Wareham’s Rare Species Need Your Help!

Wareham’s Rare Species Need Your Help!

Posted November 27, 2023

When asked to think of an endangered species, what comes to mind? A snow leopard? A giant panda? A black rhinoceros? While you would be right, you’d also be missing the fact that there are 432 rare plants and animals in Massachusetts. Many of these can be found in Wareham, and although they are not as widely known as some of the charismatic species listed above, these rare species play an important role in keeping our local ecosystems thriving. MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program (NHESP) focuses on conserving rare species and their habitats.

Eastern box turtle. Status: Special concern

The full listing of endangered species and species of special concern can be found here.

It would be great if the NHESP was aware of all the incredible endangered plants and animals in Wareham. But in some cases, species occurrences are unknown. It’s just not possible for the NHESP staff to know every nook, cranny and hidden gem of Massachusetts in depth enough to adequately protect the species and the very diverse habitats they depend on.

But you know where these threatened species are! You spot them on your daily walk or in your own backyard. Your boots-on-the-ground knowledge is invaluable! When you see an eastern box turtle, a buck moth, a blue spotted salamander, a bald eagle, or any one of the other 432 listed plants and animals, take a picture, note the location, and submit the information to NHESP. They have a very user friendly online report form.

The collective data from this citizen science project results in maps that are used in decisions that affect planning, zoning and conservation decisions made at the Town, State and Federal level. The most user friendly set of map data is called BioMap. “Core Habitat” and “Critical Natural Landscape” are the two main elements of BioMap. Core Habitat includes areas that are “critical for the long-term persistence of rare species, exemplary natural communities, and resilient ecosystems”, while Critical Natural Landscape includes “large landscapes minimally impacted by development and buffers to core habitats and coastal areas, both of which enhance connectivity and resilience.” Together these layers provide the best estimate of areas important for rare species habitat.

When the Wareham Land Trust Land Acquisition Committee investigates a new project, we use the NHESP BioMap data as one of our starting points. But so do developers, as mapped habitat for rare species can add additional protection to the land, requiring additional review, permits and restrictions. The more reports you submit to NHESP, the more likely it is that habitats necessary to support these valuable species will be mapped in BioMap, and the more likely it is that a conservation project will be successful or that a property will be protected from future development.  

If you have asked yourself what you can do to protect Wareham’s rich natural resources, you can report a sighting! We owe it to these special places and diverse species, who enrich our lives, to help save their lives.

Your NHESP report can be a priceless gift to Mother Nature!

Written by Nancy McHale, WLT Treasurer

p.s. If you have pictures of rare species sightings in Wareham, you can also send them to info@warehamlandtrust.org for a chance to be featured in a future eNewsletter or on our website.

Piping plover. Status: Threatened.
Plymouth Gentian. Status: Special Concern.

(C) Wareham Land Trust ~ provided by New Bedford Internet