Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Box Turtle and Hawksnest

The Eastern box turtle is listed as a "species of special concern" in Massachusetts. This means that it's illegal to "take" the turtle. "Taking" includes a variety of actions that might interfere with the welfare of the species.

Recently, a 15-acre development in Sandwich was blocked until a plan could be worked out to safeguard the turtle. By reserving 70% of the development's area as turtle habitat, plus planning for extreme protections for the turtles during construction, the development was able to secure a permit to go ahead. More. Still more

Hawksnest State Park and surrounding undeveloped lands seem like ideal habitat for the turtle--although it is not officially designated at turtle habitat. Except for Route 6, there are few highways nearby. However, habitat fragmentation and danger from vehicles remain major threats to the species.

The new development on Hawksnest (Seth Whitfield) Road threatens the turtle from construction activities, from habitat fragmentation, and from the increased road traffic that will result.

Hawksnest is an incomplete state park. Not only has it been sadly neglected in maintenance, but it needs more land added to become a viable conservation unit. There are two portions of the shoreline of Hawksnest Pond that are still not within park boundaries.

Hawksnest and the lands surrounding it are valued by the community--it was identified as a "Heritage Landscape" in a community meeting, and was designated a District of Critical Planning Concern (The Six Ponds District). The undeveloped, private lands around Hawksnest serve as a sort of buffer zone, and they also represent the last opportunity to add new land to the park. That's why it's sad that the new development on Hawksnest road is underway--its a sign that opportunities to complete Hawksnest Park are closing.

The new development also points out the danger from Seth Whitfield Road. The north half of Hawksnest State Park is habitat for several endangered species.  Although the road bisects the north portion of the park, the road is outside the control of park management. At any time, the county could decide to pave the road for the convenience of a few local residents. Then the road would fragment Hawksnest habitat, and become a "killing zone" for box turtles and other wildlife.

So, let's add more lands to Hawksnest while there's still time, and work to remove the northern portion of Seth Whitfield Rd. from the county system.

Local legal tools that may apply here
  • District of Critical Planning Concern
  • Wetland Protection By-law
  • Area of Critical Environmental Concern
  • Corridor Protection Overlay

    This reference (p.5) indicates that Harwich needs to set aside more scenic roadways.

1 comment:

  1. Very informative post.
    Good luck with your project!