The Newsletter of the Massachusetts Land Conservation Community
April 20, 2023, Volume 21, Number 4
Farmland Conserved, Farming Preserved in Williamstown
Through the combined efforts of a wide range of partners and the local community, Williamstown Rural Lands (WRL / Rural Lands) purchased ten acres of active farmland on Oblong Road with frontage on a scenic by-way, preserving both farming and a special view of the Greylock massif. The conservation of this parcel secures a key link in a conservation corridor of forest and farmland immediately to the south and northeast. It protects a key section of Sweet Brook, which drains down from the Taconic Ridge into a series of wetlands and ponds and comprising the headwaters of Hemlock Brook, which feeds into the Hoosic River. In addition, "The parcel holds tremendous value of diverse sorts. The preservation of the pasture and a sugarbush, both utilized by Sweet Brook Farm, supports a local livelihood and provides healthy foods", says Robin Sears, Executive Director of WRL. According to American Farmland Trust, over 80% of Berkshire County’s agriculture land is not permanently protected. "If we want to have farms in Williamstown five or ten years from now, it's critical to protect the farmland in town", notes Sarah Gardner, of the Williams College Center for Environmental Studies and Chair of the town's Agricultural Commission. Rural Lands plans to lease the pasture to a neighboring farm operator, and The Trustees of Reservations will buy the development rights for the parcel from Rural Lands, placing a farm-forward conservation restriction on it, thereby preserving the land in perpetuity. The newly-protected parcel has for multiple generations been under the stewardship of the Phelps family. Sarah (Phelps) Lipinski and her husband own neighboring Sweet Brook Farm, over 100 acres of which will be temporarily preserved for farming through a 10-year covenant with the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resource’s (MDAR) Farm Viability Enhancement Program. Read more.
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Such a pleasure to enjoy the sunny promise of warmer days at Dennis Conservation Land Trust's Swan River Overlook. #OurMassLandTrusts
There are still limited spaces available for field trips, to be held around the state on Friday, April 28. Forester credits will be available. Jump to field trips & registration links, and to download the Forester Credit form. Cost: $15 if you did not attend the March 25th conference. If you attended March 25th, or were a sponsor or speaker, write email@example.com.
If presenters made them available to us, presentations and handouts are posted as links in the session descriptions on the conference portal. To view session descriptions, scroll down the portal page and click on the green bar of the talk you'd like to view. Pre-conference sponsor talks held via Zoom were recorded, with links to the recordings under each session. However, in-person sessions on March 25th were not recorded.
Topical Peer Networking Discussions
These informal one-hour discussions are intended for staff and board members of non-profit land conservation organizations. The conversations are facilitated by MLTC. To receive log-in information, register for each session that interests you. See webpage for details.
Monday, May 8 | 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. | Conservation & Housing in Collaboration | Register
Wednesday, May 17 | 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. | Development Staff: Strengthening Fundraising Efforts / Expanding Funding Opportunities | Register
Wednesday, May 24 | 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. | Topics of Special Interest to AVLTs (All Volunteer Land Trusts) | Register
Fundamentals of Land Protection Series
Thursdays in June (June 1, 8, 15, 22, 29), 4:00 - 5:30 p.m. via Zoom
This five-part series is targeted to land trust and municipal staff and volunteers who are interested in better understanding or directly engaging in land conservation transactions, but who have limited prior experience (i.e., zero to five conservation deals under their belts). Topics include:
June 1 - The Basics of Land Protection: Real Estate & Tools
June 8 - What to Protect: Project Selection and Prioritizing
June 15 - Landowner Outreach and Relationships
June 22 - Due Diligence
June 29 - Funding, Partnerships, Documentation, Post-Closing
Faculty includes Rob Warren, Christa Collins, Paul Catanzaro, Abby Hardy-Moss, Cynthia Henshaw, Olivia Lukacic, Sarah Wells, Jassy Bratko. Cost: $20 for the series. Sessions will be recorded. Sponsored by MLTC. Syllabus. Register. Zoom link will be sent to registrants before the first session.
Brian Arrigo named DCR Commissioner
Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo has been named Commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), effective April 24th. Arrigo has served as Mayor of Revere since 2016, was elected President of the Massachusetts Mayors' Association earlier this year. Upon this appointment he stated, "I believe DCR lies at the nexus of the climate crisis, economic competitiveness, public health, and equity. Access to well-maintained, healthy outdoor space promotes tourism, builds healthy families, and helps us nurture the next generation of environmentalists. We did this in Revere, and I'm looking forward to stepping up our tree planting efforts, improving park maintenance, and ensuring that every Massachusetts resident can access our beautiful natural resources".
State Budget Deliberations
Work toward approval of the FY24 State operating budget continues with introduction and debate on the House of Representatives' version this month. MLTC has signed on to endorse the Green Budget Coalition's recommended funding levels for eight key environmental line items. Passage of the House version will be followed by Senate deliberations later this spring.
Time-Sensitive Update for Landowners of CR Property
This is an urgent heads-up that on April 10th the IRS released Notice 2023-30 providing deed language for amending existing CRs to make them compliant with a new provision of federal law passed late in 2022. The language specifically addresses new requirements related to extinguishment (including principally the "proceeds" and boundary line adjustment clauses). The IRS provides a limited "safe harbor" window to amend existing CRs without incurring potential future penalties for non-compliance, from now until 90 days after Notice 2023-30 is published in the Federal Register. The IRS intends to publish on April 24, requiring amendments to be recorded by Monday, July 24.
This is primarily a matter of concern for landowners who claimed a federal tax deduction related to placing a CR on their land, particularly within the applicable three-year IRS Statute of Limitations. It's important to note, however, that the Statute of Limitations for IRS audit may be extended for various reasons, including any carry-forward period used for the deduction. While the obligation to review and respond to this new law lies with such donors and their tax advisors, many land trusts and conservation attorneys have been considering their own responses. MLTC urges all land trusts to review the terms of the law (well summarized at https://landtrustalliance.org/resources/learn/explore/important-advisory-charitable-conservation-easement-program-integrity-act-advisory) and Notice 2023-30 in order to respond swiftly to potential communications by landowners. Some land trusts are considering whether to review their CR holdings in order to notify potentially impacted donors so that those landowners can conduct their own review. Other land trusts are confident that their CRs are not subject to the problems cured by the safe harbor amendments, and are making a business decision to not preemptively act. Each land trust should make its own determination with the advice of its counsel.
The Land Trust Alliance is offering an online webinar on May 3rd (free to LTA Members) for land trusts to understand the implications of this issue. LTA guidance will not be able to shed light on a special challenge in Massachusetts related to the fact that CR amendments here require review and approval by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA), something which, even under the best of circumstances adds weeks (or more) to any amendment process. The Division of Conservation Services within EOEEA is aware of the short time frame for approving, executing and recording amendments under this Notice. No resolution has been crafted as of this date. For more information on the national discussion of this matter, see here.
Massachusetts Charitable Income Tax Deduction is Back
Massachusetts taxpayers are now able to claim a state income tax deduction for charitable donations made beginning on or after January 1, 2023. In 2000, Massachusetts voters approved a state income tax deduction for qualifying charitable contributions. The deduction was in effect only briefly, having been suspended for many years awaiting an improved state fiscal picture. The deduction is available as a deduction against Massachusetts Part B adjusted gross income, even for taxpayers who do not itemize deductions on their federal income tax returns. Non-cash gifts, including gifts of land value, are generally eligible. The ability to reduce a taxpayer's state income tax liability may be particularly beneficial in light of the new "Millionaire's Tax" in Massachusetts. This tax, which became effective January 1, 2023, applies to both high earners and those with one-time income in excess of $1 million through, for example, the sale of a home or business. Any income above $1 million will be taxed at a rate of 9%. However, taxpayers can reduce this state income tax by claiming deductions for charitable contributions made during the taxable year, including "life income" gifts such as charitable gift annuities and charitable remainder trusts. Interested parties should of course consult their own tax advisors. Hopefully the new deduction will have its intended effect of boosting philanthropic giving to land trusts and other public charities by Massachusetts taxpayers at all income levels.
Examining Disparities in Environmental Grantmaking: Where the Money Goes
by Dorceta E. Taylor and Molly Blondell, Yale University
This recently-released report examines the grantmaking practices of 220 foundations, with more than 30,000 grants totaling $4.9 billion that were distributed over three years. It reveals great disparities in environmental grantmaking that have not been examined or identified before. Read the report.
Hanging in the Balance: An Urgent Call for Protecting Cape Cod's Natural Resources
This report by the Association to Preserve Cape Cod provides a comprehensive analysis of key natural resources on Cape Cod. The report examines past and present impacts to natural resources, current threats, case studies, and recommended actions that promote protection, preservation and restoration of the region's most important resource areas. Full report. Story map. Summary.
Reallocating Land: From Market to Commons
Thursday, April 20, 2:00 p.m.
Part of the Schumacher Center's monthly series featuring New Economy thinkers, builders and activists, April's panelists are pioneering radical forms of land tenure that challenge private property norms. Learn more and register.
How Massachusetts Can Become a Leader in Reducing Embodied Carbon in Buildings
Tuesday, April 25, 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Join a host of legislators and others to learn how to transform buildings from climate polluters to climate protectors by addressing the embodied carbon as well as operational carbon through a holistic approach to decarbonizing. Learn more and register.
Introducing NEFF's Climate-Smart Forestry Partnership
Wednesday, April 26, 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Over the next five years, New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF) will anchor a regional incentive program to build New England's climate-smart, forest-based economy while protecting ecosystem health and biodiversity. Join this info session to learn about climate-smart forestry as a tool for powerful climate action. The talk will feature a panel discussion with several partners. Free. Learn more and register.
Conservation Restriction Monitoring 101
Wednesday, April 26, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
This class will cover the basics of monitoring Conservation Restrictions, including general philosophy, fieldwork, landowner relations, and how to document potential violations. An emphasis will be made to provide practical examples. Register.
To Amend or Not to Amend: Unpacking IRS Safe Harbor Clauses
Wednesday, May 3, 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
In late April, the IRS must publish safe harbor language for extinguishment and boundary line adjustments. Conservation Restriction donors will have 90 days to amend their restrictions to add the IRS's written safe harbor clauses, if the land trust agrees. Land trusts should understand whether amending to add the safe harbor provisions makes sense, and if it is permissible under state law. This time-sensitive webinar is free for Land Trust Alliance members and their attorneys. Share the code shc_2023 with your attorney so they can register. Learn more.
Water, Water, Everywhere. . .The Increasing Threat of Stormwater Flooding
Wednesday, May 3, 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
This webinar will address what local, state, and the federal governments can do to better understand, prepare for, and minimize flooding and flood damage. Register.
A Massachusetts Conservation Voters (MCV) Special Event
Thursday, May 11, 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Chestnut Hill, Newton. Address provided upon registration.
Celebrate MCV's new charitable organization, Mass Parks for All (MPA): A 21st-Century Vision for Public Lands. MPA seeks to work with park friends groups and other stakeholders to become more effective advocates for forests, parks, beaches, trails, and other facilities managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). Learn more about MPA's vision and join the conversation. Register here.
Climate-Smart Restoration Networking Event
Monday, May 15, noon – 1:15 p.m.
Connect informally with fellow practitioners and discuss work regarding climate change, invasives and restoration practices, including promoting future adapted natives, and combating invasives when seed sourcing and planting. Register.
Trail Accessibility and Inclusion Toolkit: Results and Feedback
Thursday, May 18, 10:00 a.m. – noon
The CMRPC (Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission) recently asked for feedback on what key features are important for accessible and inclusive trails. This call will discuss a draft grading rubric, as well as the workshop / survey results. Register.
Conservation Easements and Federal Tax Law 2023
Monday, May 22, 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (Early bird registration through May 5. Registration ends May 19 at 1:00 p.m.)
This program will address the latest case law, legal issues, and IRS guidance impacting conservation restrictions (easements), including tax issues. Though land trust staff and board members, government employees, appraisers, and landowners are invited to attend, this webinar is aimed at experienced professionals (not beginners). Experts will offer practical advice. Attendees will have the opportunity to hear the IRS's perspective and ask questions. Learn more and register.
Ticks and Deer: Is There a Tick – Deer Connection?
Wednesday, May 24, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Learn more and register.
Fundamentals of Wetlands Enforcement
Wednesday, May 24, 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
This MACC Fundamentals unit will include information on applicable laws, regulations, and suggestions for developing a good enforcement case. Case studies and participatory scenarios will be included. Register.
LTA's Ninth Symposium on Advanced Legal Topics in Land Conservation
June 8 & 9 (Thursday & Friday)
Experts will cover the latest conservation law developments, and offer practical solutions. Ideal for attorneys, senior conservation practitioners, and law school faculty. Learn more and register. Early bird registration ends May 11.
In Person Events and Outings
Adventuring through Hollywood's Attempts to Tackle Climate Change
Friday, April 21, 6:30 p.m.
WBUR CitySpace, 890 Comm Ave., Boston
Join the WBUR podcast team in a lively, and likely funny, discussion of what Hollywood has gotten right – and wrong – in its portrayal of climate change, and whether some of the disasters could actually happen. Learn more and register. Use promo code Disaster50 to receive a generous discount.
Field Trips / 2023 Massachusetts Land Conservation Conference
Friday, April 28, field trips around the state. Some spots still open. Jump to webpage to register.
Nature-Based Coastal Resilience in Urban Settings
April 26 – 28 (Wednesday – Friday)
UMass Boston Campus Center
Meet and network with researchers, students, adaptation professionals, and other leaders in climate resilience at this Stone Living Lab conference focused on nature-based coastal resilience in urban settings. Learn more and register.
Watershed Scale Climate Collaboration Conference
Wednesday, May 3
Clark University, Worcester, MA
Sponsored by the Massachusetts Ecosystem Climate Adaptation Network (Mass ECAN). Free. Program. Learn more. Register.
Info Session on Updated Requirements Manual
Tuesday, May 9, 2:00 p.m.
The Land Trust Accreditation Commission verifies a land trust's compliance with Land Trust Standards and Practices by evaluating a sample of the elements within those Standards, the indicator elements. The Requirements Manual provides land trusts greater specificity about how indicator elements are verified through the requirements, and enables commissioners to make decisions that are fair and consistent. This info session will highlight this year's changes to the Manual. Free, but registration is required. Download the Manual and the Summary of Changes.
2023 Local Solutions: Climate Migration
May 16 & 17 (Tuesday & Wednesday)
The goals of this conference include: learning how to proactively plan for climate migration; establishing a Northeast regional network of practitioners with a focus on climate migration; developing knowledge to build socially just and equitable solutions; and more. Learn more. Register.
Foraging at the Acton Arboretum
Thursday May 18, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Meeting location: Acton Arboretum Parking Lot, 2 Taylor Road, Acton MA
The Acton Arboretum is home to over 80 species of edible wild plants, many of which are more nutritious and/or flavorful than their cultivated counterparts. Join the Early Conservation Career Network and Russ Cohen, author of the book Wild Plants I Have Known…and Eaten, on a two-hour ramble through the Arboretum to encounter to learn about at least 18 species of edible wild plants and how they function in the landscape. If the Arboretum lot is full, there is plenty of parking in the lot next to the Acton Town Hall and Library, which are about a 5 minute walk away.
For Appraisers: Valuation of Conservation Easements Course
May 30 – June 2 (Tuesday – Friday)
LTA, in partnership with the Appraisal Institute, is offering this 4-day subsidized training for appraisers interested in working with the conservation community. Please forward this info to any appraisers you know. Learn more. Register. LTA will host a networking lunch as part of this course. If you're interested in connecting with appraisers, contact Jen Plowden, LTA's New England Program Manager.
America the Beautiful Challenge Grants
Pre-proposal deadline: Thursday, April 20
These grants support landscape-level proposals that address conservation and public access needs such as cumulative benefits to fish and wildlife; enhanced carbon sequestration and storage; benefits to and engagement with underserved communities; and protection of ecosystems through resilience-focused and nature-based solutions. Learn more.
Construction Loans for Dam and Seawall Repair or Removal
Application deadline: Friday, April 28
This program provides loans for projects that repair or remove dams, levees, seawalls, and other forms of inland and coastal flood control. Projects that maximize restoration of natural systems are encouraged. Projects that minimize or eliminate the use of hard infrastructure are eligible for a zero-percent interest rate. Learn more.
MVP 2.0 Pilot Program
This program will provide communities with guaranteed upfront funding to: include a more diverse array of community members in climate resilience planning and action; receive virtual training on climate resilience best practices, equity, and environmental justice; reset priorities in their current MVP plans based on this new knowledge and engagement; and receive technical assistance and guaranteed funding to develop and implement an action project. Any community that has gone through the original MVP planning process is eligible to apply. Applications are expected to be released in April 2023. To discuss interest in the program, contact your MVP Regional Coordinator.
Cranberry Bog Acquisition for Restoration Grants
Application deadline: Monday, May 1, 3:00 p.m.
This EEA program provides funding for qualified conservation organizations to acquire interests in land containing retired or soon to be retired cranberry bogs and associated uplands for the purpose of subsequent ecological restoration to natural wetland habitat and provision of broader ecosystem services. Maximum award is $2,000,000, with up to 90% reimbursement. Must expend all eligible project costs on or before June 30, 2023 to be eligible for reimbursement. Learn more.
LAND and PARC Grant Programs
In-person info session: Thursday, May 4, 11:00 a.m., MassWildlife Headquarters, Westborough
Remote info session: Tuesday, May 9, 2:00 p.m.
Application deadline: Thursday, July 13
The LAND grant program is for municipal conservation commissions looking to protect conservation land. The PARC grant program is for municipalities looking to acquire parkland, renovate an existing park, and develop a new park. Contact Vanessa Farny to register for either LAND info session. Contact Melissa Cryan to register for either PARC info session. Learn more.
Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Action Grants
Application deadline: Thursday, May 4, 2:00 p.m.
These grants support eligible communities to implement priority climate adaptation actions. Projects that propose nature-based solutions, advance equity, and that have robust community engagement plans are preferred. Applicants can request up to $3 million in funding (regional proposals may request up to $5 million); a 25% match of the total project cost is required (some exceptions). Learn more. Informational webinar recording. Apply.
Conservation Assistance for Small Communities Grants
Application deadline: Friday, May 5
These grants provide funding for towns with 7,000 people or fewer for the preparation of real property appraisals, Open Space & Recreation Plans (OSRPs), and other planning in support of land conservation and recreation. Learn more and apply.
Northeast Forests & Rivers Fund
Info webinar: Wednesday, May 31, 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. Register
Application deadline: Thursday, July 13
Funds are available to restore and sustain healthy rivers, forests and grasslands that provide habitat for diverse fish and wildlife populations. Projects that incorporate outreach and / or partnership with communities are encouraged. Only grant requests between $75,000 and $300,000 will be considered. Learn more.
LSPA Environmental Justice Grants
Application deadline: Friday, June 30, 5:00 p.m.
These small grants support implementation of community-driven projects that help better understand and address local environmental and public health issues. The grants target efforts by not-for-profit environmental advocacy groups, community-based groups, environmental education organizations, and/or volunteers that benefit the environment in Massachusetts communities with Environmental Justice (EJ) populations. The LSPA encourages groups and organizations to partner together to achieve their goals. Learn more.
Conservation Partnership Grants
Application deadline: Monday, July 17
These grants are for 501(c)(3) organizations looking for assistance in acquiring land in fee or a conservation restriction, as well as assistance with due diligence costs associated with gifts. Learn more. Contact Melissa Cryan with questions.
Resources and Opportunities
Learn to Use iNaturalist
Gear up for the City Nature Challenge (see below) and other citizen science projects by joining Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust on Earth Day at Skyfields Arboretum to learn how to use iNaturalist. Learn more. To register, email Jessica Bryant. Download iNaturalist to your smartphone before you attend.
City Nature Challenge
April 28 – May 1 (Friday – Monday)
Join this global bioblitz aimed at connecting people with the biodiversity all around them. Find and take pictures of wild plants and animals, then upload them to iNaturalist or your town's/city's chosen platform. Make it a competition or make it for fun. Learn more. Participating cities.
Practical Pointers: Renewables Siting
Check out these newly-released pointers by the Land Trust Alliance:
Siting Renewables on Conservation Easements (Restrictions)
Siting Renewables and Transmission Infrastructure on Fee Lands
DCR Climate Forestry Program
This program provides cost share assistance to landowners to hire a qualified consulting forester to conduct and write a climate-focused forest assessment of their land. Only foresters trained and certified in this new climate-focused program will be eligible for cost sharing to write these new plans for landowners. Learn more (scroll to Forester Training Spring 2023) and view the four training modules.
The Power of Parks to Address Climate Change: Special Report
by The Trust for Public Land
As a warming planet leads to worsening risks and impacts, American cities are taking matters into their own hands by figuring out how to slash carbon emissions and be more resilient. One way is to build more parks. Parks are good at buffering the effects of climate change, in that green space can lower air temperature and absorb floodwater. But even when progress is being made, often the funding is not available, or other obstacles stand in the way. This report looks at some case studies and practical solutions to consider when building parks. Read the report.
New Tool to Help Build Local Climate Resilience
Mass Audubon and partner NGOs have developed a comprehensive curriculum to improve community climate resilience in Massachusetts. The "Building Community Resilience Through Local Regulations" curriculum guides a user through different components of improving climate resilience through local regulations that support nature-based climate solutions. The curriculum highlights Mass Audubon's new Bylaw Review Tool, designed to help communities assess local regulations with a conservation lens. See MassRivers' website to access the full curriculum, which includes eight detailed modules.
Announcing a New Newsletter from EEA
As part of EEA's increased stakeholder outreach and communication, they have initiated the EJ Office Stakeholder Newsletter. Topics in the inaugural issue included: "MA's 1st Environmental Undersecretary Plans to Focus on Communities of Color"; an introduction to Maria Belén Power; the role of the Environmental Justice Council; and more. To get on the EEA's EJ mailing list, provide your name, name of your institution, email, and area of environmental focus here.
Survey on Wetlands Restoration and Nature-Based Solutions – Your Input Needed by May 31!
If you are working on, or interested in, wetlands restoration or other nature-based solutions (NBS) in Massachusetts, please complete this survey – conducted by Mass Audubon and Conservation Law Foundation – by May 31 (5 minutes). Funding for NBS programs has increased, so needs and possibilities for increasing capacity and efficiencies for these projects are being explored.
The Connection Between Water Supply Protection and Forest Management
View this recorded webinar by Ken Canfield, a forester for DCR's Division of Water Supply Protection (DWSP), in which he explains what DWSP does for forest management, and helps dispel some myths and misunderstandings about DWSP's approach.
Volunteer to Help Clean Up Public Lands
MassWildlife is hosting a series of cleanups at Wildlife Management Areas around the state this spring. Join a clean up party near you. Learn more and register.
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