Western Massachusetts Public Lands Alliance

At A Glance


Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Primary Issue Area:

  • Land & Water

Active since:


Tax Status:


Core volunteers:


Community Size:


Our Purpose

The Western Massachusetts Public Lands Alliance (WMPLA) is a 501(c)(3) environmental nonprofit organization that serves as a regional-scale friends group for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation (MA-DCR) and Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife (MA-DFW) in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties. WMPLA’s stated mission is to use philanthropy, volunteerism, education, collaboration, and advocacy to sustain and enhance the quality of outdoor recreation, public access, infrastructure, environmental education, historical preservation, and natural resource conservation within the state parks, forests, and wildlife management areas of western Massachusetts. The MA-DCR confronts daunting challenges in the face of declining funding appropriated by the state legislature for management of thousands of acres of state forests and parks. Similarly, the MA-DFW is struggling to make the funds it receives from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses fully address the needs of the wildlife management areas it administers. As a result, properties managed by the MA-DCR and MA-DFW fall far short of meeting their full value potential and overall visitor experiences at these properties are undermined by scaled back visitor center operations, closure of campgrounds and other facilities, severe maintenance backlogs that obstruct or impede public access to critical roads and trails, inadequate invasive species controls, a dearth of active land management that is needed to create and maintain wildlife habitat, and limited and/or outdated educational products and programming. Similarly, declining government funding causes MA-DCR and MA-DFW to postpone important new construction and major renovation projects that would substantially improve public use and enjoyment of state forests, parks and wildlife management areas. Before WMPLA was founded, there was not an effective means for supporters of public lands to direct charitable contributions toward specific MA-DCR and MA-DFW projects, properties or programs. This resulted in charitable donations being routed to the Commonwealth's general fund and being reallocated by politicians for entirely different public programs and services. Individuals wishing to provide financial support for public lands should be extended reasonable assurance that their gift will be applied to a preferred project or program. In addition to the direct effects that state funding shortfalls at these properties have on the quality of visitor experiences, there are broader negative economic and cultural implications for the region’s communities in the form of reduced tourism- and recreation-related revenue generation, and a growing psychological gap between human society and the natural world that contributes to environmental illiteracy and undermines our cultural heritage.With these problems in mind, WMPLA is organized to perform the following broad functions:
  • to serve as a regional-scale “friends group” for the MA-DCR and MA-DFW in the western portion of the Commonwealth (Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties);
  • to engage in fundraising, educational, resource management and charitable activities to assist the MA-DCR and MA-DFW in the management of the protected areas they administer;
  • to help the MA-DCR and MA-DFW protect land in perpetuity for public use through voluntary agreements forged with willing private landowners;
  • to provide an effective means for supporters of public lands to direct how their charitable contributions are invested; 
  • to work in cooperation with agency personnel and other appropriate professionals in support and enrichment of MA-DCR and MA-DFW properties;
  • to build public support for expanded use of active, scientifically-based, land management practices on state forests, parks and wildlife management areas;
  • to enhance the extent and efficacy of interagency cooperation between the MA-DCR and MA-DFW;
  • to foster public use and enjoyment of MA-DCR and MA-DFW  properties in a manner consistent with the protection and preservation of the environment, and;
  • to help local schools plan and conduct field trips to state parks, forests and wildlife management areas.