Public Lands Closer to Real Protection
May 6, 2011 - The Legislature's Environment Committee voted in favor of the Public Lands Preservation Act (PLPA) this week. The similar bills filed in the House and Senate would set important restrictions on the removal of protection for conservation land owned by cities, towns and the state. ELM and other forest and park advocates testified in favor of these bills in March and we are pleased with the Committee's favorable votes.
Removing conservation protections from public lands was intended to be rare and difficult to do under rules established under Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution. Among other rules, such actions require an affirmative vote by two-thirds of both the House and Senate. In practice, unfortunately, such votes have come to be viewed by many legislators as routine. They almost always pass unanimously without debate -- not what the people of Massachusetts intended when they amended the Constitution to make protection of the environment, including public lands, an intrinsic right for all residents.
The PLPA, formally titled An Act to Protect the Natural Resources of the Commonwealth, was filed in the House as bill number 1124, and in the Senate as bill number 350. Both bills were voted out favorably by the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture on Wednesday.
We are grateful to the bill sponsors, Sen. James Eldridge and Rep. Ruth Balser; the Committee members, especially Chairs Sen. Marc Pacheco and Rep. Anne Gobi; the numerous House and Senate co-sponsors of the bills; the environmental advocates who are working to pass these bills; and to the citizens who have contacted their legislators in support of the PLPA. We are making progress: let's keep the pressure on!
For more information about the PLPA, please visit our coalition's website here. Please also contact (or keep contacting) your state Representative and Senator and urge them to support the above bills. You can find contact information for your legislators here.