Mass Audubon Receives Grant to Help Communities Restore Water Quality

Our Shaping the Future of Your Community program has received a grant from the Foundation for MetroWest to help communities protect and restore natural water balance and water quality through resilient landscapes. This work will focus on the MetroWest region of Massachusetts, which is experiencing climate change through more intense storm events punctuated by increased frequency of droughts – impacts that are only expected to worsen in the future. Events like these contribute to increased floods, erosion, and water pollution as well as periods of low or no flow in streams, which can stress fish and other aquatic life.

The impacts are amplified when we cover forests and fields that soak up and filter water with impervious surfaces, like sprawling developments and wide roads, that create water runoff that carries pollution into our waterways.

The Assabet River in Hudson, MA. Photo credit: John Phelan

We will introduce public and municipal officials to a more natural approach to land management through Low Impact Development (LID) and native plants. The project will demonstrate how local decisions can restore the water cycle and water quality while providing an attractive, high-quality landscape and improving climate resilience for current and future generations. The goal is to increase awareness and adoption of these cost-effective and practical techniques.

Our water resources are increasingly stressed, but conserving and restoring the natural landscape with native plants can offer social, environmental, and economic benefits.

 

Established in 1995, the Foundation for MetroWest is the only community foundation serving the 33 cities and towns in the region. The Foundation promotes philanthropy in the region, helps donors maximize the impact of their local giving, serve as a resource for local nonprofits and enhance the quality of life for all our residents. Since inception, the Foundation has granted $11.6 million to charitable organizations and currently stewards more than $15 million in charitable assets for current needs and future impact. 

Making Communities More Resilient

Work on the Massachusetts Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan kicked off last week with a meeting for stakeholders, where attendees heard presentations from state officials and from climate scientists from the Northeast Climate Science Center.

During the meeting, participants provided feedback and asked questions about climate-related variables and vulnerabilities. The discussion was lively, focusing on a number of key issues related to both climate adaptation and hazard mitigation. Topics included extreme precipitation, flood risk, and public health, among others. New resources for communities’ use as they begin planning for the impacts of climate change will be also available through the project website. The meeting was hosted by the Mass Emergency Management Agency, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and the State Plan Project Management Team, and was held at the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife headquarters in Westborough.

Installing rain gardens is a simple way for communities to reduce stormwater runoff.

Mass Audubon supports this administrative effort to develop a statewide climate action plan as a first step toward a comprehensive adaptation program, which we hope to see implemented through our priority legislation.

Presenters at the meeting also outlined how the statewide adaptation plan will work with the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program to foster climate adaptation practices at the local level. Mass Audubon is participating in the MVP program, with several staff members approved to receive training as as MVP-certified providers. Our Shaping the Future of Your Community program also offer resources for use in local resiliency planning, including an easy-to-use mapping tool and information on sustainable, low-impact development.

The state’s MVP program will provide support for municipalities across the Commonwealth to plan for climate resiliency, and providers will be trained to provide technical assistance to communities to complete vulnerability assessments and develop action-oriented resiliency plans.

Action You Can Take This Week – Water Protections Under Threat

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been ordered by the President to repeal a rule that defines wetlands and waterways protected nationwide under the Clean Water Act.

The “Waters of the United States” rule, issued in 2015, was developed following extensive scientific and public input.  Under the guise of returning power to the states, this repeal would eliminate protection for up to 60% of streams and wetlands, including areas that contribute to water supplies for 117 million people.

Photo credit: Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration

The EPA has opened a 30-day public comment period on the proposed repeal. Mass Audubon is submitting comments, and you can too. Ask EPA to keep protections in place for these streams and wetlands that are vital to both people and wildlife.

Water does not follow state boundaries. It is one of our most fundamental natural resources and must be protected, from headwater streams and vernal pools to main stem rivers and the ocean.

Action You Can Take This Week – Massachusetts Cultural Council

Last week Governor Baker reviewed and finalized the FY18 state budget, and there was certainly reason to celebrate – it included $250,000 for Blue Hills Trailside Museum’s annual operating budget.

Unfortunately though, during his review the Governor also vetoed line item funding (resulting in a 14% cut) for the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC), which provides funding for arts, humanities, and science programs. The legislature can still decide to override any of the Governor’s vetoes, which Mass Audubon will be encouraging them to do for these line item. You can encourage your legislator too!

The MCC has strengthened Mass Audubon’s ability to provide nature-based education to citizens across the Commonwealth by funding upgrades to our visitor centers. As a result of these contributions, we are able to accommodate increasing demand and ensure universal accessibility for people of all abilities.

Film Screening: An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

Mass Audubon members have a special opportunity to attend a pre-screening of An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power – the follow-up to former Vice President Al Gore’s Academy Award-winning film about climate change. Here’s the film description:

A decade after An Inconvenient Truth brought climate change into the heart of popular culture, comes the riveting and rousing follow-up that shows just how close we are to a real energy revolution. Vice President Al Gore continues his tireless fight traveling around the world training an army of climate champions and influencing international climate policy. Cameras follow him behind the scenes – in moments both private and public, funny and poignant — as he pursues the inspirational idea that while the stakes have never been higher, the perils of climate change can be overcome with human ingenuity and passion.

The screening will take place this Thursday, July 20th, at 7:30 p.m. at AMC Boston Common.

Passes will be distributed on a first-come-first-serve basis. For details visit: http://www.gofobo.com/MassAudubonAIS

 

Action You Can Take This Week: Hearing Needed for our Pollinator Bill

Our priority pollinator protection bill is still awaiting a hearing at the State House, which is a necessary step before the legislation is able to move forward to the House and Senate floor for a vote. Pollinators like bees, birds, butterflies, and bats help sustain our food supply and natural environment, and they are under threat by factors like habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change.

An Act to Protect Pollinators (S.451/H.2926) would establish a commission to investigate methods and solutions to protect and promote pollinators’ health. The bill is currently stalled before the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. You can help the bill along by contacting your legislators and asking them to make this bill a priority! Please ask them to push for a hearing to be scheduled. Thank you for your advocacy!

 

The Intern Intel Report #2: Summer 2017 Edition

Hello!  My name is Helen Moore and I am a new Conservation Policy Intern at Mass Audubon.  I am currently a senior at Marietta College majoring in English and minoring in Advertising and Public Relations.  While I study in Ohio, I am a New Englander at heart, having been raised in Connecticut and spending summers in Maine.  Throughout my life, I have spent large quantities of time on bodies of water; whether it’s a lake, river, or ocean, I have developed a familiarity and connection with the aquatic environment.

Up to now, I have experience with environmental cleanups in Connecticut, Ohio, and Maine.  When I joined my high school rowing team, the coaching staff and rowers had a tradition: the annual river cleanup day, where we cleaned the river we rowed on for 3-4 hours.  I then continued rowing for Marietta College, where we also dedicated hours to cleaning up the Muskingum River.  During the summers I live on Little Sebago Lake, Maine, and became involved with The Little Sebago Lake Association.  The organization primarily concentrates on the removal of the non-native, invasive plant called milfoil.  Growing up on this lake, I did not know of the environmental health hazards lying under the surface until this experience exposed me to the importance of maintaining certain species entering and exiting bodies of water.  I am reminded from Mass Audubon’s land and coastal preservation that it is important to manage invasive species so native species can flourish.

During this last year of school I plan to continue working toward my degree and hope to participate in more environmental cleanups, as well helping maintain conservation for land and waterways.  I want to further educate myself in public relations to help organizations such as Mass Audubon increase public awareness and engagement.  Over the course of this internship, I will be writing several blogs to document my experience learning about environmental advocacy and preservation.  I hope you will join me on this journey.

Action Alert: Critical Time for Trailside’s Budget

Late last week, the conference committee in charge of reconciling the House and Senate versions of the state budget released their $40.2 billion version. Now the budget heads to Governor Baker’s desk for his approval, where he can veto or reduce line-item funding.

Right now, $250,000 has been allocated to Mass Audubon’s Blue Hills Trailside Museum for FY18. This funding is more important than ever; due to a downturn in state revenues Trailside received no operating funds last year, and this year’s allocation represents only a fraction of what is needed to sustain Trailside and its public programs.

Trailside Museum Sanctuary Director Norman Smith educating visitors. Photo © Kent Harnois

Trailside is the interpretive center for the state-owned Blue Hills Reservation and features a natural history museum and outdoor exhibits of rescued wildlife. Mass Audubon operates the museum in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, which means we receive a crucial component of Trailside’s funding through the state budget each fiscal year. Trailside welcomes more than 100,000 visitors a year and is home to the Snowy Owl Project.

We must ensure that Governor Baker retains this funding in the budget and you can help! Call Governor Baker’s office at 617-725-4005 (or use the email form here) and ask him to support Trailside funding (within line item 2810-0100) in the state budget.

Thank you for your advocacy!

Add Your Voice to Protection of our National Monuments

Add your input to help protect the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. Let the US Department of the Interior know that you fully support this extraordinary place’s designation as a National Monument, and ask Secretary Zinke not to modify its boundaries, management, or allowed uses. The comment deadline is today, July 10. 

The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument is home to our region’s most dramatic ocean features. The area encompasses the only seamounts (extinct underwater volcanoes) in the U.S. Atlantic Ocean as well as canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon. Scientists have shown it is a hot-spot for wide range and a high number of sensitive species, including 1,000 year old deep-sea coral communities and endangered whales and sea turtles. Mass Audubon also signed onto a letter to the Massachusetts congressional delegation expressing our concern about the Trump Administration’s Executive Order calling for the review of this and two dozen other National Monuments.

Action You Can Take This Week: CPA Trust Fund

Last month, the state Senate approved an amendment to the FY18 state budget that would increase the state match for Community Preservation Act (CPA) communities. Without immediate action to adjust the recording fees at the state’s Registries of Deeds, the CPA Trust Fund distribution for the 172 participating communities will plunge to an all-time low of approximately 11% of locally-raised revenues in 2018.

When CPA was signed into law by Governor Cellucci in 2000, it was heralded as a true partnership between the Commonwealth and local communities. Today however, a large gap has developed between the approximately $150 million invested annually by the 172 CPA cities and towns and the $26 million contributed by the state.  A nominal $25 adjustment in recording fees would increase the base CPA state match to approximately 32%, which is the historic average distribution over the last eight years.

A conference committee is now reconciling the House and Senate versions of the budget. Because the CPA amendment was only included in the Senate’s version of the budget, the House side of the conference committee must agree to keep it in the final version. We need to make sure this happens, and you can help!

Please call your state Representative and ask him/her to contact the offices of Speaker Robert DeLeo, Ways & Means Chairman Brian Dempsey, and the rest of the budget conference committee and encourage them to include the CPA Trust Fund increase in the final FY18 budget. You can let them know that increasing the Trust Fund will help advance land protection and sustainable development for communities across the Commonwealth.

Learn more about CPA and our Community Preservation Coalition.