Mashpee is the recipient of a $24,000 grant to fund a prescribed burn of the Holland Mills Pine Barren. The Baker-Polito Administration announced the grant on Wednesday, January 3.
The grant was listed among 20 other projects and a total of $506,856 in grants provided by the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife’s Habitat Management Grant Program. This year, the Baker Administration increased the funding of the program by $200,000 utilizing environmental bond funds.
“[This is] great news,” assistant conservation agent Katelyn W. Cadoret said of the grant.
The Pine Barrens, parts of which are owned by the town and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, is a section of the Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge, which in total is nearly 6,000 acres.
Representatives of the Northeast Forest and Fire Management LLC applied for the funds on behalf of Mashpee. The Sandwich-based group plans and assists with prescribed burns throughout the region.
Controlled burns help ecosystems in a variety of ways. Burned vegetation puts nutrients on the forest floor, invigorating new growth. Controlled burns also kill off invasive species, allowing native species to grow. And controlled burns, if done effectively, can provide a more beneficial habitat for wildlife, such as the New England cottontail and the northern long-eared bat. They also minimize the risk of forest fires as the controlled burn uses the fuel from dead wood on the forest floor.
The Habitat Management Grant Program is in its third year and has now awarded over $1,215,000 in funding to 51 projects. The program’s mission is to provide financial assistance to municipal and private landowners of conserved properties to improve and manage habitat for wildlife that has been deemed in greatest conservation need and for game species. Projects awarded with funds are also designed to expand outdoor recreational opportunities.
“The Habitat Management Grant Program is a great example of the strong partnership between the state, municipalities, private landowners and organizations working together to conserve land and wildlife,” Governor Charles D. Baker Jr. was quoted in a press release issued by the state Wednesday. “These grants are an important tool to help build upon the thousands of acres of important conservation land for wildlife and residents across the Commonwealth.”
This year, funds provided by the grant program will benefit 20 wildlife habitat improvement projects, totaling 950 acres in 19 Massachusetts communities. The projects will complement the ongoing habitat management efforts currently underway on state-owned lands.