This page provides an overview of the actions that Massachusetts state agencies are taking to support adaptation efforts at the local level.
Many of the state’s efforts are focused on providing financial and technical assistance to help local governments assess their vulnerabilities, develop plans, and implement adaptation projects on the ground.
Executive Order 569 instructed the Commonwealth to provide assistance to municipalities to complete climate change vulnerability assessments and resiliency planning. To implement Executive Order 569, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs created the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) grant program that provides training, technical, and financial support to municipalities to complete vulnerability assessments and develop action-oriented resiliency plans. Municipalities that complete the program become certified as a “MVP community” and are eligible for follow-up grant funding and other opportunities.
In 2018, the state launched resilent MA, an online clearinghouse for local governments and the public with comprehensive information about the state’s work on climate adaptation. The clearinghouse contains science and data on expected climate changes, information on community resiliency, and links to grant programs and technical assistance that local governments and communities can use to fund and support actions to adapt to climate change.
In 2021, the state launched a beta version of a new tool, the Climate Resilience Design Standards Tool, an online platform that enables state and local governments to assess climate change considerations when designing and siting development and infrastructure projects. Specifically, the tool offers guidance for state-funded and other projects by creating project-specific climate vulnerability assessments and providing general guidance for ways that the state and local governments can consider making a project more climate resilient. The tool was created to help the state implement priority actions in its State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan.
The state also provides financial and technical support and training for municipalities in specific sectors.
The Massachusetts Department of Agriculture administers the Agricultural Climate Resiliency and Efficiency (ACRE) Program, a competitive grant program (offering grants up to $50,000) for projects that address agricultural vulnerabilities to climate change, improve the economy, and advance the goals identified in the Massachusetts Food Policy Council’s Local Action Food Plan (which contains goals and recommendations for how to make the state’s local food systems more sustainable and equitable). In addition, the Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program is a voluntary program which offers to pay farmland owners the difference between the "fair market value" and the "agricultural value" of their farmland in exchange for a permanent deed restriction which precludes any use of the property that will have a negative impact on its agricultural viability. The primary purpose of the program is to preserve and protect agricultural land from being built upon for non-agricultural purposes.
The Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management’s (CZM) StormSmart Coasts Program provides coastal management decisionmakers and communities with information, strategies, and tools to address the impacts of weather and climate hazards, including erosion, flooding, storms, and sea-level rise, on coastal development and resources. Under the StormSmart Coasts Program, CZM administers the Coastal Resilience Grant Program that offers financial and technical support to local governments for projects that will increase awareness and understanding of climate impacts, identify and map vulnerabilities, conduct adaptation planning, redesign vulnerable public facilities and infrastructure, and utilize green infrastructure to enhance natural resources and reduce storm threats.
In addition, CZM maintains a Sea-Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Viewer tool that can support local governments assessing the risk of coastal flooding risk to local facilities and infrastructure. The map includes layers of flooding extents and water level elevations from different sea-level rise scenarios, current coastal flood zones, and hurricanes surge models produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In 2013, CZM released a guidance document, Sea-Level Rise: Understanding and Applying Trends and Future Scenarios for Analysis and Planning, to help local governments plan for potential impacts from sea-level rise. The guidance provides information on how to understand and apply different sea-level rise scenarios for vulnerability assessments and other planning purposes. An updated version of the guidance is expected in 2018.
The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation administers a Forest Stewardship Program that provides landowners and communities with technical and financial assistance to develop a long-term approach for managing forests to benefit soil and water quality, wildlife and fish habitat, timber and other wood products, and outdoor recreation. In addition, the “Forest Tax Program Chapter 61” (and Chapters 61A for agriculture and 61B for recreation) gives preferential treatment to landowners who maintain their property as open space. Eligible landowners who own 10 or more contiguous acres of land and have an approved forest management plan are taxed at an annual rate determined by the current use of the property (i.e., the productive potential of land for growing trees), not fair market or development value of the land.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health maintains an Environmental Public Health Tracking tool that allows municipalities to assess the environmental and community health impacts of climate change. In addition, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs’ provides the public with an interactive mapping tool, Mapping Toxics in Communities and Assessing Climate Vulnerability, as a “one-stop-shop” to evaluate a location’s vulnerability to impacts from severe weather, hazardous chemicals, and other types of land use. The map contains several different layers that can serve as a spatial resource to holistically integrate the impacts of natural hazards and climate change into other areas of local decisionmaking, like public health and emergency preparedness. Map layers include: wastewater treatment plants, dams, hazardous waste treatment, storage, recycling, and disposal facilities, large quantity toxic users, environmental justice populations, freight rail lines, land uses, hurricane surge inundation zones, flood zones, critical ecological areas, water protection areas, and more.
(Research last updated: September 16, 2021).