Wetland restoration to begin soon at Tidmarsh Farms, Plymouth
Diane Baedeker Petit
413-253-4371, cell 413-835-1276
Project will benefit the environment and local economy
PLYMOUTH, Mass. (September 27, 2013) – One of the largest ecological restoration projects ever undertaken in Massachusetts will soon begin at Tidmarsh Farms in Plymouth, funded in part by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Encompassing 250 acres of degraded freshwater wetlands, including 192 acres of former commercial cranberry bogs, the project will protect and restore a substantial area of critical habitat in this coastal watershed.
Private landowners; federal, state and local agencies; and non-governmental organizations are partnering on the project which will generate significant benefits for both the environment and the local economy.
In 2010, a permanent conservation easement was placed on 192 acres of cranberry bogs and wetlands through the NRCS Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). WRP is a voluntary program that provides technical and financial assistance to private landowners to restore, protect and enhance wetlands in exchange for retiring eligible land from agriculture.
Comprehensive wetland and stream restoration work is planned at Tidmarsh Farms in an effort to holistically restore ecological processes to the retired cranberry bog system, which includes the headwaters of Beaver Dam Brook. Agricultural berms and water control structures that are barriers to fish migration will be removed, degraded stream channels will be reconstructed using large wood to enhance habitat, and native species including Atlantic white cedars will be replanted.
The entire project – from initial design through construction and monitoring – is estimated to cost $3 million. NRCS will provide $1.92 million for construction or 64 percent of the total cost. Construction is scheduled to begin in late summer of 2014.
Other project partners are the Mass. Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration, which is leading project management; the landowners; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS); Mass Audubon; the Town of Plymouth; and many others.
“The Commonwealth of Massachusetts greatly appreciates the partnership and investment of NRCS in this important conservation and restoration effort,” said Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan. “When you combine the landowners’ extraordinary vision with this impressive team led by our Division of Ecological Restoration, you get a project that will deliver exceptional return on investment—year after year—for people and the environment.”
A 2013 study commissioned by The Trust for Public Land found that every dollar invested in land conservation returned four dollars in water quality protection, flood mitigation, and recreation opportunities to the Massachusetts economy. A 2012 DER study found that every $1 million invested in bog restoration design and construction generated 13.2 jobs and $1.82 million in economic output. The ecological restoration work at Tidmarsh Farms is expected to generate an estimated 40 jobs and $5.4 million in economic output.
“Conserving important open space and restoring ecosystems are at the heart of all WRP projects,” said Christine Clarke, NRCS Massachusetts State Conservationist. ”Protecting and restoring such a large site – a significant portion of an entire coastal watershed – not only improves the environment, but also provides lasting social and economic benefits to the Plymouth community and the state.”
The Tidmarsh Farm project also includes a unique academic and technology partnership that will further expand the benefits.
“The restoration actions will kick start conservation across the landscape and provide a unique learning opportunity as a Living Observatory,” said Glorianna Davenport, Trustee of Tidmarsh Farms. “We are excited to work with collaborators from the MIT Media Lab, the Department of Geosciences at UMass Amherst, Public Laboratory and others to document changes brought about by the restoration in real time, and to make these changes visible to visitors both on site and over the internet.”
A “Living Observatory” approach leverages the value of this restoration to education, technological innovation and knowledge creation. Goals include innovation in low-power sensor systems to measure complex change across a restoration site, as well as technologies that allow the public to experience ecological interdependencies that span large and small time frames. The results will allow partners to thoroughly understand and adaptively manage changes at the site, and will advance the science of ecological restoration to inform the planning and design of future projects.