Resilient Lands

Initiatives to conserve and restore our land and soil to help the Commonwealth’s residents with the impacts of climate change

Table of Contents

The Resilient Lands Initiative

Expanding Nature’s Benefits Across the Commonwealth: A Vision and Strategy

The Resilient Lands Initiative was drafted over the course of eighteen months, and benefits from the ideas and input of hundreds of people from the community, farm and forest, government and nonprofit areas. These ideas focused on how the forests, farms, parks, and other open spaces across Massachusetts can help improve the quality of life for residents, especially residents of Environmental Justice neighborhoods. The Resilient Lands Initiative will guide actions aimed at conserving, restoring and caring for the land – to help both nature and people. In this way, it is a powerful strategy to reduce the impacts of climate change on our most vulnerable populations.

The Resilient Lands Vision is to protect and improve the quality of life for residents of every Massachusetts community through land conservation, restoration, and stewardship initiatives that conserve and enhance the health of the forests, farms, and soils. These critical resources:

  • Protect human and natural communities;
  • Provide drinking water and food supplies;
  • Enable healthy outdoor recreation;
  • Power a green economy;
  • Support municipal fiscal stability;
  • Protect wildlife habitat;
  • Sequester and store carbon; and
  • Reduce vulnerability to climate impacts such as urban heat islands, flooding, sea level rise, and drought.  

The economy of Massachusetts, along with the health and welfare of its residents, depends on these “goods and services” that natural systems provide. Striving for an overall expansion of nature across the Commonwealth, particularly in areas with Environmental Justice populations and especially as climate impacts increase, is critical to the future quality of life for all Massachusetts residents.

In her letter announcing the release of the Resilient Lands Initiative Secretary Card recognizes that the 2020s are the decade where we must work to conserve, manage, and restore our natural lands to help our residents with the real and increasing impacts of climate change.  

The Resilient Lands Initiative is distinct because both visioning and future implementation are approached through two lenses: 1) justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion and 2) climate change.

Healthy Soils Action Plan

There is a strong connection between the soils beneath us and a resilient Massachusetts. Soils determine the health and productivity of our farms, forests, wetlands and open spaces. The health of our soils is critical as climate change causes more flooding, droughts and heat waves. Soils also help reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Soil organic carbon represents a huge reservoir of stored carbon and undisturbed soils absorb a significant amount of carbon each year. Soil carbon content is also a reasonable measure of the health and productivity of farms, forests, and wetlands. The Healthy Soils Action Plan provides an assessment of the condition of our soils and a blueprint for how we can effectively conserve and protect, restore, and properly manage our soils to improve the vitality of nature around us and the health and quality of life of our residents.

The Healthy Soils Action Plan was developed over the past three years under the direction of the Commission for Conservation of Soil, Water & Related Resources with crucial input from a steering committee with expertise in soils across five land use categories: farms, forests, wetlands, lawns and other developed open spaces, and impervious areas (buildings, roads, and parking lots). The committee met more than a dozen times and fifteen public workshops were conducted which included residents at various levels of government, nonprofits, communities, volunteers, farmers, foresters and landowners. Massachusetts is the first state to complete a healthy soils plan for all of its land use types.

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