Sprawl. The subject is coming up everywhere from Al Gore’s presidential campaign to back yard barbecues in the state’s booming ‘burbs. Old-timers in just about any community in Massachusetts can probably point to a subdivision or a strip mall and remember when it used to be a farm, or a forest, or an open field.
But how much of the state’s land actually has been developed and how much is protected? And more important, how much is at risk?
The Massachusetts Audubon Society came up with some surprising answers to these questions in a recent report entitled “Losing Ground.”
More land is developed; more habitat is protected
The spectrum of land – 1970
Developed Land 15%
The spectrum of land – 1997
Developed Land 24%
*This category includes golf courses, school yards, ball fields, and other land the Audubon Society considers to be of low ecological value, as well as agricultural land with limited protection.
Almost one-third of the Commonwealth has been protected in some way, but only about 17 percent is what the report calls “truly protected” wildlife habitat. That’s in striking contrast to the 40 percent of protected open space the Cellucci administration has been claiming – a figure that includes golf courses, capped landfills, and other spots no longer of high ecological quality. (The Audubon report says another 13 percent of the state is open space of low ecological value and agricultural land with only limited protection.)
The rest of Massachusetts – about 46 percent of the total land area – is “up for grabs.” It has not yet been developed, nor protected. It includes unprotected wildlife habitat (36 percent of the state) and unprotected agricultural land (10 percent).
For copies of the report, call the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Advocacy Department at (781) 259-9500, ext. 7202.
|Total Developed Acres||774,910 (15% of Mass.)||
1,230,909 (24% of Mass.)
|Other (mining, waste disposal, recreation)||60,921||143,191|