The Massachusetts Legislature is considering revisions to the state
Endangered Species Act (MESA) which would result in an effective repeal
of endangered species protections in the Commonwealth.
MESA, like the Federal Endangered Species Act, protects rare species
and their habitats by prohibiting the "take" of any plant or animal
listed by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife (DFW) as
“Endangered, Threatened, or of Special Concern.”
In the last legislative session, the legislature’s Joint Committee on
Environment approved “An Act relative to land takings” (Session 2011: S1854, Sen. Gale
If enacted, this bill would have …
- Placed impossible and unprecedented requirements on the Division
of Fisheries & Wildlife (DFW), undoing current protections for the 435
species of native animals and plants at risk in Massachusetts.
- Injected uncertainty, delays, and conflict in the project review
process, leading to potential fines and lawsuits against landowners
- Up-ended long-standing appeal procedures and case law putting DFW
on different footing than every other agency in the Commonwealth.
- This unfunded agency mandate would have created an unworkable
system leaving endangered species unprotected.
How did this happen? Developers, who were disappointed in a
ruling that protected an endangered species on their land, felt that
the only way they could obtain the right to build was to gut the state’s
entire Massachusetts Endangered
Species Act. This proposed bill would have severely limited the authority of the MESA by
taking away the state’s ability to protect endangered species and their
habitats, except in very limited circumstances.
Fortunately, in the last session, the bill did not pass. Instead,
House leadership turned course and supported a compromise bill backed by
Mass Audubon, the Sierra Club, and a large number of environmental
sportsmen’s associations. Though it too did not pass, the compromise
bill took a step forward by moving on from the House Committee on Ways
and Means. This is a signal that our lawmakers anticipate taking up the
issue again in the current 2013-2014 legislative session.
In 2013, A compromise bill was introdced. This proposed legilation
would work to resolve the issues raised during the previous session. This Sierra Club supports this compromise bill and will continue to
H.756 Protect the Mass Endangered Species Act (MESA) - (Rep. Kulik)
Strengthen protections for rare species provided by the Massachusetts
legislature, almost 20 years of conservation of rare plants and animals.