Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (MESA)
The 14th Edition of the Natural Heritage Atlas has not yet been released. Until the 14th Edition is published, the 13th Edition (2008) Atlas will remain in effect.
The Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (M.G.L c.131A and regulations 321 CMR 10.00) protects rare species and their habitats by prohibiting the "Take" of any plant or animal species listed as Endangered, Threatened, or Special Concern by the MA Division of Fisheries & Wildlife. "Take" is defined as, "in reference to animals to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, hound, kill, trap, capture, collect, process, disrupt the nesting, breeding, feeding or migratory activity or attempt to engage in any such conduct, or to assist such conduct, and in reference to plants, means to collect, pick, kill, transplant, cut or process or attempt to engage or to assist in any such conduct. Disruption of nesting, breeding, feeding or migratory activity may result from, but is not limited to, the modification, degradation or destruction of Habitat." Permits for taking rare species for scientific, educational, conservation, or management purposes can be granted by the Division of Fisheries & Wildlife.
There are three types of filings under MESA: 1) MESA Information Request for rare species information, 2) MESA Project Review, and 3) the Conservation and Management Permit Application.
Site specific rare species information for regulatory review can be requested from the NHESP. This is not required as part of a MESA Project Review, however, it is highly recommended that project proponents request this information prior to development of site plans, especially if the project falls within Priority Habitat or Estimated Habitat for rare species.
For large projects, we suggest that proponents contact the NHESP early in the planning stage to discuss potential MESA issues.
If you are requesting information for habitat management or conservation purposes and you are a non-profit conservation group, government agency or working with a government agency fill out a Data Release Form. Do not fill out a MESA Information Request Form.
If a project falls within Priority Habitat of Rare Species and does not qualify for a MESA filing exemption, proponents must file with the NHESP. Priority Habitat is defined as "the geographic extent of Habitat for state-listed species" as delineated by the Division pursuant to 321 CMR 10.12.
- Priority Habitats
- MESA Filing Exemptions
- Filing Requirements
- Filing Fees
- Review Process
- "Grandfathering" for Projects proposed prior to being mapped as Priority Habitat
Proponents should note that if they are required to file with the local Conservation Commission pursuant to the Wetlands Protection Act and the proposed project is within Estimated Habitat for state-listed wildlife, a copy of the filing must be submitted to the NHESP, even if the project qualifies for a MESA filing exemption. Habitats for state-listed wetland animal species are delineated as Estimated Habitats.
If during the MESA Project Review it is determined that a project will result in a "take" of a state-listed species, the project may be eligible for a Conservation and Management Permit (321 CMR 10.23). For more information click the above link.
Generally, these projects require a MEPA filing and public comment period with some exceptions (see 301 CMR 11.03: Review Thresholds). This provides an opportunity for the public to comment on the Conservation & Management Plan prior to issuance of the Permit.
Other MESA Resources
Rare Species Survey Protocols - If necessary, the NHESP may request that a project proponent retain a qualified biologist to conduct a Rare Species Habitat assessment or survey for rare species. Please read this section for more information about Rare Species Habitat Assessments, Botanical Survey Protocols and Mussel Transplant Protocols.
Commercial Scientific Collection Permit Application - Biologists conducting surveys for project proponents must be in possession of a valid Commercial Scientific Collection Permit for the project site in order to handle any state-listed species.
Appealing Decisions under MESA - view the regulatory provisions to appeal Agency decisions under MESA.
MESA Penalties - a failure to file under MESA or adhere to the conditions of a Conservation and Management Permit shall constitute a violation of MESA and is subject to fine.
MESA Determinations FY08-FY12 - a table outlining the MESA determinations by fiscal year.