The Arlington ConservationPhoto of Mill Brook, Arlington Commission is comprised of seven volunteer voting Commissioners and one or more volunteer nonvoting Associate Commissioners, who are appointed by the Town Manager with the approval of the Select Board. 

Conservation Commissioners work to ensure that all construction and development projects (residential, municipal, and commercial) that may alter any wetlands, floodplains, rivers, streams, ponds and/or lakes are in permitted compliance with state and local wetland regulations. The Conservation Commission also protects and manages the Town’s Conservation Lands.

If you have questions about the environmental resource areas that fall under the Commission's jurisdiction, please review the Living in Environmental Resource Areas guide. Any work within 100 feet of a wetland, lake, or pond, within 200 feet of a river or stream, or within the 100-year floodplain must receive prior approval from the Commission. Not sure if your property is within conservation jurisdiction? Refer to the Town's interactive wetlands and floodplain map to determine if your project needs conservation approval.

The Conservation Commission usually meets the first and third Thursdays of each month in the 2nd floor conference room, Town Hall Annex, 730 Massachusetts Avenue, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Meetings are open to the public and agendas for meetings are posted on the Town Website. A description of meeting agenda items as well as corresponding rules is available to assist those attending a Commission meetings.  Corresponding Minutes can be viewed along with the Agenda on the Minutes and Agenda section of our webpage. 

Information for filing an application for such approval (a Request for Determination of Applicability, Notice of Intent/Abbreviated Notice of Intent, or other) can be found here, Filing Instructions.  Please review these documents and if you have further questions contact us at 781-316-3012 or

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a wetland?

Legally, the term wetland includes not only what we typically think of as wetlands, such as streams, ponds, and cattail marshes, but also areas such as wet meadows, red maple swamps, and intermittent streams that may be dry for a significant portion of the year. The technical definitions may be found in the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act and its accompanying regulations, and for the most part are based on the occurrence of surface water and/or the abundance of specific wetland plants.

What is a floodplain?

A floodplain is an area that experiences surface flooding during storms. Two types of floodplain areas are protected under the state act. The more common areas are those bordering streams or ponds that flood during the 100-year statistical storm, which is the worst storm that can be expected to occur, on average, once every 100 years. The less common areas are isolated depressions that flood at least once a year to an average depth of 6" and to a volume of one-quarter acre-foot (10,890 cubic feet).

What activities are regulated in wetlands and floodplains?

Under the law, no one may "remove, fill, dredge, or alter" any wetland, any floodplain, or any land within 100 feet of a wetland without a permit from the Arlington Conservation Commission. The term "alter" is defined to include any destruction of vegetation, any change in drainage characteristics or flow patterns, or any change in the water table. Examples of activities requiring a permit include construction of a house, garage, shed, patio, or porch, filling to enlarge a backyard, installation of drainage ditches, and vegetation removal.

Why are wetlands and floodplains so important?

Wetlands are afforded legal protection because they play an important role in environmental quality through: (1) protecting the groundwater and the private and public water supply; (2) controlling pollution by acting as a filter for removing sediments, nutrients, and other pollutants from runoff; (3) reducing storm and flood damage by providing areas to retain and store water; and (4) acting as habitat for fish and wildlife.

Floodplains are protected because they provide storage for floodwaters during storms. Any alteration to the land that reduces this storage capacity will displace floodwaters and cause greater flooding elsewhere.

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