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News Briefs: Grant funding for conservation projects; communities to be reimbursed for early voting expenses

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By Wednesday, Jan 23, 2019 News

Berkshire projects to receive funding for land conservation, natural resource protection

Boston — Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox, announced last week that two Berkshire conservation projects, Berkshire Farm Center Conservation and the Berkshire County No-Till Farmland Initiative, have received grant funding as part of the Baker-Polito administration’s $3,723,669 in efforts to support conservation projects across the state.

Grants were provided to eight land trusts through the Conservation Partnership Grant Program, 11 communities through the Local Acquisitions for Natural Diversity (LAND) Grant Program, and eight projects through the Conservation District Innovative Projects Grant Program.

The Berkshire Natural Resources Council has received $85,000 in grant funding as part of the Conservation Partnership Grant Program, which provides funding to assist nonprofit organizations in acquiring interests in lands suitable for conservation or recreation purposes. BNRC’s project, the Berkshire Farm Center Conservation, will protect a 330-acre parcel of land containing a portion of the Taconic Crest Trail, and will become a part of BNRC’s Hollow Fields reserve.

The Berkshire County district as a whole has received $42,000 in grant funding as part of the Conservation District Grant Program, which provides funding to local conservation district offices in order to help them implement locally prioritized conservation projects. Conservation districts are nonprofit entities composed of locally elected boards dedicated to the conservation of natural resources within a region or area, that work cooperatively with municipal, state and federal agencies to preserve and protect natural resources at the local level by promoting best management land practices. The district’s project, Berkshire County No-Till Farmland Initiative, will provide the necessary resources to increase the use of no-till seeding methods on local farmlands. Of particular importance, the district will purchase a no-till planter for rental to farmers.

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Communities to be reimbursed over $1.1 million for 2018 mandated early voting expenses

Boston — State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump and Secretary of the Commonwealth William F. Galvin have announced that Massachusetts communities will be reimbursed $1,144,156.22 for unfunded, mandated costs to provide early voting in the 2018 general election. The funding for the reimbursements will come from money allocated to the secretary’s office by the legislature in a supplemental budget passed late last year. Bump’s office, at the request of Galvin, surveyed cities and towns on their mandated spending to meet the requirements of the early voting law.

The early voting law, which passed in 2014, requires that municipalities allow qualified voters to cast their ballots during a 12-day early voting period. The Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office reports that more than 584,000 voters cast their ballots early during the 2018 general election cycle.

Bump’s office determined in 2017 that some parts of the early voting law were an unfunded mandate on local governments. The determination cited the requirements that municipalities establish an early voting polling location that has sufficient staffing and privacy for voters as the factors driving the conclusion. As a result, communities were reimbursed $1,063,978.14 for spending related to early voting in the 2016 election. Bump wrote a letter to Galvin certifying the reimbursable early voting expenditures.

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