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BOSTON-The state’s Executive Office of Environmental Affairs is unveiling a new policy in its land conservation efforts that will focus on large tracts in more remote locations rather than smaller parcels in urban or suburban areas.

“The goal is to protect remaining open spaces in Massachusetts that support biodiversity,” Jim Hunt, assistant secretary to state environmental secretary Robert Durand tells GlobeSt.com. “These large, unfragmented tracts have ecological value.”

The environmental office has spent the last two years mapping out the state, identifying the landscapes that have certain species of plants and animals, and this map, according to Hunt, will serve as a guide to the state’s land-conservation efforts. “We can now identify where priority land acquisitions are,” says Hunt. “We are looking at the state as a whole and changing the way we do land acquisition.”

Most of the land the map identifies is in Western, Central, and Southeastern Massachusetts rather than in more heavily developed areas of the state. For instance, Hunt notes that in the Tully Valley north of the Quabbin Reservoir in Central Massachusetts the state is looking at privately owned, large unfragmented parcels there. The area is roughly 44,700 acres that stretch across four towns and has approximately 400 owners. The state has an estimated $50 million to $60 million a year set aside by state environmental agencies for land conservation. “We are really trying to focus our acquisition dollars on those areas,” notes Hunt.

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