Northeast Coastal Areas Study
Significant Coastal Habitats

Site 38 (MA)


I. SITE NAME: Miacomet Moorlands

II. LOCATION: The Miacomet Moorlands lie on the southern margin of Nantucket Island, between Miacomet Pond and Hummock Pond, facing the Atlantic Ocean.

TOWN: Nantucket
COUNTY: Nantucket
STATE: Massachusetts
USGS 7.5 MIN QUAD: Nantucket, Mass 41070-32
USGS 30x60 MIN QUAD: Martha's Vineyard 41070-A1

III. GENERAL BOUNDARY: The boundary outline for this area is shown on the accompanying map. It consists of a rectangular-shaped area bounded by Hummock Pond on the west, Miacomet Pond on the east and the Atlantic Ocean on the south. It is approximately 2 miles (3 km) long from east to west and 1 mile (2 km) wide north to south.

IV. OWNERSHIP/PROTECTED STATUS: Ownership is a mix of private, local Land Trust, municipal and Federal (Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Coast Guard). The Nature Conservancy has also been extensively involved here.

V. GENERAL HABITAT DESCRIPTION: Miacomet Moorlands is a superb example of coastal heathland, a globally endangered plant community which ranges from Long Island, NY, to Cape Cod, MA. With human settlement of Nantucket, trees that were present were cut and a combination of grazing, burning and saltspray has kept this area treeless and given it a prairie-like aspect. This community is dominated by little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), black huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata), lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium vacillans), and many species of asters (Aster spp.), goldenrods (Solidago spp.), bush-clovers (Lespedeza spp.), and other herbs.

VI. SIGNIFICANCE/UNIQUENESS OF AREA: Miacomet Moorlands supports one of the region's greatest concentrations of rare or unusual species. It also represents the largest and probably finest remaining example of coastal heathland anywhere. Regionally rare or endangered species include: sandplain gerardia (Agalinis acuta), a U.S. Endangered species, regal fritillary butterfly (Speyeria idalia), Nantucket shadbush (Amelanchier nantucketensis), Eastern silvery aster (Aster concolor), northern harrier (Circus cyaneus) and bushy rockrose (Helianthemum dumosum). The Moorlands is considered to be the State's most vital area for nesting short-eared owls (Asio flammeus). Other species of regional emphasis include osprey (Pandion haliaetus), New England blazing-star (Liatris borealis), and grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum).

VII. THREATS: Most of the acreage once occupied by coastal heathlands, including the once vast Hempstead Plains on Long Island, has been lost to development, farming, or to vegetation succession following cessation of grazing and burning. Dense "forests" of scrub oak are rapidly advancing across the landscape and homes are eliminating rare plant habitat or impacting bird nesting and feeding areas.

VIII. CONSERVATION CONSIDERATIONS: Given the complex ownership pattern of the area and rapid development of private lands, efforts should be made to secure and protect remaining private lands by private or municipal Land Trusts and to develop cooperative management and conservation agreements among all parties. The Fish and Wildlife Service should pursue a cooperative agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration regarding the signal tower lands, and with the U.S. Coast Guard.


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