MA DFW Approves New Trails Policy
Dear MLTC Members,
We are writing to you to inform you of a new trails policy approved by the MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife). In response to increasing and unauthorized trail development and maintenance on their properties by various organizations and individuals, MassWillife has determined that only organizations they license may construct or maintain trails on their properties. MassWildlife has established procedures for trail groups who wish to obtain a License Agreement for trail development or maintenance on Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) and Access Areas.
The Walking Trails Policy arises directly from MassWildlife’s statutory obligation to protect habitat and provide access for wildlife-related recreation. In essence, it provides that only licensed trails shall be maintained on property owned by MassWildlife.
MassWildlife recognizes that, in certain situations, passage across their lands is desired to maintain the connectivity of existing major walking trails. In such cases, MassWildlife may license an outside group to mark, improve, and maintain a segment of an existing major walking trail crossing one of their WMAs or Access Areas, subject to the conditions underlined in the policy here. They are requesting that other trails cease to be actively maintained. The opportunity for public access is unaffected.
Conservation science has shown that trails often alter and fragment wildlife habitat and adversely affect the behavior of wildlife, including both terrestrial and aquatic species. MassWildlife Director Jack Buckley has stated that MassWildlife’s Walking Trails Policy is designed to address these issues, in keeping with its statutory mission of managing wildlife lands for wildlife and simultaneously accommodating public recreational access.
Outdoor recreational access to WMAs has not changed as a result of the Walking Trails Policy. MassWildlife lands continue to be open to wildlife-related recreation (hunting, fishing, trapping, nature observation, and photography) and other outdoor activities such as hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.
We understand that this could affect your land trust. Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns.
Mass Land Trust Coalition