Tag Archives: CPA

Ask Your Legislators to Support Strong Environmental Bills!

At the beginning of each legislation session, Mass Audubon decides which bills we’ll be championing. Our top priorities this session will focus on expanded clean energy initiatives, protecting pollinators and invaluable old growth forest, and expanding the impact of the Community Preservation Act.

The more legislators that decide to cosponsor a bill, the better chance it has of gaining momentum since it has more decision-makers working toward its passage. Last week we helped organize an environmental bill sign-on day at the State House. We had a great turnout, and were able to speak with lots of legislators and their staff about our priorities and encourage them to sign on as co-sponsors.

You can help too! Contact your local legislators and urge them to sign on as cosponsors for these bills before the deadline this Friday, February 1.

Our legislative priorities this session include policies to improve climate change mitigation and to protect Massachusetts’ natural resources. Boston Harbor Islands photo credit: National Park Service

Here’s more information on the top bills we’re supporting:

An Act to Secure a Clean Energy Future 
SD757; Lead Sponsor: Senator Marc Pacheco (Taunton) 
HD1248; Lead Sponsor: Representative Ruth B. Balser (Newton)

The climate of Massachusetts is already changing, and with it, our natural lands, waters, and wildlife. These changes affect our health, the nature we love, and the natural resources on which we depend. We still have time to correct our course and align Massachusetts’ climate strategy with the best scientific data available to ensure that the policies we put in place lower our greenhouse gas emissions while creating a flourishing clean energy economy.  

This bill would set emissions reduction requirements in line with the latest climate science, increase the renewable portion of the state’s energy portfolio, and set zero-emissions standards for state-owned or leased vehicle, among other components. See the bill fact sheet.

A Resolve to Protect Pollinator Habitat
SD61; Lead Sponsor: Senator Jason Lewis (Winchester)
HD1857; Lead Sponsor: Representative Mary Keefe (Worcester)

A rapid decline in pollinators like bees, birds, butterflies, and bats is threatening biodiversity both globally and here in Massachusetts. One in every three bites of food we eat depends on pollinators, but their populations have been declining for decades due to factors like disease, pesticide exposure, loss of habitat, and Colony Collapse Disorder.

This bill would establish a commission to study statewide opportunities for improving pollinator health by increasing and enhancing native habitat. See the bill fact sheet.

Photo credit: Zeynel Cebeci

An Act Relative to the Protection of Old Growth Forests
HD3173; Lead Sponsor: Representative Natalie Blais (Sunderland) 

Old-growth forests are extremely rare, and provide a host of benefits, from providing rich and diverse habitats for birds, insects and reptiles, to serving as carbon sinks by helping to sequester greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Although 3 million of Massachusetts’ 5 million acres are forested, only 1,500 acres of this land is original old-growth forest. 

Currently, old-growth forests in Massachusetts are not lawfully protected from timber cutting; instead, they are protected only by policy that could change at any time. This bill would change that by establishing a system of permanent old-growth forest reserves on state lands, among other protections. See the bill fact sheet.

An Act to Sustain Community Preservation Revenue
SD746; Lead Sponsor: Senator Cynthia Stone Creem (Newton)
HD2835; Lead Sponsor: Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante (Gloucester)

The Community Preservation Act (CPA) is a state law that allows participating communities to establish a dedicated fund for open space, historic preservation, community housing, and outdoor recreation projects. To date, over 26,000 acres have been protected through local CPA projects. When a city or town votes to adopt CPA – currently 175 Massachusetts have done so – they agree to add a small surcharge to local property taxes. In exchange, they are promised matching funds from the Statewide CPA Trust Fund. As the number of CPA communities has increased, however, Trust Fund payout to CPA communities have declined.

To sustain CPA benefits for communities, legislation increasing the Trust Fund’s dedicated funding component—registry of deeds recording fees—must be passed. This bill’s goal is to provide a minimum 50% base match to all CPA communities. See the bill fact sheet.

For more information on Mass Audubon’s legislative priorities, contact our legislative director Mike Cusher.


Action You Can Take This Week: CPA Trust Fund

Last month, the state Senate approved an amendment to the FY18 state budget that would increase the state match for Community Preservation Act (CPA) communities. Without immediate action to adjust the recording fees at the state’s Registries of Deeds, the CPA Trust Fund distribution for the 172 participating communities will plunge to an all-time low of approximately 11% of locally-raised revenues in 2018.

When CPA was signed into law by Governor Cellucci in 2000, it was heralded as a true partnership between the Commonwealth and local communities. Today however, a large gap has developed between the approximately $150 million invested annually by the 172 CPA cities and towns and the $26 million contributed by the state.  A nominal $25 adjustment in recording fees would increase the base CPA state match to approximately 32%, which is the historic average distribution over the last eight years.

A conference committee is now reconciling the House and Senate versions of the budget. Because the CPA amendment was only included in the Senate’s version of the budget, the House side of the conference committee must agree to keep it in the final version. We need to make sure this happens, and you can help!

Please call your state Representative and ask him/her to contact the offices of Speaker Robert DeLeo, Ways & Means Chairman Brian Dempsey, and the rest of the budget conference committee and encourage them to include the CPA Trust Fund increase in the final FY18 budget. You can let them know that increasing the Trust Fund will help advance land protection and sustainable development for communities across the Commonwealth.

Learn more about CPA and our Community Preservation Coalition.

Update on CPA Trust Fund Distribution

When Massachusetts cities and towns vote to adopt the Community Preservation Act (CPA), they become eligible for state matching grants that help fund CPA projects. 172 cities and towns – nearly half of all the cities and towns in Massachusetts – have adopted CPA and collectively raised $1.75 billion dollars for community preservation. Over 9,000 CPA projects have been completed to date, including the protection of 26,000 acres of open space and preservation of 4,400 historic resources.

The Department of Revenue released its annual budget memo to municipalities last week, and it includes an estimate of a 15% funding match (based on what communities levy through surcharges on property taxes) for the first round of FY2018 CPA Trust Fund distribution. Cities and towns that adopted a surcharge of 3% will receive additional funding in rounds two and three.

Unfortunately, this 15% estimate does not include Boston Springfield, Holyoke, Pittsfield and all other cities and towns that recently adopted CPA, as they won’t receive their first match until the fall of 2018. So, unless the legislature acts to support the CPA Trust Fund, the match will take another big drop next year. Mass Audubon continues to advocate in support of An Act to Sustain Community Preservation Revenue, which would adjust the recording fees at the Registries of Deeds to provide a higher match to all 172 CPA communities.

Center Hill Preserve, a 78-acre property in Plymouth, was Massachusetts’ top preservation priority in 2006 when it came on the market. CPA funds helped protect it.

Election Night Success for CPA

by Karen Heymann

It was an exciting election night for cities and towns considering the Community Preservation Act (CPA) on their local ballots, which as of this morning has been adopted in 172 municipalities across the Commonwealth. Communities voting to adopt CPA were Billerica, Boston, Chelsea, Holyoke, Hull, Norwood, Pittsfield, Rockland, Springfield, Watertown, and Wrentham. Initiatives in Amesbury, Danvers, East Bridgewater, Palmer, and South Hadley failed to be adopted.

Pearson Farm in Mendon and conservation land in Sturbridge are examples of how CPA funds have helped preserve open space and historic places. Photo credit: Community Preservation Coalition

Pearson Farm in Mendon and conservation land in Sturbridge are examples of how CPA funds have helped preserve open space and historic places. Photo credit: Community Preservation Coalition

Mass Audubon was recognized by the late Governor Paul Cellucci for playing a pivotal role in passing the original CPA legislation in 2000. CPA is a tremendously effective tool that enables participating cities and towns to establish a dedicated fund for open space, outdoor recreation projects, historic preservation and community housing. CPA funds are generated by a small surcharge on local property tax bills, as well as annual distributions to the town from the statewide Community Preservation Trust Fund. To date, nearly 20,000 acres of land has been preserved.

According to Mass Audubon’s Losing Ground and research out of Harvard Forest, we are entering an era of renewed growth and development; our forests and natural lands are increasingly being fragmented and developed, severely threatening the environmental health of Commonwealth and region. Development pressures often result in unplanned growth, changing the fundamental character of our communities before our very eyes. There is much work to be done in determining how best to balance the needs of our economy and the public with natural resource protection.

Center Hill Preserve, Plymouth; Common Pasture, Newburyport. Photo credit: Community Preservation Coaliton

Center Hill Preserve, Plymouth; Common Pasture, Newburyport. Photo credit: Community Preservation Coaliton

Many cities and towns are now adopting changes in their local zoning by-laws, ordinances, and master plans, as well as by updating their open space plans and working to conserve forests, farmland and other open space in their communities. In order the achieve these ambitious planning goals, a reliable source of funding is needed to ensure the growth of healthy, vibrant communities.

For more information on CPA, visit www.communitypreservation.org.

 

Karen Heymann is Legislative Director