Environmentalists in Massachusetts are concerned over a controversial bill they say could effectively eliminate endangered species protections in the State. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard Reports…
Sponsor of Senate Bill 1854, Gale Candaras says that the rumors and ideas circulating about her proposal to enforce landowner protections by amending the state’s Natural Heritage & Endangered Species laws are misleading.
In a letter sent by Mass Audubon and signed by 72 conservation advocacy groups across the state, Mass Audubon claims that the bill would effectively undo protections for all endangered plants and animals in the state, cause conflicts for landowners leading to costly lawsuits, and displace the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife by removing it’s appeals process.
Legislative Director for Mass Audubon Jennifer Ryan says that the amendment would allow developers to make changes to a protected environment without restriction, and would leave the state powerless.
The bill was approved by the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture, sending it to the floor of the house. Senator Benjamin Downing of Pittsfield voted against advancing the bill.
Senator Gale Candaras says she recognizes environmental groups’ concerns, but says the bill serves to protect landowner’s right to due process as is determined in the original Massachusetts Endangered Species Act.
Candaras says that current law is flawed and unfair to landowners whose property could be declared Priority Habitat for environmental protection without their knowledge.
Mass Audubon claims that passage of the amendment would strip powers from the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife’s Natural heritage program, and would require replacement with “an entirely new and costly administrative structure.”