Massachusetts Forests

Despite many people's impressions of Massachusetts, it is a heavily forested state. In fact, at 62% forest cover, it is the 8th most forested state in the country. At the same time Massachusetts is also the third most densely populated state. There are few places on earth where so many people live among so many trees! The health of our commonwealth is intimately linked to the health of our forests.

Our forests provide tremendous public benefits, including: clean water, wildlife habitat, scenic backdrops, recreational opportunities, and wood products. These values and benefits sustain our commonwealth. You might be surprised to learn, however, that our forests which provide us this wealth of benefit is overwhelmingly owned by private individuals and families…like you. Over 212,000 private landowners own over 75% of our state's forests.

Our forests are your woods!

Indeed, these are family forests. The public benefits we all enjoy are thanks in large part to private forest landowners. The future well being of these many public benefits will be determined by the independent decisions that you as a landowner make. Each decision you make not only has implications for yourself and your family's property, but also shapes the landscape and community in which you live. These many benefits are provided to the public without compensation and with virtually no recognition of the crucial role private forest landowners play in our Commonwealth.

Facts about MA Forests:

  • Over 60% (3.1 million acres) of Massachusetts is forested making us the 8th most forested state by percent of forest cover. Some towns in western Massachusetts are 90% forested.
  • 79% of those forests are in private ownership, the vast majority owned by families and individuals. 10% is owned by the state of Massachusetts (Department of Fish and Game and the Department of Conservation and Recreation)
  • Approximately 20% of Massachusetts is protected from development, half of which is publicly owned.
  • According to Massachusetts Audubon, over 40 acres of open space (forests and field) are lost to development every day.
  • From 1985-1998 Eastern Massachusetts lost 6.1% of its forests, Worcester County lost 7.9% and Western Massachusetts (Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden Counties) gained 2.3% of forestland.
  • There are 6.4 million people in Massachusetts. That is less than ½ an acre of forest per person.
  • Every year, each person uses the equivalent amount of wood found in one 18 inch tree that is 100 feet high.
  • In 1998, the rate of growth to removals of sawtimber volume in Massachusetts is 3.3 to 1, slightly higher than the 1985 survey ratio of 3 to 1.
  • Massachusetts imports 98 % of its wood needs
  • Many of our forests are 80 years old.
  • White pine, Red Maple, Northern Red Oak and Hemlock are the most common tree species.

Massachusetts's forests are covered by five major forest types: northern hardwoods, oak/hickory, white and red pine, mixed oak/white pine, and elm/ash/red maple.