In 2003, a small dedicated group of activists created The Massachusetts League of Environmental Voters (MLEV), a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to making environmental issues a top priority for lawmakers on Beacon Hill.
That same year, the two Massachusetts state parks agencies, the Department of Environmental Management and the Metropolitan District Commission, combined in a much-heralded government reorganization into the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). The stated objectives: improved management and less redundancy (saving tax dollars). It was a worthy goal. Who wouldn’t want a better managed and a more efficient park system? But the results have been much less than the promise.
Going forward, MLEV, now called Massachusetts Conservation Voters, will still work to make Beacon Hill environmentally aware and responsive, but with our new name will come a new focus on our state parks and forests. Initially, we will concentrate on the diminishing support for the vital work of the DCR. Surely an agency that maintains more than 450,000 acres of open space and park infrastructure purchased and built at taxpayer expense needs more support than is reflected in a 50 percent budget reduction and more than a billion dollars in deferred maintenance over the past two decades.
The consequences to our outdoor industry, which accounts for $16.2 billion dollars per year in consumer spending and $911 million in state and local tax revenue is at stake, as well as the promise of a park system that offers its citizens a better and healthier quality of life.