August 25, 2020
The Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs’ (EEA) Resilient Land Initiative (RLI) is an effort to solicit input from Massachusetts nonprofit organizations, municipalities, state agencies, landowners, and residents to draft and implement a new Statewide Land Conservation Initiative.
The initiative has released a draft summary of the findings and recommendations. The document recognizes the importance of farming, fishing, and related food system businesses, in many cases reflecting ideas expressed in the Local Food Action Plan and the Collaborative’s work since then. This may be an indicator that public understanding and opinion on the importance of our local food system is set to make even greater positive changes in the way our state supports the food system and its businesses. As always, the real test will be in how the recommended programs and projects are implemented. While the summary contains some details, a public comment period is underway to inform a more thorough set of recommendations. Comments can be submitted to Bob O’Connor, Forest & Land Policy Director for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs, at [email protected]
Implementation of the Resilient Lands Vision will be led by Steering Committee and Focus Group members who represent the government, non-profit, private and volunteer sectors and will work through eight strategies:
No Net Loss of Farms and Forests: Achieve “No Net Loss” of farms and forests through smart growth incentives and investments in new urban and riverine greenspace.
Focus on Food Systems: Expand the amount, quality and accessibility of locally grown food, especially in food deserts, and ready our local food production system (farms, fisheries and aquaculture) for future stress from droughts, floods, storms, sea level rise and other climate change impacts.
Focus on Urban Greenspaces and Community Health: Improve public health by providing readily accessible close-to-home natural areas for outdoor recreation, exploration and inspiration and preparing communities for increasing heat waves, flooding, storms and other climate change impacts.
Focus on Water Resources: Protect and restore drinking water supplies, inland and coastal waters and habitats from increased threats.
Focus on Landscape Conservation and Restoration.
Focus on the Green Economy: Create a new green economy with expanded jobs in sustainable farming, forest management, and coastal/marine products and in expanding and stewarding forests and urban tree canopy and healthy soils that store more carbon.
Focus on Natural Carbon Storage and Climate Resilience: Achieve a significant increase in carbon storage and climate resilience in forests, wetlands (coastal and inland) and soils.
Focus on Collaboration for Sustainable Solutions: Engage with residents and communities on a coordinated outreach and education campaign focused on the benefits of land conservation, stewardship and restoration as climate change solutions.
The group next plans to develop an implementation plan, where recommendations will be made related to:
Legislation: e.g.: Set the No Net Loss Goal and include incentives for cities and towns for Natural Resource Protection Zoning and City and Village “Green” Zones
Regulations: e.g.: Expand the capacity and funding of the Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program to protect “whole farms” (land, infrastructure and housing)
Funding: e.g.: Expand landscape-scale conservation grant funding, including in public drinking water supply watersheds, that also focus on premier unfragmented (and restorable) landscapes and cold-water habitats.
Zoning: e.g.: Update Drinking Water Protection Zones.
Public Planning: e.g.:Designate climate risk zones where land restoration, conservation and stewardship projects are critical to reduce heat islands and flooding and create a new EEA grant program that focuses on conserving and restoring natural system connections across municipal boundaries.
Education/communication: e.g.: Develop a website focused on “nature-based” climate solutions and how they can be implemented at home and in neighborhoods.
Environmental Justice: e.g.: Fund neighborhood organizations to lead outreach, design and implementation of initiatives to use restoration, conservation and stewardship projects to improve community health.
Economic Development: e.g.: Create at least 10 new jobs in each of our 170 rural communities and at least 30 new jobs in each of our 45 cities, with expanded forest and farm resilience and urban forestry projects.