The annual herring migration is a natural wonder. For centuries, people have watched in awe as hundreds of thousands of herring journeyed from the ocean upstream to spawn in freshwater ponds, drawn by some unseen force of nature. Today the once plentiful river herring are being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act. The dramatic decline in the herring population has us wondering if this is a specter of things to come. Could river herring be the aquatic equivalent of the "canary in a coal mine"?


Barnstable Land Trust (BLT) wants to ensure that the herring have safe passage for the generations to come so we are leading the effort to preserve a strategically important 1.17-acre lot at the headwaters of the Marstons Mills River. It is the last remaining undeveloped parcel along the fishway that leads the herring to their spawning grounds in Middle Pond. All of the river's migrating blueback herring and alewives pass this point, relying on flowing waters of the Marstons Mills River to reach their spawning habitat. Shifting sands at the head of the run often impede the flow of fresh water, so access over this privately owned parcel is critical to the maintenance of the run.

A dirt and gravel drive enters the property and connects to an old woods road. Well-wooded and densely vegetated, this parcel slopes gently down to the Marstons Mills River and on Middle Pond. A well-worn trail on the property connects to five acres of Town-owned open space along the herring run. The scenic views of Middle Pond from the property cannot be overstated.

This parcel has many conservation values. It is up-gradient of seven public wells that provide drinking water to homes in Marstons Mills. It is mapped as a Priority Habitat Area for Rare Species, and is in a Living Waters Critical Supporting Watershed.

The Town Council approved a request for $150,000 from Community Preservation Act Funds. BLT still needs to raise $115,000 by June 30th to purchase the land. Thanks to a community that cares, we're more than halfway there! But we need your help to complete this vital acquisition. Please "Help the Herring Run" by making a donation and spreading the word. Visit to donate online or send a check to BLT, PO Box 224, Cotuit MA 02632; for more information call BLT at 508-771-2585.

~ Jaci Barton, BLT Executive Director