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Century Bog buy called pivotal

Purchase completes 900-acre Red Brook conservation zone

Red Brook is one of the few native sea-run brook trout streams left in Massachusetts. Its watershed also serves as a habitat for other fish varieties. Red Brook is one of the few native sea-run brook trout streams left in Massachusetts. Its watershed also serves as a habitat for other fish varieties. (Steve Hurley/ Division of Fisheries And Wildlife)
By Robert Knox
Globe Correspondent / February 7, 2010

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In what Department of Fish and Game officials are calling their “most important acquisition this year,’’ the state has purchased 245 acres in Plymouth and Wareham’s Red Brook watershed.

Called Century Bog, the conservation land will help preserve some of the state’s richest and most diverse wildlife habitat by completing a nearly 900-acre protection zone around Red Brook, officials said.

Red Brook is a spring-fed, cold-water coastal stream that flows 4.5 miles from its headwaters in southwest Plymouth to the Wareham shoreline. It is one of the few remaining native sea-run brook trout streams in Massachusetts, and its watershed also serves as habitat for a variety of other fish, plus 11 plants and insects on the state’s list of endangered, threatened, and special concern species.

“This acquisition has a huge ecological significance, fulfilling a series of conservation efforts to protect Red Brook,’’ Mary Griffin, Department of Fish and Game commissioner, said of the purchase, describing it as the most environmentally valuable of the acquisitions her department is making this fiscal year.

The state bought the land from the A.D. Makepeace Co. for $3 million through a state bond program for land preservation begun by the Patrick administration. Ian Bowles, head of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs, said the bond has allowed the state to protect 54,000 acres of land over the last two years - “the equivalent of 74 acres per day.’’

Century Bog sits on the northern boundary of land where the three-year Red Brook restoration project is nearing completion. That work restored the river’s natural flow at its lower end, removed old dams, and added native plants along the banks. Responding to stress from development and climate change, the effort has improved the habitat for a population of rare sea-run brook trout called “salters,’’ which live in fresh water from spring to fall and spawn in the autumn before spending the winter in nearby ocean waters.

The new purchase completes the full protection of the state’s 673-acre Red Brook Wildlife Management Area. Linked with the adjacent privately owned 210-acre Lyman Preserve, the acquisition means that 883 acres of contiguous conservation land are now permanently protected from the brook’s headwaters in Plymouth’s White Island Pond all the way to Buttermilk Bay, a shallow estuary at the head of Buzzards Bay.

The state’s deal with A.D. Makepeace, the largest private landowner in Eastern Massachusetts, includes a six-year lease that allows the company to grow cranberries in the 70-acre commercial bog on the Century Bog property for five more years while the Fish and Game Department draws up plans and earns permits to restore the river’s natural flow through the bog. In the last year of the lease, the company will take an active part in restoring the property to a natural state, employing its own equipment to remove culverts and berms used to manage the land for cranberry growing and excavate the main channel.

Michael P. Hogan, president of Makepeace, said the preservation of the property will be good for the environment - and good for fishers, too.

“The A.D. Makepeace Company, and particularly the many avid anglers on our staff, have long recognized that the Century Bog property is a unique habitat,’’ he said.

Robert Knox can be reached at rc.knox2@gmail.com.