Restored cranberry bog welcomes wildlife, people

John Dow, Mass DU state chairman; David O’Neill, Mass Audubon president, Tony Jones, DU Mass DU volunteer, tour Tidmarsh on June 24.

© Anne Bastille

John Dow, Mass DU state chairman; David O’Neill, Mass Audubon president, Tony Jones, DU Mass DU volunteer, tour Tidmarsh on June 24.

Ducks Unlimited and several partners are celebrating the restoration of a former cranberry farm back to a natural state for wildlife and people.

Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary in Plymouth, Mass., is a living laboratory providing visitors an up-close glimpse at what happens when you allow nature to return to its former glory. The goal of the sanctuary project is to manage and protect wetland habitat that will benefit waterfowl and other wetland wildlife, while providing recreational opportunities for people.

Partners include Mass Audubon, Massachusetts State Department of Fish and Game, Division of Ecological Restoration and the Town of Plymouth.

At 600 acres, Tidmarsh is the largest freshwater ecological restoration ever attempted in the Northeast. Protection of the property ensures habitat is available for breeding and migrating birds. With restoration complete, Mass Audubon has established a wildlife sanctuary on 479 acres of wetlands, woods and grasslands and partnered with the town of Plymouth to protect an additional 139 acres, for a total of 618 acres conserved.

“The restoration of the cranberry bogs has responded dramatically and the long-term benefits include improved fish and wildlife habitat, improved water quality and long-term resiliency in a critical coastal area of Massachusetts,” said Sarah Fleming, DU director of conservation programs for the Completing the Cycle Initiative.

The project used funding from the North American Wetland Conservation Act. Tidmarsh is home to freshwater marshes, grasslands, pine barrens and shrublands that support endangered and threatened species. The town of Plymouth is developing faster than any other community in Massachusetts, so protection of this habitat is vital.

The restoration removed a dozen dams, excavated three miles of new stream channel and removed thousands of tons of sediment. Numerous Ducks Unlimited volunteers joined a Mass Audubon celebration June 24 to commemorate the new landscape.

“I was very excited to see the property and the restored project,” said Brian Dillon, longtime DU supporter and volunteer. “We are very proud of our partnership and hope we will find more of these old cranberry bogs to rehabilitate in the years to come.”