Advocacy & Policy

Public Lands Protection Act Passes

Following more than 20 years of advocacy from a coalition of local, regional, and national land conservation and environmental organizations, the Public Lands Protection Act (PLPA) has passed, signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker on November 17th.

Taking effect 18 months after passage, the PLPA will strengthen existing safeguards to preserving open space in the Commonwealth. Currently, under a policy known as “No Net Loss,” open space converted to a different use—but protected under Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution—must be replaced with land of equivalent financial and natural resource value.

The PLPA strengthens this policy by:

  • Codifying into law an existing administrative process that requires replacement of public parks and conservation land that are converted to a different use.
  • Providing transparency and accountability in the limited cases when cash payments are allowed in lieu of contemporaneously designating replacement land to be conserved.
  • Requiring that any cash payments be expended on comparable replacement land within 3 years.

“We are thrilled that Governor Baker signed this critical piece of legislation into law and grateful to legislative leaders for their hard work and support especially Representative Ruth Balser, Senator Jamie Eldridge, and Senator Sal DiDomenico,” said Trustees Senior Director of Government Relations Linda Orel. “It has taken more than two decades of dedicated collaboration to reach this moment, and we are thankful for the partnership of state agencies to make this vision a reality. Not only will this benefit the communities across Massachusetts, it also speaks to the heart of The Trustees founding 130 years ago, to ‘preserve these scenes of natural beauty which, by great good fortune, still exist near [our] doors’.”

In addition to providing more transparency and formality to the process of replacing developed public land, the PLPA also helps to protect Environmental Justice communities that lack adequate open spaces, by strengthening safeguards for dwindling natural areas that can help to cool urban heat islands, absorb excess rainwater, expand local outdoor recreation, enhance public wellness, and improve quality of life.

Advocacy on behalf of the Act has involved The Trustees, Mass Land Trust Coalition, Mass Association of Conservation Commissions, Clean Water Action, The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts, Mass Audubon, Appalachian Mountain Club, Charles River Watershed Association, Environmental League of Mass, Mass Conservation Voters, Massachusetts Sierra Club, and Trust for Public Land. In a letter to Governor Baker, urging him to sign H.5381, the coalition wrote:

“Our organizations are excited about the enactment of An Act preserving open space in the Commonwealth (H.5381), also known as the Public Lands Preservation Act (PLPA). Our coalition of local, regional, and national land conservation and environmental organizations have been advocating on behalf of the PLPA for over 20 years. We deeply appreciate the collaboration we have with the Legislature and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs that has enabled us to reach this juncture.”

To learn more about PLPA, click here

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