By restoring Coburn Meadow as a wet meadow, the Commission will be expanding a type of wildlife habitat that has become scarce in this area. In New England, most land becomes forested over time in a predictable progression of grass, shrub, and tree species. Cleared grasslands, which ecologists call “early succession habitat” because these lands have not yet been taken over by shrubs and trees, provide habitat for grassland plants and animals.
Historically, forests carpeted the Northeastern U.S., with the exception of areas cleared by wind, fires due to lightning strikes and controlled tree clearing by Native Americans. In the Colonial era, European settlers further reduced the forested expanse by clearing much of the Northeast for agricultural uses. Grasslands were once a common feature of the Colonial New England landscape, but now they are rare. In the mid 1800s, 75% of New England was cleared for crops and pasture. As farmers abandoned New England and suburbanites moved in, these fields yielded to the forest: New England is now about 65% forested.