GOVERNOR PATRICK ANNOUNCES CONSERVATION OF 100,000 ACRES OF OPEN SPACE
Massachusetts Protected Open Space Now Exceeds Developed Land
PLYMOUTH – Thursday, August 23, 2012 – Governor Deval Patrick today announced that the Patrick-Murray Administration's ambitious land conservation efforts have protected more than 100,000 acres of open space in just five and a half years. The amount of protected open space now stands at 1.25 million acres, for the first time exceeding the amount of developed land in Massachusetts.
“I am extremely proud to announce that the Commonwealth, partnering with local municipalities, land trusts, conservation organizations, businesses and private landowners, has protected over 100,000 acres of land since 2007,” said Governor Patrick. “We have conserved open space and developed parks in over 310 communities, leaving a lasting legacy that touches every corner of the state.”
Governor Patrick announced the land protection milestone at Halfway Pond, where the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) and its Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) recently acquired 94 acres of wildlife habitat for $2.5 million and received a gift conservation restriction on another 28.4 acres from A.D. Makepeace Company.
With an additional 30 acres acquired from Makepeace in 2009, DFG has permanently protected the entire eastern section of Halfway Pond, conserving habitat for the region’s diverse wildlife. The region is home to 18 wildlife species named on the Massachusetts List of Endangered, Threatened and Special Concern Species.
“I would like to thank the Governor and his Administration for their commitment to conservation in the Commonwealth, and of course Mike Hogan and everyone at A.D. Makepeace for their tireless work in helping to preserve open space and being such a good friend to the environment,” said Senate President Therese Murray. “Today’s announcement marks an outstanding achievement in conservation which benefits our residents and is vital to the success and health of our communities.”
“Since taking office, Governor Patrick has committed $287 million to land conservation, focusing on three strategic goals – building and improving parks in urban communities, preserving working farms and forests and conserving high value habitat areas,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Rick Sullivan. “I would like to thank state agency staff, land conservation organizations, sportsmen landowners and environmentally-minded businesses, such as A.D. Makepeace Company, that have worked with us to achieve this unprecedented accomplishment.”
In a time when other states have made reductions to their land conservation programs, the Commonwealth has built or restored more than 150 parks, mostly in low-income urban areas, through EEA’s Gateway Cities and Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities programs.
Over the past five years the Patrick-Murray Administration has invested $57 million to protect 142 farms, totaling 8,400 acres, and the state’s Working Forest Initiative has funded 10-year forest management agreements with 900 landowners on 60,000 acres of private forest land.
The Commonwealth has also identified ten “habitat reserves” – unfragmented ecosystems across the state that include unique large habitats – including mountain tops, wilderness areas, sustainably managed forests, forest reserves and wild rivers. To date, more than 16,000 acres have been permanently protected and 10-year forest management agreements have been established on 45,000 acres in these areas.
In 2009, DFG signed two long-term options with A.D. Makepeace Company to potentially purchase thousands of acres of valuable wildlife habitat that will be permanently protected under conservation restrictions. To date, DFG and MassWildlife have protected 497 acres of A.D. Makepeace property at a cost of $8.9 million, all of it high priority rare and endangered species habitat.
“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with A.D. Makepeace Company and happy to have conserved more than 31,000 acres of wildlife habitat under the leadership of Governor Patrick and Secretary Sullivan,” said DFG Commissioner Mary Griffin. “I too would like to thank the land conservation and sporting community who helped so much in protecting these habitats, working forests and parks.”
DFG and MassWildlife’s land conservation program targets the most ecologically valuable habitats in Massachusetts, and utilizes state open space bond funds and revenue from the Wildlands stamp for land purchases. The Wildlands stamp is funded by a $5 charge on the sale of fishing, hunting and sporting licenses sold in Massachusetts, providing about $1 million a year for the protection of open space.
"I am pleased that the Commonwealth has continued to prioritize the protection of our environment," said Senator Marc Pacheco, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. "These numbers which I have been requesting for some time will help to inform all of us on the future economic and environmental needs of the Commonwealth."
"The Massachusetts land trust community offers its congratulations on this important new acquisition of critical habitat and is thrilled to join with the Commonwealth to celebrate 100,000 acres of conserved land," said Edward O. Becker, Executive Director of the Essex County Greenbelt Association. "This accomplishment reflects the significant investment in conservation made by the Patrick-Murray Administration, and the strong partnership of the state, our cities and towns and the land trust community, which is unique to Massachusetts."
"Land conservation happens because of partnerships and municipalities and the private sector have no better partner than the Patrick-Murray Administration in that endeavor," said Representative Anne Gobi, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.
“I am thankful to A.D. Makepeace for their contribution at Halfway Pond and grateful to the Governor, Secretary Sullivan, Commissioner Griffin and their staffs for their commitment to preserve land and protect wildlife throughout the Commonwealth,” said Representative Thomas Calter. “Their efforts ensure that Massachusetts will remain a beautiful state to live in and to visit”.