Conservation commissions are the municipal agencies responsible for protecting the land, water, and biological resources of their communities. In 1957, Representative John Dolan of Ipswich filed a bill in the Legislature (Chapter 223, Acts of 1957) which authorized cities and towns to establish conservation commissions to promote the development of natural resources. This became the Conservation Commission Act (G. L. Chapter 40 §8C). The new law enabled municipalities to establish conservation commissions through a vote of the local legislative body (town meeting or city council).

The Town of Ipswich established the first Conservation Commission in 1958. The Commission’s first act was to purchase salt marshes to preserve “as is.” By the end of that year, eleven more towns had formed Conservation Commissions.

In 1972, conservation commissions were given responsibility to administer the Wetlands Protection Act (G.L. Ch. 131 §40) in their community. By the mid-1980s, every city and town in the Commonwealth had established a conservation commission. In Massachusetts, conservation commissions’ authority comes from the home rule provisions of the state constitution.

The town of Ipswich created the Conservation Commission the year after it finally created a town-wide sewer system:

1947 Town Report: “The Board of Selectmen voted to close the lower Ipswich River to swimming from the dam at the Sylvania plant to the Town Wharf as it was felt that because of the waste and sewerage that was being dumped into the river it was for the safety of the children that this area be closed and that it be kept closed until such time as a sewerage system has been installed.”

1953 Town Report: “The State Department of Public Health gave notice that the Town should abate certain nuisances claimed to be caused by lack of a sewer system in Ipswich and further stated that if the nuisances were not abated the State would institute legal proceedings to command the Town to construct a sewer system

1957 Town Report: The Sewerage Plan, as presented by the Sewerage Committee was accepted on a ballot day in June.

1958 Ipswich Town Report

The Ipswich Conservation Commission was founded in 1958.

The Conservation Commission has jurisdiction over all work within 100’ of a wetland, 150’ of an Area of Critical Environmental Concern and 200’ of a river or perennial stream. The Wetlands Protection Act authorizes the Conservation Commission to determine if a project will adversely impact the following eight interests:

  • Protection of Public and Private Water Supply
  • Protection of Groundwater Supply
  • Providing Flood Control
  • Prevention of Storm Damage
  • Prevention of Pollution
  • Protection of Land Containing Shellfish
  • Protection of Wildlife Habitat
  • Protection of Fisheries

Sources:

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