated approach to land management planning, and enhanced public involvement in how your state lands are managed.

The Landscape Designation system for all of the 310,666 acres in the state forest and parks system includes:

  • 77,331 acres of parklands managed for public recreation opportunities and the protection and appreciation of natural and cultural resources.
  • 111,227 acres of reserves: large blocks of forest managed primarily by natural processes.
  • 122,108 acres of woodlands where sustainable forestry will be practiced.

Recreational access is allowed in all designations, with trails and uses appropriate to the designation and the local resources.

Forest and Park Management Plans

By law, DCR is required to develop management plans for all the state forests, parks, and reservations that provide for the protection and stewardship of natural and cultural resources and shall ensure consistency between recreation, resource protection, and sustainable forest management.

All management plans are developed with public input. There are also opportunities for public input on all forestry projects on state parklands.

Old Growth

Old growth forests are complex, multi-layered structures that support many plants and animals.Most old-growth forest in Massachusetts is located on public lands, and Mass Audubon helped secure protection of these areas through state policy and Landscape Designations. More work is still needed to make these protections permanent.