Massachusetts Woodlands Institute

Welcome to the Massachusetts Woodlands Institute.

The Massachusetts Woodlands Institute (MWI) is a non-profit organization that encourages and assists landowners in responsibly managing their woodlands. We believe that taking an active role in managing your woods will benefit wildlife, the local community and economy, and can provide you with financial, recreational, and personal rewards.

MWI is subsidiary organization of the Franklin Land Trust (FLT), and is housed at shared offices in Shelburne Falls, MA. By working with FLT, we are able to offer expertise and assistance to landowners about permanently conserving their land, as well as managing and caring for the land.

MWI administers the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation's Forest Stewardship Program and the Foresters for the Birds Program in partnership with MA Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). We also partner with Massachusetts Audubon, the Massachusetts Forest Alliance, and the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to help landowners access funding to implement their plans through the Western Massachusetts Woodlands for Wildlife project.

We collaborate to provide expertise, assistance and funding for landowners who want to develop long-term plans for their forests, create habitat for wildlife, and work toward enriching the land we value.

MA DCR's Forest Stewardship Plans: available to all Massachusetts landowners

MA DCR's Foresters for the Birds: (Bird Habitat Assessment Plans) available to Massachusetts landowners with a Forest Stewardship Plan in all towns west of the Connecticut River

Western Mass Woodlands for Wildlife: Funding is set aside for forestry practices through the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) is available to landowners in 28 towns in northwest Massachusetts

See map below for program eligibility areas.

Why We Do What We Do

Why do we care about woodlands?

The woodlands of Massachusetts are always working to provide essential services to the people and wildlife of the Commonwealth. Our goal is to steward these lands for people and wildlife.

Consider these facts:

Massachusetts forest land is vast
There are about 3.1 million acres of forest in the Commonwealth, about 62% of the land is covered with trees.

MWI published Profiles of Working Woodlands and assisted landowners in managing their woods and creatively utilizing the resulting wood products. The sister organization, the Mass Woodlands Coop, sold its own locally sourced wood flooring, Home Grown wood. MWI also assisted landowners and businesses in obtaining Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) "green" Certification on their land. Today, the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation provides FSC certification for landowners and Chain of Custody certification for wood businesses.

Much of our forest land is not in permanent protection, or under stewardship planning
In Massachusetts, 70% of forest land is privately owned without development restriction, and 30% is permanently protected forest land. When forest land is developed into housing many of the benefits that our forests provide cease, such as clean air, water, habitat, and carbon storage. Stewarding our forests into the next century, and beyond, is possible, and we can achieve our desired goals by planning for the future through careful forest management.

Our forest land is mature, with only a small amount of either young or old forest
The vast majority of the forest land in Massachusetts is between 70 100 years old. Keeping our forests diverse in age, type and cover can help us maintain our rich wildlife resources.

Our forests work for people and wildlife
The northeastern United States has the richest breeding bird diversity in the country. Our forests are storing carbon, keeping it out of the atmosphere and working to provide us with clean air and water. Our forests provide us with heat and sustainably harvested wood products.

Why do we care about birds and wildlife?

Birds pique our imagination. Birds are the most frequently encountered wild animal, and present us with a daily reminder of the wonder of biodiversity on our planet. It may be a Black-capped Chickadee on subzero morning in January, or a Ruffed Grouse exploding from the forest floor in June. Throughout the year, in all weather, chances are you can find a bird within a few minutes. This steady presence, along with the riotous arrival of migrants from Central and South America in late spring, fills our woods and fields with song, and enriches our days.

The key to maintaining our diversity of wildlife is maintaining a diversity of habitats. No matter what the age, type or size of the forest, the birds on that plot tell us all about the health of the land. When we protect bird communities and their habitat, we protect and improve the entire system of plants, insects, and animals that shares that habitat with birds.

Consider these facts:

We need more young forests. Long term research shows that birds that breed only in young woodlands are declining.
The Golden-winged Warbler no longer breeds in Massachusetts. The White-throated Sparrow, Mourning Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Prairie Warbler and Eastern Towhee all show declines in our state. Most of these birds stop using a forest patch when it is about 15 years old.

We need to have large blocks of forest. Some birds that are sensitive to forest fragmentation are declining in the eastern part of the state, but still common in the western forests.
The Black-and-White Warbler and Ruffed Grouse can still be found in the western part of Massachusetts but are declining in the eastern region. Old forests are perfect for some species, particularly species that use cavities in trees for nesting. Larger trees in our aging forests are beneficial to the species such as the Pileated Woodpecker, and the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Some species need rich cover. Many species of forest nesting birds need a rich understory and mid-story to provide camouflage for their nests.
Without some light getting to the forest, or in areas with excessive deer browse, Wood Thrush and Veery may not have enough cover to hide their nests.

Even the species that breed in our mature forests may bring their fledglings to younger forests as the young are learning to feed.
The landscape legacy of our agricultural past is still evident in New England forests. Maintaining open fields and farmland, and managing working lands for wildlife benefits species who need a patchwork of forests and fields, such as the Woodcock, Ruffed Grouse and Wild Turkey. Minor changes in grassland and hayfield management can greatly improve habitat for grassland birds such as the Eastern Meadowlark and the Bobolink