Your Connection To the Outdoors

Current Conservation Initiatives

The Massachusetts House recently passed a budget that includes a real boost in funding for outdoor recreation, conservation and environmental protection. The budget released by the State Senate Ways and Means Committee would fund these programs at significantly lower levels. For example, Senate Ways and Means would fund DCR State Parks at $47,885,283 while the House supports $50 million. Senator Gobi has sponsored an amendment to increase the Senate budget to $50,00,000, and it’s been co-sponsored by Senators DiZoglio, Comerford, Timilty, O’Connor, Moore, and Eldridge.

You can look up your Senator at www.wheredoivotema.com, and click through to get their email address.

If your Senator is not one who has already co-sponsored, please send the a brief and courteous note asking for their support of this amendment. The details are here, and it’s always helpful if you add your personal perspective of why MA State Parks matter to you:

Amendment #163 - Department of Conservation and Recreation:State Parks and Recreation (2810-0100) – Increase to $50,000,000, consistent with the House

Sponsor: Senator Gobi

DCR’s responsibilities include stewardship, management, and safety of our parks, beaches, forests, trails, pools, skating rinks, and campgrounds. According to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs’ (EEA) COVID-19 Community Mobility Report, DCR parks saw a doubling, on average across the state, in increased traffic this year with a 300% increase in some counties.

Other amendments supported by AMC are shown below. Please urge your senator to support these measures as well.

Amendment #162 - Department of Environmental Protection: Administration (2200-0100) – Increase to $40,000,000 , consistent with the House

Sponsor: Senator Eldridge

DEP’s responsibilities include ensuring clean drinking water, protecting critical wetlands, managing drought, compliance and enforcement, waste reduction and recycling, reducing toxics, cleaning up contaminated sites, emergency response, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to comply with the Global Warming Solutions Act. Funding for DEP will be critical to advancing our updated climate change goals, which are currently under review by the conference committee appointed to produce a final climate/energy bill.

Amendment #172 - Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (2310-0300) – Increase to $500,000, consistent with the House

Sponsor: Senator Feeney

The Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program’s (NHESP) responsibilities include protection, management, and restoration of the Commonwealth’s most imperiled animals and plants and the sensitive communities and habitats.

Amendment #164 – for natural and working lands carbon

Sponsor: Senator Tarr

This is an outside section that would amend the General Laws to require the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to measure the carbon stored by and released from natural and working lands across Massachusetts; set a numeric goal for reducing carbon emissions and increasing the carbon sink on our lands; create a plan to reach that goal; and enact policy and funding changes needed to reach out Net Zero goals. Natural climate solutions are actions to protect, restore, and better manage natural and working lands (such as forests, farms, and wetlands) to reduce and remove carbon emissions. Such actions have the potential to remove and reduce an additional 1-2 million metric tons CO2e per year by 2030 are a critical tool for achieving net zero emissions.

Amendment #165 – Conservation Land Tax Credit

Sponsor: Senator Tarr

This is an outside section that would amend the General Laws to raise the cap for the CLTC program from $2 million to $5 million incrementally over three years for a duration of 10 years. This successful program has an enormous backlog of projects (over $7.6 million) eligible for credits stretching out to 2023 – meaning that generous landowners across the Commonwealth are having to wait years to move forward with their plans and are sometimes unable to leverage other state and private conservation grant programs. Increasing the cap would eliminate a major backlog and enable state agencies, cities and towns, and conservation partners to collaborate with landowners in a timely fashion to conserve land important for forestry, recreation, wildlife habitat, farming, and water

Old Growth Forest Protection

Now is our chance to save the remaining old growth Forests in Massachusetts. A bill to protect old growth forest on state lands [ https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/S485 ] is on the move in our state legislature. If you believe we should protect our last remaining old growth forests on state lands please contact your state senator and urge her/him to call for a favorable finding on bill S.485 by the Senate Ways and Means Committee and passage by the senate. This would be especially helpful if your senator is on the Ways and Means Committee [ see https://malegislature.gov/Committees/Detail/S30].

More Information

This bill provides much-needed permanent protection for the last stands of ancient trees found on state lands.

Old-growth forests are extremely rare, and serve as "living laboratories" where students, scientists, and the public can learn more about forest development, tree genetics and climate change. Although 3 million of Massachusetts' 5 million acres are forested, only 1,500 acres of this land is original old-growth forest.

These ancient groves are scattered throughout the state in small patches, with most on the steep mountainsides of Western Massachusetts managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

The value of these rapidly disappearing old-growth forests to people and wildlife is immeasurable; in forests that have not been disturbed for hundreds of years, canopy layers and fallen trees create rich and diverse habitats for many species of birds, insects and reptiles. These areas also act as carbon sinks– helping to sequester global warming gases.

Currently, old-growth forests in Massachusetts are not lawfully protected from timber cutting, only by policy that could change at any time.

This bill would:

  • Protect old-growth forests from logging and development by establishing a system of permanent old-growth forest reserves on state lands.
  • Require an inventory of the forests on state-owned land to determine the extent and condition of old-growth forest stands and their surrounding landscapes.
  • Include an assessment and selection of future old-growth forest areas that exhibit characteristics which, if left undisturbed, would meet the definition of an old-growth forest.
  • Prohibit new development, new or expanded recreational facilities, and commercial timber cutting in old-growth forest.
  • Establish a research and education program to monitor the status and promote understanding of old-growth forest reserves.

MA Old Growth Forest Bill Fact Sheet

For another urgent matter see https://www.outdoors.org/conservation-action-network/rollback-climate-regulations

For comments, questions, offers to help, contact: conservation@amcberkshire.org