Poland Brook Wildlife Management Area, Franklin County, Massachusetts
About Poland Brook WMA
The 664-acre Poland Brook Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is in western Massachusetts in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains. It is primarily in the town of Conway, Franklin County. People hike, fish, bird, and hunt on the WMA, which is owned and managed by the Massachusetts Division of Wildlife (MassWildlife).
The property was once a dairy farm. MassWildlife keeps many of the old fields open by mowing them; the agency leases other of the fields to a local farmer for pasturing livestock, which also keeps the land open. Forested parts of the WMA have a mix of softwood and hardwood trees, including white pine, red maple, sugar maple, red oak, white ash, and American beech.
The diverse habitats are home to deer, moose, black bear, bobcats, coyotes, small mammals, and a variety of birds, including hawks, owls, wild turkeys, ruffed grouse, woodcock, and songbirds. The wood turtle, a species of special concern in Massachusetts, has been found on the property.
Improving the Land for Woodcock
Wildlife managers targeted 25 acre in four areas of the WMA, labeled units A, C, D, and E, where the forest was becoming too mature for use by woodcock. The units lie near Poland Brook, along North Poland Road and Main Poland Road.
In 2007, workers used a variety of techniques and equipment including chainsaws, log skidders, and heavy-duty mowers to cut down pine seedlings and hardwood trees up to 12 inches dbh (diameter at breast height) to encourage brushy forest. They left trees and shrubs that produce food for wildlife, including black cherry, juneberry, blueberry, hawthorn, and apple. In some areas they removed trees to promote the dense regrowth of shrubs, including alders. A combination of herbicides, livestock grazing, and machinery helped eradicate exotic plants including glossy buckthorn, multiflora rose, Japanese barberry, and bush honeysuckle.
As well as benefiting woodcock, many of the newly opened areas will provide good brood-rearing habitat for wild turkeys.
Unit A had not been mowed in about 10 years. Here, clearing efforts restored 12.8 acres for woodcock and other wildlife that use early successional habitat.
Unit C was mainly open. Workers removed brush and trees that were encroaching on the edge of the field. The clearing of 3.8 acres expanded an existing 9.3-acre opening to 13.1 acres, returning the site to the field's original dimensions.
Unit D was a former pasture that had been abandoned long ago and had grown up to become a closed-canopy forest of pines and hardwoods. On this 6.2-acre site, workers removed the trees to fully open up the area and create early successional habitat.
Unit E was cleared to restore 2.2 acres of early successional habitat next to other open habitats and areas where beavers had cut down trees.
Unit D pre-treatment - 8/14/07
To see how woodcock respond to the habitat improvement efforts, biologists will count the numbers of male woodcock singing in the area during spring. As part of MassWildlife's Upland Habitat Management Program, songbird populations in the area were surveyed in the past; in years to come, follow-up counts will document the changes in bird communities that occur as the structure and composition of the vegetation changes over time.
The area has a healthy moose population, and white-tailed deer are also abundant. Biologists will monitor the effects of moose and deer browsing on regrowing tree sprouts. Repeated browsing of these large mammals may hold the habitat in an early successional stage longer than normal.
Funding and Partners
Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Massachusetts State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Wildlife Management Institute.
How to Visit
Poland Brook WMA is about 1.9 miles south of Massachusetts Route 116 on North Poland Road, south of the town of Conway. Demonstration units A and E are near the junction of North Poland Road and Main Poland Road; units C and D lie to the northeast of the junction along Main Poland Road. There are signs for the management area in front of Unit A and at the parking lot for Unit C.
For more information, or to set up a group tour of the demonstration area, contact MassWildlife upland game bird biologist David Scarpitti, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough MA 01581, 508-389-6377, firstname.lastname@example.org
For a map of Poland Brook WMA, see http://www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/habitat/maps/wma/valleywma/polandbrookwma...
For more information about the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife's Upland Habitat Management Program, see http://www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/habitat/management/bdi/upland_home.htm