BioMap2: A project of the Massachusetts Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program and The Nature Conservancy

Designed to guide strategic biodiversity conservation in Massachusetts decade by focusing land protection and stewardship on the areas that are most critical for ensuring the long-term persistence of rare and other native species and their habitats, exemplary natural communities, and a diversity of ecosystems.

BioMap2 Core Habitat

Key areas to ensure the long-term persistence of species of conservation concern, exemplary natural communities, and intact ecosystems across the Commonwealth.

BioMap2 Critical Natural Landscape

Large landscape areas that are better able to support ecological processes, disturbances, and wide-ranging species.

Community Preservation Act

Massachusetts legislation passed in 2000 that allows municipalities to enact a property tax surcharge, matched by the state government, for land conservation, historic preservation, affordable housing, and recreational facilities. For more information visit the Community Preservation Coalition website.

Direct impacts of development

The loss of ecological integrity directly under the footprint of development. The “footprint” is the home or building, the driveway, and the area in the immediate vicinity of the building.

Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA):

EEA is a Secretariat that oversees the Commonwealth’s six environmental, natural resource and energy regulatory agencies. Massachusetts is the first state in the nation to combine energy and environmental agencies under one Cabinet secretary.  The agencies are Department of Agricultural Resources, Department of Conservation and Recreation, Department of Energy Resources, Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Fish and Game, and the Department of Public Utilities. For more information visit the EEA website.

Green Infrastructure

Natural, constructed, or restored features that enhance environmental conditions by providing ecosystem services. Examples of natural green infrastructure features include forests, floodplains, wetlands and buffer areas, while rain gardens, green roofs, bioretention areas, constructed wetlands, or living shorelines are examples of built features that are engineered to mimic or restore natural processes.  Ecosystem services provided include filtering and infiltrating precipitation and runoff; moderating air and water temperature; preventing erosion and promoting soil formation; capturing carbon, nutrients, and pollutants; and supporting fish, wildlife, and/or food production.  

Indirect impacts of development

The loss of ecological integrity in the still natural areas adjacent to new development.


A program of the NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Earth Observation Satellite Company (EOSAT) to gather satellite imagery of the entire Earth surface. 

Landscape complexity

The number of microhabitats and climatic gradients available within a given area. Landscape diversity is measured by counting the variety of landforms, the elevation range, and the wetland density. Because topographic diversity buffers against climatic effects, the persistence of most species within a given area increases in landscapes with a wide variety of microclimates.

Landscape Permeability/Landscape Connectedness

A measure of the number of barriers and the degree of fragmentation within a landscape. A highly permeable landscape promotes resilience by facilitating range shifts and the reorganization of communities.

Low Impact Development

Building techniques that collectively address stormwater through small, cost-effective, landscape features located throughout the development instead of collecting water from large portions of a site and piping it to centralized retention/detention basins. LID helps replicate and retain the natural ways that rainfall is managed and distributed. It can be applied to new development as well as redevelopment and revitalization projects.  More information is available through EEA website.

Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP)

The state agency, within the Department of Fish and Game, that maintains a database of rare and endangered species observations, and conducts environmental review under the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act and Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. See the NHESP website for more information.

MassGIS Protected Recreation and Open Space datalayer

The protected and recreational open space datalayer contains the boundaries of conservation lands and outdoor recreational facilities in Massachusetts. The associated database contains relevant information about each parcel, including ownership, level of protection, public accessibility, assessor’s map and lot numbers, and related legal interests held on the land, including conservation restrictions. Conservation and outdoor recreational facilities owned by federal, state, county, municipal, and nonprofit enterprises are included in this datalayer.  Not all lands in this layer are protected in perpetuity, though nearly all have at least some level of protection.


This is the Commonwealth's Office of Geographic and Environmental Information, within the Massachusetts Executive Office for Administration and Finance. Through MassGIS, the Commonwealth has created a comprehensive, statewide database of spatial information for environmental planning and management. The state legislature has established MassGIS as the official state agency assigned to the collection, storage and dissemination of geographic data. Visit MassGIS for more information.

Natural Resource Protection Zoning (NRPZ)

A method of planning residential development that conserves important natural resources and open space in a new subdivision while permitting the same number of homes as would fit in a conventionally-zoned subdivision.

Open Space Residential Design (OSRD)

See Natural Resource Protection Zoning above. Older OSRD or Cluster bylaws may not be as protective or useful as NRPZ, but still improve over traditional subdivisions where virtually all the land is used for individual house lots.

Priority Development Area

An area within a city or town that is capable of handling more development due to several factors, including good access, available infrastructure (primarily water and sewer), an absence of environmental constraints, and local support.

Priority Protection Area

An area within a city or town that deserves special protection due to the presence of significant environmental factors and natural features, such as endangered species habitats, areas critical to water supply, scenic vistas, or areas of historic significance.


The capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity, and feedbacks. (Walker, B., Holling, C. S., Carpenter, S. R., Kinzig, A. (2004). "Resilience, adaptability and transformability in social–ecological systems". Ecology and Society 9 (2): 5.)

Resilient landscapes

Places most likely to be resilient in the face of the changing climate.  As used in Losing Ground, these places are identified based on the complexity of landforms above ground, the connectivity of natural systems, and the diversity of geology types.

Site plan review

Municipal Planning Board review required prior to approval of certain types of development projects.

Smart Growth

Development that enhances existing communities, that is compatible with the natural environment, and that uses tax dollars efficiently while attracting private investment. (A Smart Growth Agenda for Illinois, Campaign for Sensible Growth, 1999 - source: APA A Planners Dictionary, Planning Advisory Service Report Number 521/522).

Sprawl Danger Zone

Municipalities in this zone are not the fastest growing in the state, but they are experiencing increased growth rates that warrant attention. Towns in this zone have had significant negative ecological impacts since the 1970s and these impacts are accelerating recently. Most significantly, there are still substantial areas of regional conservation interest that need to be protected.

Sprawl Frontier

The areas of Massachusetts that experienced development at the highest rate from 2005 through 2013.

Transfer of Development Rights (TDR)

Landowners in an area within a municipality targeted for preservation can agree to “sell” their development rights to landowners in areas that are more suitable for development. This is a relatively new tool that is currently being used in several Massachusetts communities, including Plymouth and Groton. For more information on TDRs visit the EEA’s Smart Growth website.