Governor Deval Patrick: A Powerful Conservation Legacy in Progress
When Deval Patrick was running for Governor prior to his first term in 2006, he and the other candidates for that office were approached by the Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition (MLTC) and asked to take “the pledge”—if elected, to fund state land protection efforts at a high level during their tenure. Specifically, they were asked to fund the state land acquisition programs and related municipal and land trust grant programs at $50 Million per year. The request posed by MLTC was very important given the crucial role that state funding plays in “priming the pump” for important land conservation purchases throughout Massachusetts.
Deval Patrick was the only candidate who made that pledge. He subsequently ran a non-traditional, but highly successful, campaign based on the power of optimism and conviction of belief. He was re-elected to a second term by bay state voters last year.
In the five years since he started his commitment to land conservation as a gubernatorial candidate, the economic conditions have evolved to create a very favorable setting for land conservation: historically low land costs, little competition from developers, and many very willing sellers of important land across the commonwealth. The Governor’s support for high level public funding and the continued philanthropic giving to private conservation organizations like Mass Audubon during this period both reflect the unique opportunity of this time in history. The bottom line is that this downturn has presented public and private conservation agencies with a rare chance to advance land conservation in leaps and bounds. And that is exactly what has been occurring—quietly, yet dramatically—all across Massachusetts.
A conservation legacy in progress (land protected thus far during the Governor’s tenure):
- 75,000 acres protected and 114 parks built or restored in 1,600 projects across Massachusetts
- 14,000 acres protected within the Habitat Reserves (HR) plus 9,000 acres under 10-year forest agreements added = 9% of the previously unprotected land within the HR boundaries now under conservation protection
- 79% of land protected was in BioMap or other rare species overlays (the other 21% are farm APR’s and local parks)
- Perhaps most impressive, Massachusetts—the third most densely developed state in the nation—now has more conserved land than developed land for the first time in history.
Current and future generations of Massachusetts residents—human, plant, and animal—will be forever indebted to Governor Deval Patrick for his courage to make the pledge, and his integrity to sustain it. Due to his wisdom and leadership, Massachusetts is indeed a better place.