Conservation commission assistance program :targeting priority communities and implementing outreach in the western region

Harris, Jane S.
Alexandra Dawson
Department of Environmental Studies
Wetland protection in the state of Massachusetts is primarily administered at the local level with state review by the regional office of the Massachusetts Department of Envionmental Protection - Wetlands Division. Any alteration of a wetland or wetland resource area, as defined by MGL Ch. 130 s. 40, requires that a permit with Order of Conditions be issued by the local conservation commission. However, not all conservation commissions are equally equipped to perform regulatory duties. As a result, not all activities in or near wetland resource areas are reviewed as required under the permitting process. Consequently, unregulated alterations to wetland resource areas occur that impair the ability of the resource areas to protect the interests of the Wetlands Protection Act. This study develops a statistical method for identifying towns where the potential for inactive commissions and/or unpermitted activity is high. The statistics resulting from this study allow for targeting of communities where: 1. wetland resources are high, 2. population growth is experienced, and 3. an imbalance of building permit activity and Notice of Intent activity (with building permit activity higher that Notice of Intent activity) occurred during a period of record activity. This information provides a framework for the development of recommendations by which the Department can initiate an outreach program to conservation commissions of the region in an effort to increase protection of wetland resource areas.

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