By Bob Katzen

The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker a conference committee version of a bill that would place into state law a current state policy regulation designed to ensure preservation of open space lands protected under Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution by ensuring there be no net loss of conservation land when a city, town or the state acquires conservation space and uses it to build on or develop.

The land must be replaced with land of comparable acreage, location, fair market value and natural resource value. The measure includes a provision that allows for a cash payment in lieu of replacement land, provided that the payment amount is no less than 110 percent of the value of the land and the money is used to purchase replacement land within three years.

The House and Senate approved different versions of the measure in July. It took four months for a conference committee version to be hammered out and approved last week.

“I am extremely proud that an agreement has been reached between the House and Senate on the landmark Public Land Preservation Act which will strengthen the state’s commitment to ensuring that there is no net loss of open space in the commonwealth,” said Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), the bill’s sponsor.

“With the passage of the Public Lands Preservation Act today, our public lands and open spaces will be preserved and protected for current and future generations to come,” said Sen. Mike Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means … “The preservation of our most important public lands, farms, recreational areas, drinking water supply lands, sensitive wildlife habitats, forests and other conservation and open space lands is critical in our collective efforts to adapt to and confront climate change, while protecting the public health of our communities. Passage of this legislation is a testament to the Senate’s steadfast commitment to protecting our environment at all costs.”

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