What You Need To Know About Wetlands Protection in Belchertown
BEFORE Starting a Project Contact the Belchertown Conservation Commission
Lawrence Memorial Town Hall
2 Jabish Street, Room 101
P.O. Box 670
Belchertown, MA 01007
( 413) 323-0405
A large percentage of Belchertown homeowners have wetland resource areas on or near their property. If you plan to do any work in a wetland, within 100 feet of a wetland, or within 200 feet of a stream or river, such as:
- Tree or vegetation removal or clearing
- Grading, excavation or paving
- Construction, additions, etc.
or any other activity that might alter wetlands or their buffer zones, you must contact the Conservation Commission.
Do not assume your contractor will pull all necessary permits!
If you do need approval, our Conservation Commission staff is ready to answer your questions and help guide you through the application process for the particular project you have in mind or you can go to our town web site- www.belchertown.org
The Commission meets the 2nd and 4th Monday of each month and the public is welcome to attend to learn more.
The Commission wants to see Belchertown landowners proceed with their projects while simultaneously protecting the valuable wetland resources that benefit
Wetland "Do's and Don'ts"
Some activities near wetlands are allowed and do not require Commission approval, including:
- Mowing an existing lawn
- Working in an existing garden
- Pruning and maintaining existing landscaping
- Planting native vegetation
- Hiking, horseback riding, and other passive recreation
Other activities are prohibited in wetland resource areas or buffer zones and are subject to fines.
- Dumping yard waste such as leaves, grass, etc, or other waste products, including manure
- Any work within 100 ft. of a Vernal Pool/Ephemeral Pool
- Dumping dirt or other fill
- Draining or pumping water to or from a wetland, pond or stream
- Building dams or removing beaver dams
Wetlands function best in a natural state. Do not clear them or "clean them up." Wildlife often thrives in areas with brush piles, rotting logs, and other things some people might consider "untidy."
What are Wetlands?
"Wetland resource areas" include the commonly known cattail marsh, wet meadows, red maple swamps and open water pond, also rivers that generally flow throughout the year, 200-foot riverfront areas which border rivers or streams on both sides, intermittent streams that dry up during part of the year, associated banks, low-lying flood plains and vernal/ephemeral pools. These areas (except riverfront areas) are surrounded by "buffer zones" – 100 ft. wide protective zones that protect wetlands from human impacts. Technical definitions are found in the state law and its accompanying regulations.
Why are They Important?
Wetland resource areas provide critical habitat to wildlife and help maintain the aesthetic beauty of our town. They also provide priceless yet "free" services including:
- Drinking water purification
- Groundwater recharge
- Flood control and storage
- Pollution prevention
- Wildlife Habitat
All Belchertown residents benefit from these services because of our reliance on natural settings for property values, wells for drinking water, and septic systems for waste disposal. The Conservation Commission is responsible for protecting these areas, by enforcing state and local wetlands protection laws and regulations.
Limiting Chemical Use and Conserving Water: A Few Words About Lawn Care
Do you know what comes out of your weed killer bottle or the lawn care spray truck? Chemicals – many of which can be harmful to humans, pets, wildlife and plants. They do a lot more than make your lawn green.
The Commission strongly recommends that you avoid using chemicals anywhere on your property due to the potential hazards that they pose to your drinking water, your children, and your pets. If you live next to a pond, fertilizers can cause excessive plant growth in the water, harming both the environment and aesthetics. Many natural lawn care alternatives are readily available – and they work.
The Commission also recommends you use water responsibly when maintaining your lawn or other landscaping. Excessive lawn watering contributes to severe low-flow conditions in streams and rivers in all but the wettest years.
THANK YOU FOR HELPING TO PROTECT BELCHERTOWN'S NATURAL RESOURCES
The Wetlands Protection Act provides that: "No person shall remove, fill, dredge, or alter any area subject to protection under this section without the required authorization, or cause, suffer or allow such activity, or leave in place unauthorized fill, or otherwise fail to restore illegally altered land to its original condition, or fail to comply with an enforcement order issued pursuant to this section. Each day such violation continued shall constitute a separate offense except that any person who, after giving written notification of said violation to the conservation commission and the department shall not be subject to additional penalties unless said person thereafter fails to comply with an enforcement order or order of conditions. Whoever violates any provision of this section, (a) shall be punished by a fine of not more than twenty-five thousand dollars or by imprisonment for not more that two years, or both such fine and imprisonment; or (b), shall be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed twenty-five thousand dollars for each violation
Lawrence Memorial Town Hall
2 Jabish St., Room 101
P. O. Box 670
Belchertown, MA 01007