Saving the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Massachusetts is fortunate to have spectacular seashores, wildlife refuges, and national scenic trails that contribute to a $16.2 billion outdoor recreation economy. Many of these places have been protected thanks in part to the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), America’s most important program to conserve irreplaceable lands and improve outdoor recreation opportunities throughout the nation.

For 52 years, the LWCF has protected national parks and open spaces in every corner of the United States. In Massachusetts, LWCF has invested more than $223 million to protect this sites like Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, the New England National Scenic Trail, and Cape Cod National Seashore (see the Spotlight on Massachusetts: LWCF fact sheet).

Without action by Congress, the LWCF’s authorization will expire on September 30, 2018.

The Cape Cod National Seashore, protected in part thanks to LWCF funding, is visited by over 4 million people annually. Photo credit: Karen Regan, National Park Service

As a member of the LWCF Coalition, this week we are spreading the #SaveLWCF message to save our natural and historic treasures in Massachusetts. If the LWCF disappears, so too will opportunities for future protection of the places we love.

Learn how you can help #SaveLWCF on the Coalition website.

Speak up for Marine Monuments

The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts national monument, one of our country’s most special places, remains at risk of cuts to its protections. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has recommended that President Trump alter the way several national monuments are managed, including the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts off the New England coast – the only marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean. The recommendation to reduce the size or protections of ten monuments nationwide was made despite a public comment period during which, according to Secretary Zinke’s report, “comments received were overwhelmingly in favor of maintaining existing monuments.”

The mytilus seamount, part of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, is home to a diverse array of corals. Photo credit: NOAA

Please remind our US Senators and Representatives to voice their opposition to this decision. Ask them to tell President Trump that cutting protections for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts is unacceptable. Changes in the monument’s protections could put endangered whales, deep-sea corals, and other rare marine life at risk.

These proposed changes also come at a time when our offshore areas are already threatened by a recent federal proposal to expand offshore oil and gas drilling.

 

A Closer Look at Coastal Buyback

With Massachusetts’ climate change adaptation needs frequently in the news following our series of recent storms, the possibility of a voluntary coastal buyback program has been getting more attention. A coastal buyback program, which is one proposed solution in our priority adaptation bill, would allow the state to purchase properties that suffer chronic storm damage.

Photo credit: FEMA

Some coastal homes have had to be repeatedly rebuilt or moved back from the beach following severe storms. A buyback program would offer an alternative for property owners and would save building and flood insurance costs. Reclaimed property would be returned to communities, and allowing the land to return to its natural state would restore barriers to flooding and provide a more resilient landscape. This process of property owners choosing not to rebuild after a storm and instead relocating away from the vulnerable shoreline, also known as managed retreat, ties into public safety as well.

Mass Audubon’s Jack Clarke recently spoke with Fox25 Boston and WBGH on the proposed buyback program. He also offers some input during this short WGBH radio segment:

 

Big News for Climate Adaptation Funding

Mass Audubon staff joined Governor Charlie Baker, state officials, and nonprofit partners on the windy shores of Scituate last week where the Governor announced the filing of a 5-year, $1.4 billion capital spending bond. The good news for us: the proposed bond includes several aspects of our priority climate change adaptation bill.

As proposed, the bond would codify into law requirements for vulnerability assessments based on future climate change impacts, positions for science and state agency climate coordinators, and the statewide Integrated Hazard Mitigation and Climate Change Adaptation Plan. It also requires ongoing support and an increase in funding for the state Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program, through which several Mass Audubon staff have been certified as trainers. Boosts in funding are also proposed for existing programs like the state’s Clean Water Trust Fund, state parks, and forest land protection programs.

Mass Audubon advocacy director Jack Clarke, Governor Charlie Baker, and Mass Audubon president Gary Clayton at the bond announcement in Scituate

The bond does not include every component of our adaptation bill. For instance, we would like to see its voluntary coastal buyback provision included, which would authorize the state to purchase storm-damaged properties along the shore. But it’s still a huge step toward implementing goals we’ve been advocating for over the past five years. Our job now is to work with the legislature to further strengthen and improve the bond, and get it back on Governor Baker’s desk soon for his signature.

With support from Governor Baker and Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs Secretary Matt Beaton, we hope we have the momentum we need this time to get climate adaptation measures signed into law.

Learn more about the bond’s funding breakdown and see what Mass Audubon advocacy director Jack Clarke had to say in this WBUR piece on the announcement, and in this Salem News article.

And you can read the language of the bond itself here.

Adaptation Needs in the News

Massachusetts’ climate change adaptation needs have continued to top the headlines over the past week, as communities around the state are still reeling from the impacts of recent storms. Here’s some of the recent coverage:

TV

Radio:

  • WBUR’s story about recent storms, and the questions they’ve raised about how to protect our cities
  • Jack Clarke offering input on the coastal buy-back provisions of our Comprehensive Adaptation Management Plan (CAMP) bill during a WGBH segment:

 

Newspapers/online

  • The lead editorial in this Sunday’s Boston Globe focuses on “a must-do list for climate change in Greater Boston”
  • An earlier look by The Boston Globe’s at some of the recent storm damage, with input from Mass Audubon
  • State House News Service reports on our Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Coalition’s efforts to urge House leadership to take action on CAMP
  • WGBH’s piece on State House dynamics that have led to challenges in getting CAMP passed
  • This Banker and Tradesman column by A Better City’s Rick Dimino (who’s also a member of our Climate Change Adaptation Coalition) encourages the House to pass CAMP from a business standpoint

Jack Clarke discussing adaptation needs on The Take with Sue O’Connell

Senator Pacheco Speaks Out on Adaptation Needs

In light of recent storms, Massachusetts state senator Marc Pacheco, the lead sponsor of our climate change adaptation bill, gave a rousing speech on the Senate floor today on the critical need for action on adaptation planning. Here’s the speech in its entirety:

March 5th, informal session.

Senate President Pro Tempore Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton): “This year, we saw two hundred-year storms in a matter of two months. We had homes underwater and almost half a million people in Massachusetts without power. Roads were closed, and people were asked to evacuate. Nine people died – one right here in Massachusetts. Public safety officials tell us that the flooding is the worst that they have seen. If there’s ever a time to get climate readiness and climate adaptation into statute, it’s now.

In November, the Massachusetts State Senate passed legislation to create a climate adaptation management plan, and this is the fifth time we have done so. We should see the writing on the wall. If gone unchecked, severe weather will wreak immense havoc on Massachusetts. It’s already happening. It continues to happen.

Our communities, our cities and towns, are facing serious financial risks. Homes are being destroyed, properties are being ravaged. Moody’s Investor Services has already warned us that inaction will lead to costly credit downgrades. A report from Tufts University estimated that if the United States does not act to solve the global warming crisis, it will cost the economy $3.8 trillion annually by 2100.

In 2017, 16 weather and climate disaster events resulted in losses exceeding $306 billion across the United States. Overall, these events resulted in the deaths of 362 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted.

We have the ability to protect ourselves and our communities, but we need the political will in place to take action. Climate adaptation recommendations need to become requirements in state law.

Our bill directs key state agencies to develop a comprehensive adaptation management action plan. It also creates a climate adaptation grant program and creates a coastal buyback program. We – the Senate, the House and the Baker administration – need to get this done and put it into statute.

And if we truly want to be proactive and prevent the worst effects of global climate change in the future, then we, Mr. President, need to enact a comprehensive clean energy strategy immediately. What we are presently doing is just not enough. It may be more than many other states are doing, and we pat ourselves on the back for it, but it clearly is not enough.

The Global Warming and Climate Change Committee has submitted a bi-partisan, unanimously voted-on, omnibus clean energy bill to the Senate Ways and Means Committee. We look forward to the committee’s work on this bill, and hopefully we will see it before the Senate soon so that we can have the opportunity to take it up and send it over to the House. Let’s get it done.

In conclusion, Mr. President, I want to thank the countless numbers of firefighters, police officers, emergency medical personnel, the men and women out there on the electrical poles bringing back power, all across the Commonwealth and across New England, doing so in a very, very dangerous time, during and at the end of these storms, when their lives are also placed in danger and harm’s way because of live wires, because of things they can’t see, below the water level, in areas that are flooded. And we haven’t even come close to estimating the financial costs associated with these terrible days that we have just experienced. I saw my colleague, the minority leader, and the Governor, on a shoreline, actually out there and seeing what has happened along the coastline.

I want to thank the Baker administration publicly for some of the work they have been doing relative to climate adaptation as a result of an agreement done back when we did the Energy Diversity Bill. Our minority leader and myself and many others were very involved in that. To the extent that there is work being done, it came as a result of dialogue around the Energy Diversity Bill.

But I wanted to come to the floor today to get this on the public record, under the rule we’ve set aside to do this periodically, and I think this is one of the first times that we’ve used it. And I plan on using this rule more and more and more on this issue. Because I mentioned $306 billion, nationally – where does that money come from, Mr. President? I’ll tell you where it comes from, it comes away from public education, it comes from public safety, it comes away from protecting our environment, it comes away from funding our roads and bridges. It comes away from everything that we care about in terms of the core services of running a government. That’s where those moneys are coming from. So I urge us today to recommit ourselves to ensuring that we will get these things done. Because it is urgent that we do so.

Thank you, Mr. President.”

Meeting with Congressman Moulton

It’s been a busy few weeks of meeting with our congressional delegation! In the latest of our series of meetings, Mass Audubon and our partners met last week with Congressman Seth Moulton at his district office in Salem.

We discussed issues like the proposed Hydro-Quebec project, and related reservoir flooding and river diversions. We also explained our concerns about the federal legislation that would alter the management of a portion of Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. The bill, filed by Massachusetts Congressman William Keating on behalf of the town of Chatham, is a misguided attempt to clarify a disagreement over management of the Refuge’s western boundary, but if passed would create a dangerous precedent for future legislation by others to give away, strip or weaken federal control over protected lands. We have instead been encouraging a negotiated, collaborative solution to be arrived at in Chatham Town Hall.

For these reasons, we encouraged Congressman Moulton to oppose the federal boundary change if it comes to a vote.

A scene from Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge in Chatham

A Conversation with Congressman Capuano

Continuing our series of meetings with the Massachusetts congressional delegation, Mass Audubon and our partners met with Congressman Michael Capuano at his district office in Cambridge.

These meetings have been part of Mass Audubon’s strategy for ramping up environmental advocacy at the federal level through collaboration with partner groups and conversations with our government officials.

Pictured from L-R: Mass Audubon honorary board member Teri Henderson, Mass Audubon president Gary Clayton, Congressman Michael Capuano, Mass Audubon advocacy director Jack Clarke, Conservation Law Foundation president Brad Campbell and the Trust for Public Land’s Kevin Essington

During our meeting with Congressman Capuano, we focused on issues like funding for the Environmental Protection Agency in the federal budget, the expansion of oil and gas drilling off the New England coast, and protecting our national marine monuments.

He also shared his admiration for the work of Mass Audubon’s Boston Nature Center, located in his district. The Boston Nature Center is a community-based urban sanctuary that offers education programs and public trails just outside of downtown.

Our conversation was a productive one, and hearing from Congressman Capuano gave us additional insight into the national political scene. We’ll be keeping up the momentum with a meeting with Congressman Seth Moulton next week.

Mass Audubon Visits DC

Last week, Mass Audubon traveled to Capitol Hill to discuss federal conservation priorities during the first-ever Independent Audubon Societies’ lobby day. Our Legislative Director Karen Heymann met with congressional staff for Congressman Moulton, Congressman Neal, Congressman Kennedy and Congressman McGovern and Senator Warren.

Mass Audubon’s Legislative Director Karen Heymann, third from right, with representatives from other independent Audubons around the country

Independent Audubon staff from 9 regions of the country participated in the lobby day. Pressing federal priorities for our coalition include passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, permanent authorization and funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, defense of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, opposition to offshore oil and gas drilling, and funding for environmental agencies.

The event was a great opportunity not only to speak with decision makers on Capitol Hill, but also to learn about the work of other Audubon networks across the US. Mass Audubon represented the largest membership base of all the groups.

In addition to speaking with Massachusetts legislators, Mass Audubon also met as part of a group to discuss national environmental issues with other states. Pictured here from left to right: Karen Heymann; Lisa Alexander, Executive Director, Audubon Naturalist Society; Patrick Comins, Executive Director, The Connecticut Audubon Society; and Jordan Ebert, Legislative Aide to Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kansas). Photo credit: Audubon Naturalist Society

 

Congressman Kennedy Comes to Oak Knoll

Mass Audubon and several of our environmental partner groups met recently with Congressman Joe Kennedy, III at our Oak Knoll Wildlife Sanctuary in Attleboro, where we discussed the role of activism in Washington in these challenging times.

Representing Mass Audubon at the meeting were president Gary Clayton, advocacy director Jack Clarke, honorary board member and volunteer Teri Henderson, and our Oak Knoll team. The group provided some background for the Congressman on our federal environmental priorities, like protecting our coasts from offshore oil and gas drilling.

Mass Audubon’s Jack Clarke with Congressman Kennedy

Congressman Kennedy reminded the group that while there is much activity on Capitol Hill these days that gives cause for alarm, it has also sparked a resurgence in public engagement in the political process. He is seeing more people getting involved through activism, especially locally. This kind of engagement is critical for a healthy democracy.

He also noted that it’s not enough to just speak out against what’s happening in Washington; we must actively work to create a viable alternative. We’ll be keeping up that proactive approach as we continue engaging our leaders on making the best environmental policy decisions they can, both at the federal and local levels.