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Fundamentals Certificate Program
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Fundamentals for Conservation Commissioners

A Certificate Training Program


This is the training program for conservation commissioners and staff (and anyone else) who want a solid grounding in the MA Wetlands Protection Act and regulations; wetlands protection and permitting; open space planning, protection, and management; and conservation commission responsibilities and operations.

The program goals are to ensure that conservation commissions make informed, smart, and legally sound decisions protecting wetlands and open space and implementing the MA Wetlands Protection Act and Conservation Commission Act, based on science, technology, laws, regulations, and policies.

Program participants who complete eight units (five required units and three electives) will receive the Fundamentals Certificate.

To see the Fundamentals Units that are currently scheduled, click Here for the calendar. Advance registration is required.

 Fundamentals Program Participants Learn

• How to administer the MA Wetlands Protection Act and regulations effectively

• How to acquire and manage open space

• How to interact positively with other town boards and departments

• How to get the necessary information on a site inspection

• Land protection techniques

• Skills needed to run an effective meeting

• Plan and map reading skills

• Wetlands’ scientific functions and values

• How to write orders of conditions

• Identification and inventory of natural resources

• An understanding of the Open Meeting Law and Public Records Law

• Basics of local and regional open space planning

• How to protect wildlife habitat


Outline of the Program 

To receive a certificate, a participant must take a total of eight units: the five required units (*) and any three elective units. The units are listed below. 



Unit 101* Overview of Conservation Commissions; Organizational structures and authority

(Also offered via Webinar)

  • Key responsibilities
  • Appeals and Enforcement
  • Building productive relationships with local boards and state/federal agencies
  • Funding and fees

Unit 102* The Wetlands Protection Act:Fundamentals, Process and Procedures

(Also offered via Webinar)

  • Interests of the Act, jurisdiction
  • Permit submittal requirements, forms
  • Simplified Review
  • Identifying resource areas
  • "Limited" projects

 Unit 103* Plan Review and Site Visit Procedures

  • Understanding maps and plans
  • Reading and understanding engineered plans
  • Overview of site visits: what to bring; soils, slopes, and wetland lines; erosion and sedimentation control

 Unit 104* Wetland Functions and Values

(Also offered via Webinar)

  • Common vegetated wetlands in MA
  • Scientific vs. regulatory wetlands definition
  • Functions, characteristics & watershed context
  • Performance standards
  • Buffer zones

Unit 105* Writing Effective Orders of Conditions

  • Protecting interests of the Act
  • Boilerplate and special conditions
  • Denials and appeals
  • Amendments and extensions
  • Certificates of compliance




Unit 201 Getting Home Before Midnight: How to Run an Effective Meeting

  • Meeting preparation
  • Participants and their interests
  • Group dynamics
  • Record keeping, Public Records Law
  • Communication techniques

 Unit 202 Protecting Wildlife Habitat

  • Presumption of significance re: wildlife habitat
  • Protecting habitat for rare wetlands wildlife
  • Protections for vernal pool habitat
  • Wildlife habitat evaluations
  • Determining if a project will have significant adverse impacts on wildlife habitat

Unit 203 Open Space Planning and Protection Techniques

(Also offered via Webinar)

  • Establishing goals and objectives
  • Inventory of local natural resources
  • Selecting parcels, working with landowners
  • Conservation restrictions
  • Funding and grants

 Unit 204 Managing Conservation Land: Inventories, Goals and Conflicts

  • Resource evaluation
  • Management plans
  • Management case studies (e.g., invasives, trails, grasslands, agriculture, beavers)
Unit 205  Effective Erosion and Sediment Control
  • Soil erosion processes
  • Jurisdiction and regulations
  • Control applications
  • Best management practices
  • Incorporating ESC in conservation commission decision making 

Unit 206 Stormwater Requirements for Wetlands Protection

  • Stormwater Hydrology
  • MA Stormwater Standards
  • Wetlands Protection Act requirements and options
  • Reviewing submittals / issuing effective Orders of Conditions

Unit 207  Fundamentals of Wetlands Enforcement

  • Enforcement options under the Wetlands Protection Act and local bylaws/ordinances
  • Enforcement procedures
  • Obtaining access to a property
  • Compliance monitoring
  • Remedies

Unit 208   Buffer Zones: Considering the Science While Applying the Regulations

  • Current science on buffer zones
  • Reviewing projects in Buffer zones
  • decision-making under the Wetlands Protection Act and regulations
  • Climate change and other considerations
  • writing wetland bylaws and ordinances
  • developing science and performance-based standards for buffer zones


Instructors and Materials

All sessions are taught by expert instructors. Attendees are emailed materials before each Unit.

Protecting Wetlands and Open Space: MACC’s Environmental Handbook for Massachusetts Conservation Commissioners is the recommended text. Inexpensive annual subscriptions are available for purchase. You can learn about the Environmental Handbook by clicking HERE.

Where and When

Each unit is about 2 ½ hours in length. Units are provided several times each year at various venues throughout the state. Units provided on location are often given in pairs: one unit in the morning and another unit in the afternoon on the same day at the same location. Participants can take one or both of the offered units on those days. We also provide webinars for units 101, 102, 104, and 203. Currently scheduled units are listed on our community calendar. You can register to take units from there.

How Communities Will Benefit 

  • Greater respect for the conservation commission
  • Proactive natural resource protection
  • Sound, defensible permitting decisions
  • Increased commission professionalism
  • More efficiency in the reviewing and permitting process when the commissioners are educated

What the Experts Have to Say

In Wrentham it is now understood that all new Commissioners will complete the Fundamentals for Conservation Commissioners Certificate Program, as have all members since 2007. The training provides our new Commissioners with the knowledge and confidence to participate fully in all aspects of the Commission. Upon graduation members now look forward to the wide selection of MACC workshops at the Annual Environmental Conference. MACC continues to support us as we strive to provide the best wetlands protection for our community.” Leo E. Immonen, Wrentham Conservation Commission

"Training in law, science, and policy is essential for commissions to receive the respect and credibility they deserve."  Gregor I. McGregor, Esq., McGregor & Legere, P.C.

"We know the regulations - this workshop also gave us the "whys" behind them. Very useful." Program participant, Unit 104.

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Featured Members

Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions (MACC)
10 Juniper Road
Belmont, MA 02478
Phone: (617) 489 - 3930
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