MA Legislature Votes to Preserve Open Space; Act Sent to Governor Baker
While the Weston Owl focuses its love and devotion on the town of Weston, once in a while it’s time to applaud the bigger picture–this time the preservation of open space in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. One of the super powers of our state is the amount of open space which you can find mapped here. The Public Lands Preservation Act, which was voted to adopt yesterday by the Massachusetts legislature, now moves on to the governor’s desk. It seems likely that the NU-alum (go ‘cats) outgoing governor Charlie Baker will sign off on it.
As most people know, Weston contributes a lot of greenery on the map with almost 2000 acres of preserved land between Town of Weston and Weston Forest & Trail Association properties. Including Department of Conservation and Recreation and Massachusetts Water Resources Authority managed properties, we’re pretty green. Note: there is always a way to go greener.
Here in full is the status of the Public Lands Preservation Act by official press release:
|NOVEMBER 10, 2022, BOSTON– |
Today the Massachusetts Legislature voted to adopt An Act preserving open space in the Commonwealth (H.5381), also known as the Public Lands Preservation Act (PLPA), and sent it to Governor Charlie Baker’s desk for his signature.
A group of 12 local, regional, and national land conservation and environmental organizations advocating on behalf of the PLPA applaud the bill’s passage and issue the following statement:
We deeply appreciate Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett), Representative Ruth Balser (D-Newton), Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Action), Representative James O’Day (D-West Boylston), and Representative Susan Gifford (R-Wareham) for their tireless efforts to enact the PLPA. We also thank Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland), House Speaker Ronald Mariano (D-Quincy), the bill’s cosponsors, and the members of the House of Representatives and Senate for their leadership and commitment to advancing this critical legislation, ensuring that our public parks and open space endure.
This bill would provide clarity and transparency to ensure No Net Loss of conservation land by:
Codifying into law an existing administrative process that requires replacement of public conservation land that is developed or converted to a different use.
Providing transparency and accountability in the limited cases when cash payments are made in lieu of contemporaneously designating replacement land to be conserved.
The PLPA was introduced over 20 years ago to strengthen and codify into law the Commonwealth’s longstanding No Net Loss administrative policy, which states that any public open space (Article 97 land) converted to a different use must be replaced with land of equivalent financial and natural resource value and defines a process for doing so. Legislative approval is required, and is commonplace. The final legislation defines certain limits on the ability to set aside cash payments in lieu of replacement conservation land and ensures increased transparency and accountability in instances where it is allowed.
By adopting Article 97 as an amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution in 1972, the people of the Commonwealth asserted their right to a clean and healthful environment and the protection of ever more valuable open spaces. Fifty years later, it is clearer than ever that natural areas are critical to the well-being and resilience of communities, especially Environmental Justice communities. Our public open spaces help us mitigate and adapt to a changing climate, improve the outdoor recreation economy, enhance public health, and protect wildlife habitat. By codifying and improving the state’s No Net Loss policy into law, this important legislation upholds the will of voters who adopted Article 97 by ensuring that public open space cannot be developed for other uses, unless alternative options have been fully evaluated and land of equivalent natural resource value is designated to replace it.
We urge Governor Baker to sign the bill into law and preserve our public lands!
Robb Johnson, Executive Director Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition
E. Heidi Ricci, Director of Policy and Advocacy Mass Audubon
Linda Orel, Senior Director of Government Relations The Trustees of Reservations
Steve Long, Director of Policy and Partnerships The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts
Elizabeth Saunders, Massachusetts Director Clean Water Action
Dorothy A. McGlincy, Executive Director Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions
Doug Pizzi, Executive Director Massachusetts Conservation Voters
Deb Pasternak, State Director Sierra Club Massachusetts
Jennifer Ryan, Deputy Director of Advocacy Charles River Watershed Association
Heather Clish, Sr. Director Conservation & Recreation Policy Appalachian Mountain Club
Casey Bowers, AVP of Government Relations Environmental League of Massachusetts
Shelby Semmes Trust for Public Land
Michele Grzenda, President MA Society of Municipal Conservation Professionals
|FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:|
|Robb Johnson Executive Director Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition 617.807.0176 | firstname.lastname@example.org|