Cape Cod

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
Cape Cod, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States, is also home to some of the largest and most pristine barrier beaches and dune systems, salt marshes, and coastal plain ponds in the Northeast.

In recent years, these ecosystems have been under increasing threat from expanding coastal development and human disturbance. To accommodate the sharp increase in year-round residents, six new homes are completed each day on average, causing habitat destruction and fragmentation. Human demands upon the finite water supply are increasing as well. What little open space remains is subject to recreational overuse. 

Cape Cod's coastal plain ponds - a rare freshwater wetland community - harbor a number of globally rare plants, including the Plymouth Gentian and bluet damselflies. These ponds are "windows" on the aquifer with direct connections to groundwater and no inlets or outlets. The plants are adapted to annual fluctuations in pond levels that keep shrubs and pitch pines from invading the pondshores.

Cape Cod's beaches provide habitat for the Northeast's most productive population of Piping Plovers, a species of shore bird listed as threatened by the federal government. Huge congregations of migrating shorebirds also use the beachflats that form in bays behind the barrier beaches. The diamondback terrapin, a turtle that was harvested to near-extinction in the early twentieth century, is staging a comeback in the region's salt marshes. Protection of these species and communities is one of the greatest contributions Massachusetts can make to conserving global biodiversity.

Our Conservation Strategy
The Conservancy's involvement ensuring the long-term ecological health of Cape Cod is includes habitat preservation, ecological restoration and community based conservation.  Elements of our strategy include:

  • Developing community-based partnerships - such as conservation buyer programs - to respond to intensifying development pressures
  • Providing local communities with tools to manage growth, like hydrological monitoring to protect water supplies
  • Working with the towns to prevent new off-road vehicle trail construction along beaches, pondshores and marshy areas and to control invasive plant and animal species
  • Encouraging the enforcement of laws restricting the use of off road vehicles on beaches, especially at times when young shorebirds and turtles are most vulnerable
  • Protecting wetlands, beaches, pondshores and pitch pine/scrub oak woodlands, through gift, purchase, option, or restriction