The newly protected land was owned by Anne and Lorne Estabrook, who live on the property and wanted to find a way to protect the rare habitat it contains. When opened to the public, the White Cedar Preserve will contain walking trails that allow everyone to experience the beauty of these largely lost northeastern habitats.
Massachusetts was once home to thousands of acres of these swamps, but they have mostly been cut down to create developments and cranberry bogs, and to use the trees for building materials and shingles. Atlantic white cedar is also a slow-growing, shade-intolerant tree, making it difficult for these trees to grow back, as they cannot survive in the undergrowth below other faster-growing species.
Indeed, these swamps often form naturally in the aftermath of a disaster that removes other trees, like a hurricane or wildfire– both uncommon in New England due to geography and human intervention. The state Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program ranks all Atlantic white cedar communities as “imperiled.”
White Cedar Preserve will serve as a home for rare animals that depend on Atlantic white cedar habitats, such as Hessel’s Hairstreak butterfly and four-toed salamanders. These swamps also help to filter pollution from water flowing towards Buzzards Bay.
“All of these projects are so that our grandkids can experience and learn about this unique habitat,” said Russell Keeler, treasurer of the Rochester Land Trust and the Buzzards Bay Coalition, who worked on the project for both organizations.
The Rochester Land Trust is currently working on creating a parking area and signs for the property, and updating its trail. The Trust aims to have White Cedar Preserve open to the public by this winter. Until then, curious naturalists can find Atlantic white cedars at Copicut Woods, where the Trustees are in the process of restoring this rare forest habitat, Destruction Brook Woods, Rocky Gutter Wildlife Management Area, and Watuppa Reservation.