History of Conservation Commissions in Massachusetts
Watershed Resource Protection
In 1955, the Conservation Commission Act (M.G.L. Chapter 40 Section 8C) was enacted allowing a municipality to establish a Conservation Commission for the "promotion and development of the natural resources and for the protection of watershed resources." In addition, the Conservation Commission Act also allows for the creation of a Conservation and Passive Outdoor Recreation Plan (or Open Space Plan) for the municipality. According to this Act, the plan shall show open areas and areas owned by the municipality that are preserved for passive use.
A New Role: Wetlands Protection
By 1961, the Ashland Conservation Commission was established. In 1963, the Jones Act was passed for the protection of coastal wetlands. Two years later, the Hatch Act was passed protecting inland wetlands. By 1972, these two acts (Jones Act and Hatch Act) were combined to create the Wetlands Protection Act (M.G.L. Chapter 131 Section 40), and Conservation Commissions were given the authority to administer the Wetlands Protection Act through the issuance of permits. The Wetlands Protection Act and associated regulations (310 CMR 10.00) have been amended to include the protection of rivers, floodplain, and more. Many cities and towns have since established local ordinances or bylaws that are more restrictive than the Wetlands Protection Act.
In addition to land protection, land acquisition, land management and wetlands protection, the Ashland Conservation Commission also administers the Wetlands Protection Bylaw §280 and local Stormwater Management Bylaw §343. The Conservation Agent is also involved in the Town's MS4 permit required by the Clean Water Act.