BOSTON (AP) - The highest court in Massachusetts has ruled that conservation land in the state is not subject to property taxes, a setback to cities and towns eyeing a new revenue stream.

The Supreme Judicial Court's unanimous decision issued Thursday was a victory for groups including the Nature Conservancy and the Massachusetts Audubon Society, which worried that a loss would impede their ability to buy land and protect it from development if they were forced to pay taxes.

Frank Lowenstein, deputy director of the New England Forestry Foundation, which brought the case in response to a $173 tax bill, tells The Boston Globe a loss would have hampered "the viability of conservation charities."

Geoffrey Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, said the decision could financially burden many communities.