$57.7M to Protect Land in Massachusetts in 2009

According to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA) 2009 Land Protection Report, the Commonwealth funded $57.7M  in 2009 to protect over 22,300 acres.   The report describes the land protection accomplishment of the state's departments of Agricultural Resources, Conservation and Recreation, Environmental Protection, Fish and Game, in addition to EOEEA and the Division of Conservation Services.  The report describes the Commonwealth's land priorities: 

  • urban parks
  • working landscapes
  • habitat reserves  

The report also describes a variety of projects across the state that include land acquisition, deed restrictions, and grants.  As Secretary Ian  Bowles (page ii) emphasizes, the rate of land protection has been substantially outpacing the rate of development in Massachusetts: 

During the first two and a half years of Governor Patrick’s administration, we have protected nearly 54,000 acres of land, including 22,353 acres in fiscal year 2009 – the equivalent of 60 acres a day, or three times the amount of land developed over the same time period.

Of course, a lot of this trend can be attributed to the economy, but not all.  Land protection spending by the state is up to over $57M from a low of about $20M in 2002 (see graph on page 3). 

The report also explains that protecting land through deed restrictions rather than by land acquisition, allows the state's dollars to go much further:

The state is able to protect three times more land per dollar via restrictions than by purchasing parcels outright. The state spent an average of $1,779 per acre on restrictions after accounting for 1,493 acres donated at no cost to the Commonwealth versus $4,789 per acre on fee simple purchases.

Perhaps this statistic can provide some food for thought for communities setting land protection priorities - particularly in a time of tight budgets and declining state CPA trust fund distributions.  However, costs of monitoring and enforcing the restrictions should also be factored in (as the report indicates).