Policy Priorities

2023-2024 State Legislative Priorities

MLTC’s policy committee has agreed upon a limited list of legislative priorities for the current legislative session, driven by two strategic objectives:

  • To increase state investment in land conservation and in the work of land trusts, and
  • To maximize the integrity and natural resource value of protected lands as well as unprotected lands of significant conservation value.

MLTC's Top Priorities

An Act increasing the conservation land tax credit (H.2839, S.1940)

This bill would raise the annual cap under the Conservation Land Tax Credit (CLTC), the state income tax credit for donations of conservation land, from $2 million to $5 million - phased over three years. The program cap would revert to $2 million after 10 years. The bills also amends the definition of a "public or private conservation agency" that may receive donations of land to include all land conservation trusts regardless of their corporate structure. (The current statute inadvertently excludes land trusts that are chartered as charitable trusts rather than non-profit corporations.) Passage is a recommendation of the Resilient Lands Initiative. MLTC will continue to work closely with coalition partners including The Trustees and TNC on strategies to move this forward. In March 2024, the Joint Committee on Revenue reported this bill favorably and referred it to the House Committee on Ways and Means. Read more about this bill here

Joint letter of support (PDF), June 10, 2024
Joint testimony at Revenue Committee hearing (PDF), June 6, 2023
Amendment #770 (PDF)
Article: Waiting list for tax credits hurts land donation, Cape Cod land trusts say. By Jeanette Barnes. May 17, 2023

Environmental Bond

The Commonwealth issues bonds to fund capital spending on the land acquisition and restoration programs that are critical to our work as well as other environmental projects. According to latest information from the Administration, spending authority from the 2018 Environment and Climate Bond is not yet depleted, so action on the next Bond bill is unlikely before 2025. In anticipation of the next bill, MLTC has begun working closely with our conservation partners to advocate for the bill to authorize investments that expand and create new programs in alignment with our priorities.

State Operating Budget

 On January 24, Governor Healey released her proposed FY25 operating budget, initiating a multi-step process that will lead to adoption of a final budget in the summer. In April, the House passed its version of the budget, with the Senate to adopt its version in May. A conference committee will reconcile differences in the House and Senate versions before sending a final version to the Governor for her review.  All environmental agencies have fared relatively well so far, and chances appear good that the Commonwealth will maintain last year’s precedent of spending at least one percent of total state revenue on environmental programs. Under leadership of the Environmental League of Massachusetts (ELM), a broad coalition of partners is advocating for "Green Budget Priorities". This year's request includes a mix of targeted increases for some programs and level funding for others to ensure continued progress toward climate and conservation goals in the current challenging budget environment. 

MLTC Also Supports

An Act to reimburse the George L. Darey Inland Fisheries and Game Fund (S. 499, Sen. Gobi)

A hearing on this bill was held on November 29 before the Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. The effort is coordinated by The Nature Conservancy and The Trustees, and MLTC signed on to joint testimony from 12 organizations in support. The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife), which works to conserve and restore critical fish and wildlife habitat and plant species and to deliver education programs, is primarily funded through hunting and fishing license fees deposited in the Inland Fisheries and Game Fund. This legislation would create consistency and reimburse MassWildlife for the loss of revenue associated with providing both discounted (currently reimbursed) and free hunting and fishing licenses. The Environment and Natural Resources Committee reported this bill favorably and referred it to the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Language based on this bill was added to the Senate version of the FY25 State Operating Budget passed in May. MLTC joined many partners in a letter [r1] to the Conference Committee urging inclusion in the final version of the Budget the legislature will send to the Governor in coming weeks.

Joint statement of support (PDF), June 10, 2024

Energy Facilities Siting

Before it adjourns its formal session this summer, the State Legislature is expected to address the need to increase the pace of deployment of renewable energy and associated infrastructure to meet the Commonwealth’s clean energy and climate goals. H.4501, An Act to expedite permitting for electric decarbonization infrastructure projects, and H.4503, An Act relative to clean energy generation, include many promising provisions. As deliberations ensue, we urge legislators to:

  • Ensure that accelerated permitting does not compromise existing protections for the environment.

  • Require a process for EEA to produce site suitability standards to be integrated into permitting and incentive programs.  

  • Revise incentive programs to increase the relative cost-effectiveness of siting renewable energy infrastructure on developed properties such as rooftops and parking lots.

  • Require in-lieu fee mitigation for energy development on high-value natural and working lands, to set a price signal discouraging such conversion.

MLTC commends our statewide partners for articulately these and additional points in an April 2024 comment letter to the legislature.

An Act relative to uniform partition of heirs property (H.1744, Rep. Roy.)

Heirs property is real estate owned by the legal heirs of a previous owner when there is no will. Under state law, multiple heirs take ownership as tenants-in-common, an unstable form of ownership that too often results in the heirs losing their land through a forced partition sale. The bill would institute new process protections for heirs in such situations by requiring that co-tenants receive fair market value in any partition sale, and generally providing that co-tenants have an option to buy. With endorsement by the Uniform Law Commission, provisions of this bill have already been adopted in 22 states and districts. Millions of dollars of inherited wealth have been lost nationally by families who were vulnerable to real-estate speculators, disproportionately impacting low-income property owners without resources for estate planning. Nationally, forced partition sales have been cited as a significant factor in conversion of agricultural property. MLTC joins a coalition including American Farmland Trust, The Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust, Mount Grace Conservation Land Trust, The New England Land Title Association and the Greater Boston Real Estate Board in favor of this legislation. In February 2024, The Judiciary Committee failed to report the bill favorably, sending it to study.  The coalition continues to meet to discuss strategies for moving forward.

American Farmland Trust testimony (PDF)

An Act investing in natural and working lands ( S.448, Sen. Comerford)

Meeting the natural and working lands goals in the Clean Energy Climate Plan (CECP) will require new tools. This bill would create a local opt-in program under EEA called “Farm and Forest Friendly Communities,” to incentivize municipalities to make land use and planning decisions that reduce loss of farmland and forests. Communities would receive technical and financial assistance and increased payments in lieu of taxes on state-owned land. Consistent with CECP recommendations, this bill would also direct DEP to set a MEPA review threshold for projects that involve certain levels of forest clearing or farmland conversion, and recommend a successor to the SMART solar siting incentive program that would minimize impacts to priority forest and farmland. In February 2024, The Environment and Natural Resources Committee failed to report the bill favorably, sending it to study.

Summary and bill text (PDF)

An Act to encourage solar development on buildings and disturbed land (H.3225, SD2013, Reps. Lindsay Sabadosa & Sean Garballey/Sen. Mark)

Massachusetts has committed to deploying solar energy that maximizes clean energy generation, avoids impacts on humans and natural communities, and connects efficiently to the grid. This bill would help achieve these goals by encouraging installation of solar panels on buildings and disturbed sites, such as parking lot canopies, brownfields, and roadway cuts. It would require the Department of Energy Resources to make changes to existing policies and programs, such as net-metering and SMART, to increase incentives for generation and siting of solar projects in the built environment. Sierra Club is leading the effort on this bill. The Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee extended the deadline for reporting their recommendation on this bill to April 7, 2024. 

Letter of support (PDF, June 2023)

An Act to create a commission to determine the feasibility of voluntary acquisition of flood risk properties (H.876, S.557) (Rep. Sarah Peake, Sen. Marc Pacheco)

This bill would create a new commission to bring together agency officials, legislative leaders, and expert stakeholders to study the feasibility of a voluntary acquisition program for properties that are subject to risk of catastrophic flood damage --- helping owners and renters move out of harm’s way while conserving land and restoring wetlands to increase climate resiliency. The commission would be tasked with making concrete recommendations to lawmakers for how to address this difficult and pressing issue, especially for Massachusetts’ most vulnerable residents. The Trustees is leading the effort on this bill. In February 2024, The Environment and Natural Resources Committee failed to report the bill favorably, sending it to study.

Legislative fact sheet (PDF)
Letter supporting flood risk protection (PDF)

Outdoor Recreation Act (H.757S.488 Rep. Natalie Blais & Sen. Paul Feeney)

This bill would create a statewide dedicated fund to ensure the success of the newly created Massachusetts Office of Outdoor Recreation, and provide grants for outdoor recreational purposes, with priority given to projects that benefit underserved and Environmental Justice populations. There would be no increase in sales tax, but existing sales tax revenues received by the Commonwealth from the sale of sporting goods would be placed in the Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund for the purposes of conservation, creation, preservation, and restoration of natural resources for recreational use. The Trustees and Charles River Watershed Association are leading the effort on this bill. In February 2024, The Environment and Natural Resources Committee failed to report the bill favorably, sending it to study.

Fact sheet (PDF)

Joint Testimony (PDF)