MESA Project Review Process
If a project falls within a Priority Habitat of Rare Species and does not qualify for a MESA filing exemption, proponents must file with the NHESP. Proponents should note that for projects that are also within Estimated Habitat of Rare Wildlife, it may also be necessary to provide the NHESP with a copy of any required Notice of Intent (NOI), pursuant to the rare species provisions of the Wetlands Protection Act Regulations, even if a project qualifies for a MESA filing exemption.
Filing an NOI under the WPA? Streamline your MESA review!
For a streamlined review of projects located within both Estimated Habitat and Priority Habitat, DEP has a NOI form available on their website, located at: http://www.mass.gov/dep/water/approvals/wwforms.htm
Proponents should submit the filing checklist, filing fee,and the required information outlined on the checklist to the NHESP. Within 30 days of receiving a filing the NHESP will provide a response letter indicating whether or not the submission is complete. If the submission is complete, the NHESP will provide a determination letter within 60 days of the date of posting of the first letter. In this letter, the NHESP will state whether or not a project, as currently proposed, will result in a "Take" of state-listed species. Please note that the NHESP attempts to process filings more quickly, staff time permitting. Applicants who provide the required MESA filing information and fee with their Notice of Intent will qualify for a streamlined joint MESA/Wetlands Protection Act review, and their filing will be reviewed by the NHESP within 30 days.
The MESA Regulations outline Performance Standards for Obtaining a No Take Determination for Certain Activities (10.18(5)) for certain small projects with a total disturbance limit of less than 10,000 square feet. If a project meets certain criteria it may qualify to automatically receive a no take determination.
If the NHESP determines that a project results in a "Take" then it may be possible to redesign the project to avoid a "Take". If such revisions are not possible, then projects resulting in a "Take" may only be permitted if they qualify for a Conservation & Management Permit (321 CMR 10.23). The NHESP regulatory review staff is available to consult with project proponents about designing projects to avoid a "Take" or to qualify for a Conservation & Management Permit.
The NHESP understands that there are project proponents who have taken significant action towards implementing a project in reliance on an earlier edition of the Atlas that showed that the project site was not located in Priority Habitat. Some such projects may not be subject to MESA review if certain permitting milestones have been met pursuant to 10.13(2).
Please see our Table of MESA Determinations (FY08 - FY12).
Recommendations to Reduce Project Review Delays
- Consider Submitting an Information Request Form. The NHESP will respond within 30 days with a list of state-listed species associated with a project site. This may facilitate project planning to avoid and minimize rare species impacts.
- Design projects to avoid a "Take." This will avoid time delays associated with NHESP review of project revisions.
- For larger projects, consider a pre-filing consultation with NHESP staff. Although the applicant's project team should include qualified experts who take the lead in project design to meet MESA standards, the NHESP will offer pre-filing consultations, as time allows.
- Submit a complete MESA Filing or Conservation & Management Permit Application. Otherwise the NHESP may be forced to reject the filing, triggering a required resubmission and additional 30-day review period.