Glossary of Conservation Terms

Conservation Restriction (CR)

A conservation restriction is a voluntary legal agreement in which a landowner limits specified uses (such as housing or business development) of a property while retaining ownership of the land. The limitations are designed to prevent harm to the conservation or agricultural values of the property.

CRs are recorded with the county Registry of Deeds and stay with the land forever. The land may be sold to new owners, but the provisions of the CR are binding on anyone who purchases the property. If the land is privately owned, it is still subject to property taxes.

A CR is usually "held" by a municipality or a land trust. In some cases, a municipality and a land trust co-hold a CR.

The organization that holds the CR is legally responsible for enforcing it in perpetuity. The CR holder annually monitors the property to ensure that no prohibited activities (such as development, plant removal, or dumping) are taking place.

In many cases, CRs are placed on land owned by a municipality or a nonprofit organization. For example, SVT holds CRs on many properties owned by towns and cities in our region. Likewise, other land trusts hold CRs on some SVT-owned properties. These CRs give added protection to ensure that the properties remain as conservation land.

Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR)

Like a CR, an agricultural preservation restriction permits certain uses on a piece of land (such as active farming) but restricts or prohibits other uses (such as housing or business development). Overall, an APR ensures that a property remains vital as agricultural land.

APRs often permit the landowner to construct buildings and other structures needed for agricultural purposes, and they may permit the landowner to take steps to protect or restore natural resources and wildlife habitat. 

An APR may be held by the state Department of Agricultural Resources, by a municipality, or by a land trust. The organization or government body that holds the APR is responsible for annually monitoring the property to ensure that the terms of the APR are upheld and that no prohibited activities (such as development, tree removal, or dumping) are taking place.

The land covered by an APR remains privately owned and can be sold to new owners. The provisions of the APR stay with the land and are binding on anyone who purchases the property. The private landowner also pays property taxes on the land.

Community Preservation Act (CPA)

The Community Preservation Act is a Massachusetts program that allows communities to collect funds for projects involving open space protection, historic preservation, affordable housing, and outdoor recreation. The residents of a municipality must adopt CPA by ballot referendum.

Once a municipality adopts CPA, the Community Preservation Funds are raised locally through the imposition of a surcharge of not more than 3% on their property tax bills. The Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) also provides distributions each year to communities that have adopted CPA.

For more information, see the Community Preservation Coaltion website.

Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program

The Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness grant program encourages cities and towns in Massachusetts to evaluate their vulnerability to climate change and take actions to make their communities more resilient.

The state provides funding to help municipalities complete vulnerability assessments and develop action-oriented resiliency plans. Communities who complete the MVP program become certified as an MVP community and are eligible for MVP Action grant funding for specific projects.

For more information, see the MVP page of the Massachusetts website.