SECTION 1. Chapter 131 of the General Laws is hereby amended in Section 6 by inserting the following-
(4) The director shall identify, mark and inform the public regarding all existing designated reserve areas on the lands referred to as Wildlife Management Areas under its control as of the date of passage of this law.
(5) On or before January 1, 2030, the department shall designate a minimum of 30% of all Wildlife Management Area lands under its control as Wildlife Management Area Nature Reserves. Further designations shall be made as additional lands are acquired in order to maintain the minimum of 30% at all times.
The Council, pursuant to section 6(6) shall identify lands and waters as Nature Reserves in accordance with the following criteria, which include areas that: contain a significant proportion of trees that are very large, older than 100 years in age, or otherwise exceptional; encompass or build on large blocks of contiguous forest; contain forest interior habitats; encompass wetlands, riparian areas, or headwaters of streams; include Living Waters critical watersheds; provide connectivity with existing reserves and other core natural areas; include valley bottom land; have a high capacity for ongoing carbon capture and storage; contribute to the mitigation of climate change impacts; are representative of all ecoregions in the state; provide geographic redundancy to ensure against catastrophic disturbances; support viable rare or imperiled natural communities; have unique or unusual ecological significance; or have archeological or historical importance.
The Council may from time to time review these selection criteria to ensure they are consistent with available scientific evidence and always serve to enhance ecological protection and public welfare.
(6) The secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs shall appoint a “Wildlife Management Area Nature Reserves Council,” hereinafter referred to as the Council, to oversee the designation and management of the Nature Reserves, and to suggest additional acquisitions to enhance the ecological value of the Nature Reserve program as a whole. The Council shall consist of eight members, including: the director of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife or a designee; two members of the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Advisory Committee, appointed pursuant to Chapter 131 Section five B, who have technical training and experience, one in the field of plant ecology and one in the field of nongame wildlife and endangered species; one member from the Native Plant Trust or the Native Tree Society; one member from the Woodwell Climate Research Center; one member who has technical training and experience in the field of soil or watershed science; and two members of the public with experience in natural area conservation.
The members of the council shall be reimbursed for their necessary expenses incurred in the performance of their duties. Each member shall be appointed for a term of three years, except that for the initial term, three members shall be appointed for one year, three members shall be appointed for two years and two members shall be appointed for three years. Any person appointed to fill a vacancy shall serve for the unexpired term. Any member shall be eligible for reappointment.
The council's duties shall include advising the division on policies and rules and regulations concerning nature reserves, consulting with the division regarding the nomination of potential Nature Reserves, assisting in the preparation of a plan for each Nature Reserve, and advising the division on budgetary matters related to such Nature Reserves. The council shall submit a biennial report to the governor on or before May first of such year, describing the condition of each Nature Reserve, outlining any actions taken by the council since the last report, and making any recommendations related to the Nature Reserve program which the council deems necessary.
(7) Wildlife Management Area Nature Reserves established in accordance with the provisions of this section shall be monitored and maintained as nearly as possible in its natural condition, and as defined in Chapter 31 section 1, and shall be used in a manner and under limitations consistent with its status as a Nature Reserve, without impairment or artificial development for the public purposes of present or future scientific research and education, and of providing a habitat for plant and animal species, communities and other natural objects and for preservation of areas representative of the significant habitats and ecosystems of the commonwealth.
The division shall, after a determination that said parcel qualifies as a Wildlife Management Area Nature Reserve, hold a public hearing thereon in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 30A.
SECTION 2. Chapter 131 of the General Laws is hereby amended in Section 1by inserting the following-
“Wildlife Management Area Nature Reserve,” an area permanently designated by Division of Fisheries and Wildlife that conserves intact ecosystems that are influenced primarily by natural processes. Management priorities will include: biodiversity maintenance, nutrient cycling and soil formation, long‐term carbon sequestration, protection of late-successional and old growth forest habitats, and opportunities for wilderness recreation. The timber in these Nature Reserves shall not be sold, removed, or destroyed. Vegetation management shall be allowed in circumstances where historical and scientific data prove such action is necessary to: ensure public health and safety; provide fire protection and prevention; remove invasive species or pests; restore or protect habitats for rare or endangered species and exemplary or rare natural communities; control erosion and stabilize soils; maintain existing agricultural fields, vistas, and hiking trails; or meet other regulatory requirements. Creation of new fields, vistas, and wildlife openings is prohibited. The application of pesticides or herbicides shall not be permitted unless there is a clear threat to public health and safety, as determined by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
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