The Sudbury, Assabet and Concord Rivers provide habitat to a rich array of plant and animal species. Much of the protected land along the river, including Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, provides a protected corridor for a diversity of wildlife. Development pressures, construction projects, contaminated runoff, low stream flows and invasive species all threaten the integrity of this habitat.
One way to protect habitat is to own the land. Second best is to have a conservation restriction on the land which restricts development. In eastern Massachusetts, with intensive development pressure, land protection is vitally important, albeit expensive.
Sudbury Valley Trustees is a regional land trust whose primary mission is to protect the habitat and ecological integrity of the Sudbury, Assabet and Concord watershed. They own over 2000 acres, and hold conservation restrictions on an additional 1000 acres within the watershed. Not all of this land is along the rivers, however SVT does consider the “interconnectedness” of protected land, which helps to ensure the general movement of wildlife. This movement might be along the river, and away from it. The RSC and NPS provide funds to help support the research and management strategies needed to acquire and protect this land (RSC funds are not used for land acquisition).
Obviously, not all of the land in the watershed is, or can be fully protected. In cases where development impacts habitat, the goal is to diminish impacts. The RSC works closely with Massachusetts Department of Transportation on the design of bridge reconstruction and highway improvement projects to ensure that impacts are minimized. In partnership with other federal agencies, including EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, the NPS and RSC review these transportation plans. For example, on Route 3 in Billerica, the bridge over the Concord River was built to include a wildlife corridor so that animals could travel under the bridge safely, instead of over the roadway.
The Massachusetts Stream Crossing Handbook has been developed to support the work of local decision-makers in ensuring that culverts and bridges are properly designed and maintained for fish and wildlife passage. This “river continuity” is aimed at reducing impediments to movement of fish, wildlife and other aquatic life. The Massachusetts River and Stream Crossing Standards have been adopted by the Army Corps of Engineers as part of the Massachusetts Programmatic General Permit and as such will be applied to many projects, including bridge rehabilitation projects along the Sudbury, Assabet and Concord Rivers. Learn more about river continuity.
Learn more about the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. Learn more about wildlife habitat.