Martin H. Burns Wildlife Management Area, Essex County, Massachusetts

About Martin H. Burns WMA

This 1,555-acre management area is in the town of Newbury in northeastern Massachusetts. The hilly, rocky terrain is scattered with poorly drained low areas that are seasonally wet. The WMA includes old pasture and wooded tracts that were clearcut many years ago and then swept by wildfires. Trees and shrubs include oak, hickory, black cherry, white pine, pitch pine, red maple, Eastern redcedar, aspen, birch, dogwoods, highbush blueberry, and viburnums.

Martin Burns WMA is a popular area for hunting ring-necked pheasants, stocked there in autumn by the Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife (MassWildlife). Deer, snowshoe hare, gray squirrels, foxes, and coyotes are among the native mammals.

Many kinds of birds inhabit Martin Burns, including Massachusetts “species of conservation need” that require young-forest or shrubby habitat: woodcock, ruffed grouse, blue-winged warbler, chestnut-sided warbler, common yellowthroat, Eastern kingbird, Eastern towhee, field sparrow, indigo bunting, prairie warbler, song sparrow, whip-poor-will, and willow flycatcher.

Improving the Land for Woodcock

In 2007 land managers began an ambitious program to create young-forest habitat, rejuvenate old-field habitats that were being overtopped with trees, and suppress exotic invasive plants in favor of food-producing native shrubs.


After two growing seasons, cleared areas have grown back densely.

In winter 2007-08 a Brontosaurus machine with a rotating disk mower mulched small trees and invasive shrubs on 130 acres of abandoned pastureland. On seven adjoining upland forest units totaling more than 32 acres, mature trees were logged to create corridors of young forest linking the old-field tracts.

Workers used herbicides to knock back invasive shrubs, helping food-producing native shrubs such as winterberry, dogwood, and crabapple to flourish. Managers saved mast-producing trees such as oaks, hickories, and black cherry in strategic areas, and left snags standing and built brushpiles to provide nesting habitat and escape cover for wildlife.

Although woodcock are not highly abundant on Martin Burns WMA, they are present and are likely to increase following the habitat improvements. Woodcock find singing and displaying cover in cleared areas; roosting habitat in blackberry, dewberry, and blueberry barrens; and feeding and brood-rearing habitat in recently logged areas.

Funding and Partners

Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Ruffed Grouse Society, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Wildlife Management Institute.

How to Visit

Roads leading into Martin Burns WMA are gated except during hunting seasons. Some young-forest and old-field areas can be reached on foot from the WMA entrance. Take exit 56 off Interstate 95, go east on Central St., and turn left on Orchard St. A wooden sign on the left marks an access road to the WMA maintenance shed. Beyond a gate near the shed, the road leads to habitat management areas.

For more information contact the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Northeast District office at 978-772-2145.

Download a map of Martin Burns at

See for information on MassWildlife’s Upland Habitat Management Program.