The Baker-Polito Administration today announced more than $8.7 million in grant awards to municipalities and land trusts to support the acquisition and conservation of over 676 acres of land throughout the Commonwealth. The grants, awarded through four separate grant programs, will fund 46 projects in 35 communities, creating or renovating 20 parks and supporting projects to help farmers and forest landowners improve the management of soils and natural resources.
“Massachusetts’ open spaces are a significant asset to our state, providing recreational opportunities to residents across the Commonwealth while also helping to build resiliency to the impacts of climate change,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our administration is proud to fund these important efforts that will create new parks, support the agricultural community, and conserve critical natural resources.”
“The ongoing pandemic has made clearer than ever the significant benefits outdoor spaces offer Massachusetts residents, including for physical and mental health,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “These grants allow us to partner with municipalities and land trusts across the Commonwealth to support important local projects to conserve critical natural resources and improve recreational opportunities.”
The grants were awarded through the Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity (LAND), Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities (PARC), Conservation District Innovation, and Conservation Partnership grant programs, administered by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
The administration awarded $5,295,711 to 20 municipalities through the PARC Grant Program, established in 1977 to assist cities and towns in acquiring and developing land for park and outdoor recreation purposes. Any community with an up-to-date Open Space and Recreation Plan is eligible to apply for the program. Since 2015, under the Baker-Polito Administration, 188 PARC grants have been awarded, totaling $36,129,972 in grant funding to create or restore municipal parks.
The administration also awarded of $2,676,785 to 11 municipalities through the LAND Grant Program, which was established in 1961 to assist municipal conservation commissions in acquiring land for natural resource protection and passive outdoor recreation purposes. Any municipal conservation commission with an approved Open Space and Recreation Plan is eligible to apply for the program. Since 2015, under the Baker-Polito Administration, the program has protected 3,857 acres with grants totaling $13,330,559.
“These programs enable municipalities and land trusts to protect land across the Commonwealth that provides critical habitat to rare species as well as climate resiliency,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “Our communities and land trust partners are increasingly valuable allies in our effort to conserve critical natural resources across the Commonwealth, and we look forward to working with them to support these important projects.”
The Conservation Partnership Program awarded grants to eight municipalities totaling $495,170. The program provides funding to assist non-profit organizations in acquiring interests in lands suitable for conservation or recreation purposes. Over the past ten years it has granted $6,128,487 to 97 projects conserving 3,033 acres.
Through the Conservation District Innovative Projects program, the administration announced a total of $230,000 to support seven projects. The Conservation Districts will work in partnership with local, state and federal agencies on soil and water conservation issues, and the projects will help implement locally prioritized conservation projects. Projects include local education efforts to on the ground soil health and conservation projects on agricultural lands. It has provided $1.23 million to 45 projects since its inception.
Conservation districts are not-for-profit entities comprised of locally elected boards dedicated to the conservation of natural resources within a County, that work cooperatively with forest and farm owners and with municipal, state and federal agencies to conserve natural resources at the local level by promoting best management land practices.