How The Trustees Advocates for Critical Conservation Issues

by Josephine Brennan, Trustees Staff

Over the last year, Trustees staff have advocated for several state and federal priorities with the support of lawmakers, administrative officials, and non-profit partners. Here is a look back at some of the major accomplishments in 2023 and what these milestones mean for Trustees Members, staff, and our state.

Establishing Biodiversity Goals to Protect Massachusetts Ecosystems

During National Climate Week in September, Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey signed an historic Biodiversity Executive Order (E.O.) directing the state to develop its first-ever biodiversity goals, and establishing benchmarks for 2030, 2040, and 2050. In November, the Trustees met with Commissioner Thomas O’Shea of the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game (and former Trustees Vice President of Conservation and Resilience) to discuss ways we can move forward together to implement the E.O.

Biodiversity is critical to maintaining healthy ecosystems, as well as for supporting agriculture, fisheries, and the outdoor recreation economy. The Trustees is committed to conserving and restoring biodiversity in coming decades by managing and connecting habitats, restoring wetlands, and bolstering climate resilient landscapes. The Trustees is excited to partner with the state on these projects and statewide biodiversity goals.

Trustees Senior Director of Government Relations Linda Orel (right) at the September 2023 signing of the state’s historic Biodiversity Executive Order, along with (from left) Emily Myron, Policy Manager, The Nature Conservancy, and Rebecca Tepper, Secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Addressing State Coastal Resilience Policy & Funding Issues

In November, Governor Healey announced the ResilientCoasts initiative, which addresses the impacts of climate change along the Bay State coast. As the largest private owner of coastal property in Massachusetts, The Trustees has long been committed to pursuing a resilient future along the coastline, and this marked a landmark step for the Commonwealth.

ResilientCoasts will address regulatory, policy, and funding mechanisms necessary to support coastal communities in the face of climate change. A new Chief Coastal Resilience Officer role was created within the Office of Coastal Zone Management following this announcement.

“As the stewards of 120 miles of Massachusetts coastline, The Trustees sees first-hand the impact of increasingly powerful storms and coastal erosion and has been working to pilot nature-based solutions that build resilient coastal ecosystems,” shared Trustees President and CEO Katie Theoharides following the announcement from the governor. “We applaud this effort by the Healey-Driscoll administration to work with communities and partner organizations to better prepare and respond to the growing threat posed by climate change, and we look forward to partnering with the new Chief Coastal Resilience Officer to promote nature-based solutions to help communities become more resilient to climate impacts.”

Linda Orel testifies at a State House hearing on outdoor recreation in Spring 2023.

Supporting Historic Preservation, Resilience & Food Access

State legislators steered public investments in The Trustees’ work around historic preservation, climate resilience, and food access, including on our reservations. We are grateful to these Massachusetts lawmakers for their support.

Naumkeag, in Stockbridge, was the recipient of generous funding for historic preservation, with its iconic Blue Steps being restored via $38,000 in state funding secured by State Senator Paul Mark (D; Berkshire, Hampden, Franklin, and Hampshire counties). The famous Fletcher Steele-designed Blue Steps were deteriorating due to water leaking into the masonry and Senator Mark’s support will enable visitors to enjoy this masterpiece for decades to come.

Salt marsh restoration work at World’s End’s Damde Meadows, in Hingham, is being supported by funding secured by State Representative Joan Meschino (D; Plymouth). This restoration project provides an ideal opportunity to implement a suite of innovative, creative, small-scale, and low-cost strategies to help protect and restore salt marsh. By promoting new and expanded growth of salt marsh grasses, this work will allow existing salt marsh to become more resilient and thus further restore Damde Meadows. This work is also being supported by a generous grant from 11th Hour Racing and a grant from Restore America’s Estuaries.

The Trustees’ 56 Community Gardens provide critical food access throughout eight Boston neighborhoods. State Senator Nick Collins (D; First Suffolk) secured $30,000 this year to ensure that Monadnock Community Garden in Dorchester will continue to be a thriving oasis for gardeners. Monadnock comprises more than 9,500 square feet, hosts 24 garden plots, as well as a communal apricot tree and raspberry bushes that everyone enjoys. State funding will support improvements to the garden, including re-laying the entrance patio and ensuring accessibility to raised beds.

Senator Paul Mark's visit to the Blue Steps at Naumkeag

Statewide Partnerships Drive Environmental Goals

This year, as a core member of the Green Budget Coalition, The Trustees helped secure additional funding for key state agencies and programs in Massachusetts—such as, among others, a $22 million increase for the Department of Conservation and Recreation and the doubling of the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species program budget. The Coalition was successful in working with lawmakers to secure all its requested funding. Through these budget increases, these partner agencies will be able to further conservation, restoration, and climate goals to benefit people and nature across the Commonwealth.

In 2022, The Trustees advocated for the creation of the Commonwealth’s new Office of Outdoor Recreation, within the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, to stimulate the statewide outdoor recreation economy and increase access to nature for all. Massachusetts is the 18th state to create such an entity. The Trustees is excited that, in 2023, Paul Jahnige was named Director of the new office. The Trustees has already begun partnering with Mr. Jahnige and looks forward to continuing to provide guidance as a key partner and stakeholder.

As we look ahead to 2024 and the conclusion of the 193rd General Court of the Commonwealth, we are excited to continue to partner with the state on important issues that impact the Trustees mission. To keep up with our policy and advocacy work, visit the Policy Priorities page on the Trustees website.

Ed. Note: Further information on Governor Healey’s Biodiversity Executive Order and on the ResilientCoasts initiative can be found on