Functions of the Conservation Commission

The functions described here stem from the combined authority granted Conservation Commissions through the sources described in Figure 1.

  • Planning. Fostering land use patterns protective of natural resources through preparing and implementing Open Space and Recreation Plans and offering assistance and advice to local planning boards.
  • Preservation. Assuring the permanent protection of important local land and water resources through conservation land acquisition under the Conservation Commission Act. Careful conditioning of Wetlands Protection Act and wetlands bylaw/ordinance permits. Assisting in securing and enforcing conservation restrictions, agricultural and historic preservation restrictions and watershed restrictions; and encouraging, in conjunction with assessors and other municipal officials, the placing of land in the Chapter 61, 61A, and 61B programs.
  • Stewardship. Management of conservation lands for a variety of benefits, including to foster biodiversity of species and habitats and to provide appropriate recreational uses tied to the nature of the particular conservation area.
  • Regulation. Relating to the use of conservation lands and the protection of wetlands and floodplains under the Wetlands Protection Act and local bylaws and ordinances. 
  • Recreation. Passive (and to some degree active) use of open space.
  • Productive or Economic. Represented by appropriate, environmentally sound agriculture, forestry and fishing on conservation lands. 
  • Education. Encouraging a conservation ethic in the community; hosting walks and other events.
  • Coordination. Working with friends groups, non-profit environmental organizations, etc. in the interest of natural resource protection.

Figure 1: Sources of Conservation Commission Authority
  • Massachusetts Constitution (Articles 89 and 97)
  • Conservation Commission Act (G.L. Ch. 40, s. 8C)
  • Wetlands Protection Act (G.L. Ch. 131, s. 40)
  • Municipal General (Non-Zoning) Wetlands Bylaws/Ordinances (Orleans Town Code, Ch. 160)
  • Community Preservation Act (G.L. Ch. 44B)
  • Consultant Fee Provisions (G.L. Ch. 44, s. 53G)
  • Conservation Restriction Act (G.L. Ch. 184, s. 31-33)
  • Other Bylaws/Ordinances and Statutes