Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary: Forest and Water Restoration Projects

Yes
Action

The Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary has implemented several climate-informed actions and serves as a demonstration site for other landowners in the area. 

The Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary is a privately-owned wildlife refuge with over 8,000 acres of upland forest and aquatic habitats located on the border of south central Massachusetts and northeastern Connecticut. The Sanctuary is implementing actions to maintain forest habitats under a changing climate and sharing those experiences with other landowners through the MassConn Sustainable Forest Partnership.

Project Area

The Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary is a privately-owned wildlife refuge with over 8,000 acres of upland forest and aquatic habitats located on the border of south central Massachusetts and northeastern Connecticut. The Sanctuary is implementing actions to maintain forest habitats under a changing climate and sharing those experiences with other landowners and municipalities through the MassConn Sustainable Forest Partnership.

Management Goals

The Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary uses sustainable forest management principles to proactively influence wildlife habitat on portions of the 8,300 acres of land. The purpose of all management is to ensure that the sanctuary provides the widest possible range of habitats to satisfy the needs of a remarkably diverse community of plants and animals. All of the prescribed management treatments are intended to help achieve the following goals:

  • Preserve interior forest habitat values
  • Perpetuate a vigorous, structurally complex, species-rich forest
  • Account for anticipated climate change impacts and implement practical adaptation strategies
  • Establish wildland reserves where old growth forest attributes will develop naturally
  • Minimize the impact of management on waterfowl and obligate vernal pool species

Climate Change Impacts

undersized culvert on woods road
At the Sanctuary, the most important anticipated climate change impacts include:
Climate models suggest that temperatures will increase 3 to 10°F by the end of the century in the region, which will also lengthen the growing season.
Precipitation patterns will continue to change, with less winter snow, more extreme events, and the potential for drier conditions later in the growing season.
Many northern tree species will face increasing stress from climate change, while those that have more southerly distributions and can tolerate hotter and drier conditions may be favored. The dominance of maple species has increased over the past centur
Climate change is likely to increase threats from many forest stressors, including insect pests, forest diseases, invasive plant species, and deer.
At the same time, while dramatic changes are expected for Northeastern forests as a result of climate change, the Emerald Forest region has been assessed to have high levels of resilience, connectivity, and species flow, and may be better able to adapt

Adaptation Actions

The Sanctuary, working with the American Forest Foundation and New England Forestry Foundation, received a grant from the Wildlife Conservation Society's Climate Adaptation Fund to improve the ability of the Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary and broader MassConn region to cope with changing conditions. The idea is to use the Sanctuary as a demonstration site for surrounding landowners to learn and subsequently implement these adaptation practices on their properties, too. The Adaptation Workbook was used to identify restoration and adaptation activities for implementation across several sites (see table below). Outreach materials for foresters, land trusts, and woodland owners have also been developed in addition to the implementation of on-the-ground actions at the Sanctuary.

Area/TopicApproachTactics
Upland hardwood forest (multiple stands)
1.4. Reduce competition for moisture, nutrients, and light.
2.1. Maintain or improve the ability of forests to resist pests and pathogens.
9.1. Favor or restore native species that are expected to be adapted to future conditions.
Forest thinning to remove unhealthy and diseased trees, release existing hardwood saplings, and favor species that are expected to fare better under future conditions.
1.4. Reduce competition for moisture, nutrients, and light.
8.2. Favor existing genotypes that are better adapted to future conditions.
9.1. Favor or restore native species that are expected to be adapted to future conditions.
Forest thinning to favor/release red oak crop trees and favor best phenotypes of hickories, white oak, white pine, and red maple
5.3. Retain biological legacies.
Retain some hemlock and ash trees to provide future snags and large woody debris
Retain all former pasture trees and large den trees.
1.3. Maintain or restore riparian areas.
4.2. Prioritize and maintain sensitive or at-risk species or communities.
5.4. Establish reserves to maintain ecosystem diversity.
Maintain riparian areas and establish wildland reserves in riparian areas
Infrastructure at road-stream crossings
1.2. Maintain or restore hydrology.
7.1. Reduce landscape fragmentation.
eplace undersized culverts with more appropriately-sized culverts, arches, or bridges to accommodate larger flows, reconnect cold-water habitat, and improve aquatic organism passage

Project Photos

Click to enlarge photos

woodland owners looking at a map
tree with a habitat sign

Next Steps

The Sanctuary, working with the American Forest Foundation and New England Forestry Foundation, has been funded by the Wildlife Conservation Society's Climate Adaptation Fund to support the project implementation and outreach in 2016 and 2017.

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact Maria

Keywords

Forest threats, Flooding, Wildlife habitat

Last Updated

Friday, December 2, 2016