Climate Resilient Land Use: Wetlands Regulations

Climate Resilient Land Use Strategies_pano
Climate Resilient Land Use: Wetlands Regulations

Local Wetlands Bylaws and Ordinances

Massachusetts regulates wetlands through the Wetlands Protection Act (WPA). Municipalities can adopt local regulations in order to enact stricter standards than exist under the WPA. Over 90 of MAPC’s 101 communities have adopted these local regulations, which provide many opportunities to increase climate resilience.

Most of the strategies listed below address coastal and inland flooding. A few relate more directly to reducing heat and drought impacts. A few communities have adopted language directly addressing climate risks. Many more have regulations that provide opportunities to improve climate resilience, which include tightening standards and expanding jurisdiction.

This page provides short summaries of key features of regulations based on desktop review. Links to the regulations are provided below. Conduct careful review when considering adopting new language. The resources included do not constitute legal advice. Municipalities should consult legal counsel when adopting new bylaws, ordinances, and policies.

Did we miss something? Do you have regulations or policies that should be added to this website? Do you need assistance? For additions, corrections, or questions please contact Senior Environmental Planner Anne Herbst at

Strategies to Strengthen Wetland Regulations

Incorporate Climate Resilience
  • Boston adopted an “Ordinance Protecting Local Wetlands and Promoting Climate Change Adaptation”. The purpose of the regulation includes “short term and long term coastal and stormwater flood control”. The definition of “alter” includes decreasing the capacity of wetlands to respond to the impact of climate change. New resource areas include land within 100 feet of salt marsh, and Coastal and Inland Flood Resilience Zones. The Commission has the authority to establish the boundaries of the flood resilience zones, defined as areas that have a reasonable probability of becoming subject to flooding in the next fifty years. The Ordinance directs the Commission to encourage salt marsh restoration, nourishment, and migration. The Commission has not yet adopted implementing regulations.
  • Arlington has incorporated climate consideration throughout their regulations. Applicants are required to promote climate change resilience to protect resource values into the future. Compensatory storage at a 2:1 ratio is required as a climate resilience strategy.
  • Wrentham requires applicants to address potential climate change impacts including design consideration for flooding impacts, and vegetation and planting plans to improve resilience.
Establish Performance Standards for Land Subject to Coastal Storm Flowage
Expand Buffer Zone Jurisdictions
Strengthen Stormwater Requirements
Expand Isolated Land Subject to Flooding
Protect Compensatory Storage
Water Quantity Protection
Tree Protection