Great Marsh Land Protected for New Sanctuary

Mass Audubon closed a crucial gap within 8,000 acres of contiguous protected land in the Great Marsh when it purchased 75 acres of vulnerable habitat in Rowley last week. Protecting this mix of salt marsh and upland islands means Mass Audubon can proceed with plans for its newest wildlife sanctuary, Rough Meadows, which began with the vision and generous bequest of the late Professor Alfred J. Chandler in 2007. Thanks to Mass Audubon’s partnership with committed allies and generous supporters, Professor Chandler’s North Shore dream is now a reality.

The regional land trust for the North Shore, the Essex County Greenbelt Association (“Greenbelt”), worked in partnership with Mass Audubon to achieve this outcome.  The purchase was funded by a grant from the Open Space Conservancy, Inc., an affiliate of the Open Space Institute;  a contribution from the town of Rowley’s Community Preservation funds; a grant from the Federal North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA); and generous donations from private foundations and individual supporters of the Mass Audubon lead initiative.  The state Department of Conservation and Recreation is also a project participant, and will acquire a conservation easement on the property, to be co-held with the town and Greenbelt. 

Mass Audubon Director of Land Protection Bob Wilber noted that the Rough Meadows initiative speaks to the land-protection mission of New England’s largest conservation organization and to that of its partners. “Seventy five very important acres in the Great Marsh are protected today due to the combined efforts of many – from the public and private conservation partners, to the grant makers and many private donors who believed in this project,” Wilber said. “All played essential roles in bringing this wonderful outcome about.  People, plants and animals will benefit for generations to come.”

Though designated as BioMap and Living Waters Core Habitat, a State Area of Critical Environmental Concern, and an Important Bird Area, the land was under direct threat of development into at least 10 residential lots before Mass Audubon purchased it.  Conservation of this property protects the existing salt marsh and also the adjacent upland where the salt marsh may eventually migrate due to sea level rise associated with climate change. The protected land provides numerous benefits to people, including the preservation of water resources, shellfish beds, tidal creeks, and estuaries, and providing for increased public safety to coastal residences and businesses by helping to absorb storm-related floodwaters. 

The newly protected land is part of the largest complex of salt marshes north of Chesapeake Bay and is the most significant coastal ecosystem in Massachusetts. Salt marshes are one of the most productive natural ecosystems on Earth, and provide important wildlife habitat, flood and erosion control, and improved water quality. They are also one of the most threatened habitats due to predicted sea level rise as a result of climate change.

  • Great Marsh Symposium 2017 +

    Great Marsh Resiliency: Putting the Plan into Action! will be held on Thurs, November 9, 2017 in Essex, MA Read More
  • Great Marsh Symposium 2016 +

    2016 Great Marsh Coaltiion Sea Level Rise Symposium The Great Marsh Symposium: Implications for Quality of Life in Our Communities will be held on Thurs, November 17, 2016 in Essex, MA Read More
  • Public Art Installation +

    Public Art Installation on Display The public is invited to view and experience a new, thought-provoking art installation highlighting the impact of climate change in the Great Marsh ecosystem at the Allyn Cox Reservation in Essex, headquarters of Greenbelt, Essex County’s Land Trust. Ms. Susan Quateman, of Wenham, working out of the Ten Pound Studio, Gloucester, produced the interpretative exhibit in collaboration with designer and photographer Leslie Bartlett of Manchester. The project is sponsored by the Great Marsh Coalition (GMC), and is funded in part by an Essex National Heritage Partnership Grant. Ms. Quateman was inspired to create the installation as a result of attending the 2014 Great Marsh Symposium organized by the GMC, which focused on climate change and presented case studies in local adaptation. The artist, who is an environmental planner was drawn to weave together her passion to protect vulnerable landscapes by painting on silk to illustrate Read More
  • Phragmites Removal +

    During the final week of September the Great Marsh Revitalization Task Force (GMRTF) implemented its 2012 invasive Phragmites australis management plan in the northern section of the Great Marsh. Read More
  • Scientists: Fertilizers are killing salt marshes +

    October 22, 2012 By Mac Cerullo Staff Writer Gloucester Daily Times For years, scientists have observed a slow decay of salt marshes all along the Atlantic coast without understanding why. Now a newly released study conducted in the local Great Marsh is shedding light on the cause of salt marsh decay and the impact it could have on the environment. Read More
  • Great Marsh Land Protected for New Sanctuary +

    Mass Audubon closed a crucial gap within 8,000 acres of contiguous protected land in the Great Marsh when it purchased 75 acres of vulnerable habitat in Rowley last week. Protecting this mix of salt marsh and upland islands means Mass Audubon can proceed with plans for its newest wildlife sanctuary, Rough Meadows, which began with the vision and generous bequest of the late Professor Alfred J. Chandler in 2007. Thanks to Mass Audubon’s partnership with committed allies and generous supporters, Professor Chandler’s North Shore dream is now a reality. The regional land trust for the North Shore, the Essex County Greenbelt Association (“Greenbelt”), worked in partnership with Mass Audubon to achieve this outcome.  The purchase was funded by a grant from the Open Space Conservancy, Inc., an affiliate of the Open Space Institute;  a contribution from the town of Rowley’s Community Preservation funds; a grant from the Federal North American Read More
  • Reeds threaten the Great Marsh +

    Geoff Walker has watched the phragmites Australis grow for years, but a new study has proven what he already knew. Typically, the invasive species that is also called the “common reed’’ starts on the marsh border and spreads, sometimes to the point where it crowds other plant species out. In recent years, that pattern had changed. “About four of five years ago we looked out and saw tremendous amounts of emerging small stands of phragmites [spread around the marsh], which is atypical,’’ said Walker, a Newbury selectman whose home abuts the Great Marsh. “That is what that study brings to light, and that certain parts of our marsh are reaching a tipping point. Once that tipping point is reached, we could lose broad swaths of our productive, high marsh.’’ The study, released on Jan. 31, has confirmed anecdotal observations, and offered both bad and good news regarding the future of Read More
  • Great Marsh gets share of grant money to protect coastal water quality +

    Newburyport Current Posted May 27, 2011 @ 09:07 PM Newburyport — Ipswich is among several communities to share in $200,000 in federal grants, Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. announced earlier this month. The Massachusetts Bays Program Research and Planning Grants will be used to fund projects aimed at identifying causes of coastal habitat degradation, developing plans to address coastal water quality pollution issues, and/or building local capacity to protect coastal resources. “The range of projects funded by this program is representative of the challenges facing our coastal and estuarine resources,” said Secretary Sullivan. “I applaud the commitment of coastal communities and local organizations for their efforts in the ongoing stewardship and preservation of the natural resources within Massachusetts and Cape Cod Bays.” The awards, offered for the first time, will be awarded to the following municipalities, nonprofits and academic institutions: The town of Ipswich, to develop a Read More
  • Marsh study reveals peril for Texas Gulf coast +

    By Asher Price AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF Published: 7:06 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011 IPSWICH, Mass. — Gray upon gray, slosh upon slosh, acre after acre of marsh. Early on a wet dog of a Saturday morning, I had wriggled my way into a pair of extra-large waterproof waders and set out with a team of journalists and scientists onto a portion of the foggy bog north of Boston known as the Great Marsh . Salt marsh was the more technical term: We were between land and sea, in a cracked, muddy landscape, riven with tidal waters. Centuries before, New Englanders had harvested the grasses as hay. Now this marsh, 20,000 acres stretching roughly from Gloucester to Salisbury, is largely a preserve, visited only by intrepid birders, the occasional dog walker and scientists. Beginning in 2004 , researchers with the Marine Biological Laboratory have conducted experiments on the effects of fertilizer on the salt marsh system here. They have essentially Read More
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