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How to file for a MESA project review

To protect state-listed species and their habitats, NHESP reviews projects and activities proposed within mapped Priority and Estimated Habitat.
Applicants typically receive a determination letter within 30 days.

Regulatory Review Contact Information

MassWildlife's Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program

The Details   of How to file for a MESA project review

What you need   for How to file for a MESA project review

Proponents with projects and activities within state-listed species habitat must file with the NHESP for review and approval before project initiation. This ensures that you are in compliance with the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (MESA) and its implementing regulations (321 CMR 10.00). These habitats are mapped as Priority and Estimated Habitats. Please see our online viewer to determine if your project location is mapped.

Project or Activity means any action, including, but not limited to:

  • grading, excavating, filling, demolition, draining, dumping, dredging, or discharging;
  • the erection, reconstruction, or expansion of any buildings or structures;
  • the construction, reconstruction, improvement or expansion of roads and other ways;
  • the installation of drainage, sewage and water systems;
  • beach nourishment or dune building;
  • the construction or reconstruction of seawalls, groins, dikes, jetties or retaining walls; or the destruction of plant life.

Project proponents should submit a MESA Project Review Checklist, filing fee, and the required information outlined on the Checklist.

Under the Wetlands Protection Act, if a project is located within Estimated Habitat and a Notice of Intent (NOI) is required, a copy of that NOI must be sent to the NHESP (no later than the date for filing of the NOI with the Conservation Commission) for review. For more information, see Rare Species and the Wetlands Protection Act.

NOTE:  DEP and NHESP have also developed a Streamlined Notice of Intent process for projects that must be reviewed under both MESA and WPA.

Checks should be made payable to Comm. of MA - NHESP.

Fees   for How to file for a MESA project review

Name Fee Unit
Simple MESA Review Filing (less than 5 acres of disturbance) $300 each project
Intermediate MESA Review Filing (5 to 20 acres of disturbance) $1,800 each project
Complex MESA Review Filing (More than 20 acres of disturbance or project requires wetlands variance) $4,000 each project
Linear MESA Review Filing (Projects greater than 1 mile in length) $4,000 per Priority Habitat intersected
Review of Utility Operation Maintenance Plan (321 CMR 10.14 (11)) $3,000 each plan
Vegetation Management Plan (321 CMR 10.14(16)) $3,000 each plan

How to file   How to file for a MESA project review

File online using MassWildlife's Heritage HubSubmit your MESA Project Review Checklist, fee and other required information online. If your project requires a filing with the Conservation Commission for review under the WPA, you may attach your Streamlined Notice of Intent to your MESA Project Review Checklist for a joint review.

Mail the MESA Project Review Checklist, checklist items, and fee (check made payable to Comm. of MA - NHESP) to the attention of Regulatory Review.

Next steps   for How to file for a MESA project review

  1. Review Timelines

    Within 30 days of receiving a filing, we will provide a response letter indicating whether the submission is complete. In some instances, this may include a request for additional information to help NHESP better understand the proposed project and or its potential impacts to state-listed species and their habitats. If the submission is complete, we have an additional 60 days to provide a determination.  However, the majority of  project reviews are completed within the first 30 days.

    We are committed to providing review outcomes in a timely manner, often before the regulatory deadline to accommodate Conservation commission hearings, staff time permitting.

  2. Possible Review Outcomes

    During the Regulatory Review process, our review biologists will determine whether the project, as proposed, will impact state-listed species and their habitats. 

    • Under the MESA, we will provide a determination letter stating whether or not a project or activity, as currently proposed, will result in a "Take " of state-listed species. Often projects will not negatively impact state-listed species or their habitats; others may require certain conditions such as timing restrictions to avoid impacts to state-listed species and their habitats.  A small percentage of projects will impact state-listed species and must either be revised to avoid a "Take" or must meet the performance standards for issuance of a Conservation and Management Permit.
    • Under the WPA, we will provide a determination letter to the applicant and the Conservation Commission.  In this letter, we will state whether a project or activity, as currently proposed, will have an "Adverse Effect" to the wetlands resource area habitat of state-listed rare wetland wildlife species.

    Please see our MESA Project Review Decisions Applications Received and Final Decisions .

More info   for How to file for a MESA project review

For larger or more complex projects, we recommend requesting a pre-filing consultation early in the planning process to discuss and proactively address potential MESA issues. See Request a Pre-filing Consultation for more information.  

We understand that certain project types are unlikely to result in harm to state-listed species, such as normal maintenance of agricultural lands and work within existing and legally developed lawn, landscaped and paved areas. Other project types, such as non-commercial forest and habitat management, may be compatible with and or actually benefit state-listed species when implemented under a pre-approved plan. Therefore, we have created exemptions for certain projects or activities within Priority Habitat (321 CMR 10.14) from the standard MESA review process outlined above. If you are unsure whether your project meets an exemption from MESA review at 10.14, please request a pre-filing consultation and provide all relevant information.

We also understand 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 but have since been mapped. Some such projects may not be subject to MESA review if certain permitting milestones (pursuant to 10.13(2)) have been met.

A failure to file under MESA or adhere to the conditions of a MESA determination or Conservation and Management Permit shall constitute a violation of MESA and is subject to a fine (pursuant to 10.06).

Contact   for How to file for a MESA project review

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