For Immediate Release - August 09, 2011

Patrick-Murray Administration Announces New Land Protection Grant Program for 500-plus Acre Parcels

BOSTON - August 09, 2011 - Strengthening the Patrick-Murray Administration's unprecedented commitment to land protection, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary (EEA) Richard K. Sullivan Jr. today announced the Landscape Partnership Program, an innovative new grant initiative that encourages non-governmental organizations already pursuing large landscape-scale land protection investments to partner with the state and local communities.

"Under the Patrick-Murray Administration, we have made outstanding progress in land conservation - with more than 75,000 acres protected - and that trend will continue with this new program," said Secretary Sullivan. "The Landscape Partnership Program will focus on landscape-scale conservation by leveraging state funds and encouraging a collaborative approach to protecting large unfragmented forests, hillsides, lakeshores, and more."

Through existing state capital funds already dedicated to land protection, the Landscape Partnership program will offer $4 million in competitive grants to municipalities, non-profit land trusts and EEA agencies - the Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR), Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and Department of Fish and Game (DFG) - for projects that permanently protect parcels of land of at least 500 acres. Applications for the new grant program are due October 28.

To qualify for grants, projects must include public access and applicants must form partnerships. For example, a state agency can partner with a non-profit or municipality, a non-profit can partner with a state agency or municipality, or municipality can partner with a state agency or non-profit. The new grant program will also encourage and fund innovative natural resource zoning initiatives for local communities to protect rural working lands, such as farms and forests, within communities that host the large land conservation projects funded through the Landscape Partnership program.

EEA launched this program to reduce the complexity and increase the success rate of large land protection projects, which historically have often involved coordination among multiple local organizations and across a variety of state programs.

By offering state grants to support large projects like these, an incentive is created for other private funders to contribute to the projects, encouraging state-municipal-private partnerships, enhancing stewardship of conservation land and increasing public access opportunities, the program aims to protect some of the few remaining large unfragmented landscapes in the state.

This initiative will support rural economies by encouraging local communities, land trusts and EEA's agencies to proactively seek partnerships with farmers, foresters, sawmill owners and harvesters who own many of the remaining large working forest blocks in the state. It also allows DAR's Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program - the nation's oldest farm protection program - to add working forests to its portfolio with the additional funding in these grants.

"This is great news on the land conservation front," said Sen. Marc R. Pacheco, Senate Chairman of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. "This program will provide much needed resources to EEA agencies, municipalities and non-profit land trusts which will help bring many large land transactions to fruition. I applaud the Patrick-Murray Administration for their efforts in the area of land conservation."

"I applaud the Patrick-Murray Administration's continued efforts towards protecting landscapes within the Commonwealth," said Rep. Anne Gobi, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. "It is important to safeguard our natural resources for the use and enjoyment of future generations, and this is another great opportunity to encourage the preservation of open space."

For more information on the grants or to apply, visit www.mass.gov/eea/dcs-grants.

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