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Help Save the State’s
Protection of Endangered Species

The Massachusetts Legislature is considering revisions to the state Endangered Species Act (MESA) which would result in an effective repeal of endangered species protections in the Commonwealth.

MESA, like the Federal Endangered Species Act, protects rare species and their habitats by prohibiting the "take" of any plant or animal listed by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife (DFW) as “Endangered, Threatened, or of Special Concern.”

In the last legislative session, the legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment approved “An Act relative to land takings” (Session 2011: S1854, Sen. Gale Candaras).

If enacted, this bill would have …

  • Placed impossible and unprecedented requirements on the Division of Fisheries & Wildlife (DFW), undoing current protections for the 435 species of native animals and plants at risk in Massachusetts.
  • Injected uncertainty, delays, and conflict in the project review process, leading to potential fines and lawsuits against landowners and developers.
  • Up-ended long-standing appeal procedures and case law putting DFW on different footing than every other agency in the Commonwealth.
  • This unfunded agency mandate would have created an unworkable system leaving endangered species unprotected.

How did this happen? Developers, who were disappointed in a ruling that protected an endangered species on their land, felt that the only way they could obtain the right to build was to gut the state’s entire Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. This proposed bill would have severely limited the authority of the MESA by taking away the state’s ability to protect endangered species and their habitats, except in very limited circumstances.

Fortunately, in the last session, the bill did not pass. Instead, House leadership turned course and supported a compromise bill backed by Mass Audubon, the Sierra Club, and a large number of environmental organizations and sportsmen’s associations. Though it too did not pass, the compromise bill took a step forward by moving on from the House Committee on Ways and Means. This is a signal that our lawmakers anticipate taking up the issue again in the current 2013-2014 legislative session.

In 2013, A compromise bill was introdced. This proposed legilation would work to resolve the issues raised during the previous session. This Sierra Club supports this compromise bill and will continue to provide updates.

H.756 Protect the Mass Endangered Species Act (MESA) - (Rep. Kulik) Strengthen protections for rare species provided by the Massachusetts legislature, almost 20 years of conservation of rare plants and animals.

See Also
State's MESA home page

The MESA Program

MassAudubon's bulletin on MESA

2013-14 Legislation


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