Endangered Species and the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act (WPA)
The Wetlands Protection Act M.G.L. c.131, s.40 and regulations 310 CMR 10.00 protect rare animal species by prohibiting alterations that would have short or long term adverse effects on the wetland habitats of rare wildlife species. The regulations require that proposed alterations to wetland habitats of rare wildlife be reviewed by the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program.
To screen for potential impacts to rare wetland wildlife habitat, the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program has developed town maps of Estimated Habitats of Rare Wildlife. These maps show habitat that is based on documented occurrences of rare wetlands wildlife within the last 25 years. Estimated Habitat maps are available from your local Conservation Commission, are published in the Natural Heritage Atlas, and are available at Mass GIS. Click here for more information about Estimated Habitats.
- If a project is within Estimated Habitat of Rare Wildlife and a Notice of Intent (NOI) is required, a copy of the NOI must be sent to the NHESP (no later than the date of filing of the NOI with the Conservation Commission) for review. Notice of Intent forms can be found at the Department of Environmental Protection website. Proponents will also need to file under MESA, unless a project qualifies for a MESA exemption. If the project is exempt from MESA review, proponents should be aware that a copy of the Notice of Intent must still be provided to the NHESP. You may be requested to survey for rare species following standard protocols.
- As specified in the Wetlands Protection Act Regulations, (310 CMR
10.37, 10.58(4)(b), and 10.59), the NHESP will respond within 30 days
of receipt of a complete Notice of Intent filing. The response letter
to the local Conservation Commission will provide a determination
of whether or not the area to be altered by a proposed project is
actual wetland Resource Area habitat for a state-listed rare wildlife
species. The NHESP will also determine whether the proposed project
will have an adverse effect on the actual habitat of rare wildlife.
The NHESP response letter may contain conditions that must be adhered
to in order to avoid an adverse effect to rare species habitat, or
recommendations for revising the project prior to resubmission. The
conservation commission may not issue an Order of Conditions for a
project in Estimated Habitat until the NHESP has provided a determination
letter. According to the regulations, the conservation commission
shall presume the opinion of the NHESP to be correct. If the NHESP
requires conditions or project modifications in order to prevent an
"adverse effect," then these conditions must be included in the Order
of Conditions. In such cases, a copy of the Order of Conditions must
be mailed to the NHESP upon issuance.
Questions may be directed to an Environmental Review Assistant:
For Berkshire, Essex, Franklin, Hampshire, Hampden, Middlesex & Worcester Counties
For Barnstable, Bristol, Dukes, Nantucket, Norfolk, Plymouth & Suffolk Counties