How to Start and Conduct a Municipal Conservation Commission

  1.  Start with a small group of interested – dedicated even! – people…
  2. Begin! by empowering yourself as a citizen… decide and say: “let’s do it!”
  3. Check in with your town council, town comprehensive plan, and local ordinances to see what the environmental goals of your town are and what provision has been made for its agency/implementation… make yourselves aware of the state enabling legislation calling for each town to have some sort of “environmental advocate”… see if you have a local ordinance already on the books founding such a board or commission…
  4. Look at the kind of documents and regulations that might most effectively guide your work
  5. Schedule and have some initial meetings to explore what you’d most like to accomplish as this group, as this commission
  6. Think of your group, your commission, as an important town advisory body – unless your town ordinance specifically grants you a regulatory function… don’t be afraid to weigh in on matters that affect the long range development of your town and the overall health of your community
  7. Note that whenever your commission composes an advisory opinion on a proposed development in your town, it should be a “legally defensible” opinion, judgment or recommendation… that is, your opinion should be based on clear guidelines, and/or ordinances and regulations… [Grow Smart gives periodic workshops on the topic of how to make routinely sound – and legal – land use decisions; see some of the helpful links on this RIACC website]…
  8. Take the time in this “on the job training” enterprise you have embarked upon – no one knows everything to begin with! — to develop good and effective meeting practices with each other… develop mutual respect as you apply basic Robert’s Rules of Order or some other procedure of decision making, e.g. a consensus model… disagreements are made easier given a fundamental trust and respect
  9. Do a yearly work plan… build up your strength (and reputation) by laying out a couple of manageable goals and developing a track record of success…
  10. Learn, learn, learn!… do your homework, do your homework!… don’t be afraid to initiate… carry through and evaluate any projects you undertake… don’t be naïve but do look for win-win opportunities that can bring different kinds of folks together… give yourselves credit for your accomplishments… keep learning!…
  11. Begin to see the wealth of interested citizen, media, and public resources at your disposal… and be a hard working and reliable resource for your town and other town boards!
  12. Develop maybe not all at once a long range vision that will sustain your commission’s work over the long haul… hold true to the “big picture” and the “long view” for your town and for your planet…

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