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Rhode Island



State Land Spotlight: Durfee Hill WMA

By John Veale, Habitat Biologist, RI DEM
Durfee Hill Wildlife Management Area
Photo by Alyssa Grayson

Durfee Hill Management Area lies in the Northwestern part of Rhode Island along the Connecticut border in the town of Glocester. It is only a 35 minute drive from Providence and neighbors George Washington State Forest, Pulaski State Forest and several town forest properties making for a large collection of conservation areas within a short drive.

The property’s 2063 total acreage has come from many small acquisitions, beginning in 1940 with a 95 acre transfer, with the most recent acquisition in 2018. Its largest addition of 539 acres came in 1974 with the acquisition of the Burlingame Reservoir and its surrounding area. Within Durfee Hill are several different habitat types offering a variety of opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking and exploration. Habitat management activities have largely been focused on 2 aspects of the property: the upland fields, and the waterfowl impoundment they flank. Grassland fields have been a focus of active management here since they were acquired, and methods have changed over the years. In the past, many of these fields had been planted in switchgrass. This provided fast growing and thick cover for stocking pheasants, but became a dense monoculture that was difficult for hunters to move through and wasn’t a favorable habitat to many wildlife species. Focus now is on creation of native grasslands with a mix of both warm season grasses and forbes to still provide excellent cover for stocking pheasants while creating habitat for grassland nesting birds, pollinator species, as well as game species such as turkey and American woodcock. With the current seed mix, and semi annual mowing, the fields will be able to provide a more favorable habitat type and in future, the Division will be employing prescribed fire as an additional management tool. This will further help favor native warm season grasses, encourage plant species diversity and discourage invasive plant species. Directly adjacent these grasslands is the Durfee Hill Impoundment. This was originally installed in 1965 then replaced with a more modern structure in 2006. Its purpose is to create waterfowl habitat for nesting and migration, as well as waterfowl hunting opportunities. Biologists monitor water levels throughout the year, and use the water control structure on the southeast side of the impoundment to manipulate them depending on the season. In early spring, water levels within the impoundment are allowed to drop, exposing mudflats that had been flooded. Wetland vegetation now exposed to the sun is allowed to emerge and grow throughout the summer, creating nesting habitat for waterfowl. In fall, the impoundment is flooded again. The additional water area provides a more attractive resting spot for migrating waterfowl, and the vegetation that had grown through the summer is covered by a few inches of water making it accessible as a food source to dabbling ducks. Durfee Hill Management Area is so much more than just these two habitat types, and they only cover a fraction of its total acreage. Much of Durfee is forested with mature secondary hardwood forests, pine forests, and shrubland. Deer hunting within this management area is very popular, and if the line of trucks at the check station each year is any indication, success rates are high.