Boston Globe Endorses State Contribution to CPA Trust Fund

August 21, 2014: In a recent editorial, The Boston Globe highlights the importance of the state's recent finanicial committments toward community preservation work across the Commonwealth. CPA towns and cities benefitted from this committment through the transfer of an additional $25 million to the statewide CPA Trust Fund from the state's budget surplus in 2013 and again in 2014. As a result, each of the 155 current CPA communities will receive significantly higher Trust Fund distributions, enabling the trend of preservation work to continue. 

The article also notes that the recent investments in saving Massachusetts most valued resources marks a shift from years of "lost land" throughout the 1980s and 1990s, right before the Commmunity Preservation Act's debut in 2000. See below to read the editorial in its entirety.  

PERIODICALLY, THE group Mass Audubon issues a report entitled “Losing Ground” about development and land preservation in the state. The new fifth edition of the report bears the same title, but happily it shows how much Massachusetts has gained.

For instance, the conservation group’s first report in 1987 warned that the pace of land loss would result in 2 million acres of then-open space in Massachusetts becoming homes, apartments, offices, malls, streets, and parking lots by 2030, while only 804,000 acres would be protected. “With unprecedented economic growth has come unprecedented pressure on the open spaces of the Commonwealth — its farmlands, forests, wetlands, water supplies, and wildlife habitat,” the report said back then. But that warning helped ignite an unprecedented response by environmental groups and land trusts, bolstered in recent years by the Patrick administration’s expenditure of $370 million for park creation and for 1,380 grants to help municipalities and land trusts acquire and preserve open space. Those efforts have created a new landscape. Between 1985 and 1999, the state lost 40 acres a day to development. But from 2005 to 2013, 41 acres per day were protected, while only 13 acres a day were lost.

Furthermore, around 2009, according to Jeff Collins, Mass Audubon’s director of ecological management, permanently protected acreage in Massachusetts surpassed developed acreage for the first time in modern memory. In a far cry from the fears of 1987, the Commonwealth today has 1.26 million acres protected to 1.1 million developed. “It’s a moment to celebrate, but only a moment,” Collins said. “We can’t get complacent. It’s not a time to relax.”

Collins has legitimate reasons to remain vigilant, since the state has another 2.6 million acres that is neither developed nor protected but contributes to the region’s biodiversity and its resilience to climate change. As the economy rebounds, development pressure is rising again. Even amid the recession, many municipalities in what Mass Audubon calls the “sprawl frontier” — towns around Interstate 495, plus the areas around Plymouth and Worcester — experienced high rates of low-density residential development. That calls for continued state support for land protection and community preservation trust funds, tax incentives for private land owners to agree to conservation restrictions, and smart policies at the municipal level.

The flip side, of course, is making sure new development has somewhere to go; strongly encouraging development in higher-density, walkable areas in existing suburbs around commuter rail lines relieves the pressure on forests in now-rural towns. A quarter century ago, Mass Audubon was worried about losing ground. Today, the urgent issue is how best to keep gaining it.