Author Archives: Christina W

About Christina W

Mass Audubon's Advocacy Associate

Help Shape Climate Planning for Massachusetts

You can help shape climate planning for the decade in Massachusetts!

Massachusetts has committed to reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This means that statewide, through a combination of strategies like reducing emissions and improving nature-based solutions, we will not emit more greenhouse gases than we can absorb and eliminate from the atmosphere.  

As part of this work, the state has been breaking down its climate plans into ten-year intervals. By mapping how the state will achieve its greenhouse gas emission reduction goals over ten-year periods, these plans serve as stepping stones to ensure that we can reach our longer-term climate goals. 

Now the state has released its next ten-year plan: the Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2030 (CECP). 

Photo credit: Phil Doyle

This is where you come in: the state is accepting public comments on the CECP through March 22. This is an important opportunity to use your voice and support climate action for Massachusetts!  

You can use our one-click alert to tell the state’s office of Energy and Environmental Affairs how important it is to ensure Massachusetts is setting strong statewide climate policies that benefit our communities, natural lands, and wildlife. This alert also includes specific points we want the state to address so the CECP can be even more effective. 

You can also add a personal story about why climate action matters to you. 

Speak up today! 

A Step Forward for Pollinator Protections

Pollinators in Massachusetts are now better protected from dangerous pesticides, thanks to new regulations passed this week. The state’s Pesticide Board Subcommittee has banned most pesticide products containing neonicotinoids from sale in retail stores, and restricted their use to only licensed pesticide applicators. 

Rusty patched bumble bee (photo credit: USFWS)

Neonicotinoid pesticides are harmful to pollinators like bees, butterflies, birds, and bats. When pollinator health declines, we also see ripple effects to our farms, food systems, and biodiversity. Mass Audubon and our partners have been urging increased regulations and transparency around the use of neonicotinoids – see our statement from Mass Audubon president David O’Neill on the impact of these new regulations. 

Special thanks to state Representative Carolyn Dykema, Attorney General Maura Healey, and our partners at the Massachusetts Pollinator Network for their consistent leadership on this issue, and to the many other legislators that put pressure on the state to move to action.  

Is your legislator on this list? If so, you can thank them for their advocacy using our one-step alert. Better yet, call their office to thank them – phone calls go a long way toward showing how valued their actions are! 

Massachusetts now joins Maryland, Connecticut, and Vermont as states leading on US neonicotinoid regulations. While there’s still more work to be done to reduce these pesticides’ remaining uses and educate consumers, this is an important step forward!

What’s Happening with the Next-generation Roadmap Bill?

Over the past few months, you’ve probably heard about an important climate change bill, An Act creating a next-generation roadmap for Massachusetts climate policy, making progress through the Massachusetts State House, with some bumps along the way. Here’s a recap of what’s been going on.

What’s in the bill?

The Next-generation Roadmap bill is a critical set of climate goals that will allow us to enact climate mitigation and adaptation strategies, protecting both the people and wildlife of Massachusetts from climate change’s worst impacts. This bill would establish targets to reach net zero emissions by 2050; expand support for clean renewables; ensure the prioritization of Environmental Justice communities that have historically suffered most from environmental degradation and public health impacts; and highlight the role of forests, farmlands and wetlands in capturing and storing carbon.

Photo credit: Phil Doyle

What’s the Roadmap’s current status?

At the end of the 2019-2020 legislative session, the legislature approved the bill and sent it to Governor Baker’s desk for his signature – the last step needed for it to become law. However, passing the bill that close to the session’s end meant that the Governor wasn’t able to make changes. He ultimately chose not to sign it, effectively vetoing the bill.

Now that a new legislative session has started, the legislature has already prioritized the re-filed Roadmap bill, passing it once more and sending it to the Governor’s desk for the second time. Importantly, this time the Governor had the ability to propose changes to the bill, and sent it back to the legislature with amendments.

What’s next?

The Governor’s changes to the Roadmap bill include:

  • A compromise emissions reduction goal of 45-50% by 2030, vs. the stricter 50% goal set by the original bill. Similarly, the Governor’s changes would set a 2040 emissions reduction goal of 65% vs. the original bill’s 75%
  • Changing sector-specific emissions reduction targets to recommendations rather than requirements
  • Loosening requirements and timelines for net-zero building stretch codes
  • Strengthening language around prioritization of Environmental Justice communities
  • Dropping opposition to more ambitious offshore wind targets

Now the legislature can decide to accept, reject, or further revise the Governor’s amendments. Mass Audubon is advocating for swift passage of the strongest version of the bill possible.

We’re nearly over the finish line! Once these climate goals are codified into law we can move to action, implementing the solutions we so urgently need.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup digest – January 2021

A sampling of news from Mass Audubon’s weekly advocacy updates – sign up here

Mass Audubon Weighs In

We provided input for this Huffington Post article on balancing solar expansion, agriculture, and open space protection.

Mass Audubon joined partners in urging the Biden-Harris Administration to reverse environmental rollbacks made over the last few years. This includes support for the Endangered Species Act and equitable conservation funding. And in their first few weeks, the Administration has filed a series of Executive Orders that include a directive to review the boundaries and conditions of several National Monuments, including the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts — an important first step toward restoring the site’s protections.

We also signed on opposing state Renewable Portfolio Standard revisions that weaken standards for biomass to qualify for financial incentives. Biomass energy, which relies on burning wood and other materials, should not be considered a non-emitting energy source, and can worsen air quality.

Policy News

Despite strong grassroots support, Governor Baker chose not to sign the Next-generation roadmap bill that would establish net-zero targets and ensure prioritization of Environmental Justice communities, among other goals. However, the bill was refiled at the start of the new legislative session, quickly passed again in the House and Senate, and is back on the Governor’s desk. This time, the legislature can overturn a veto or work with the Governor on amendments.

The Baker Administration released their 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap, detailing policies and strategies to combat climate change.

In other climate policy news, Massachusetts has officially signed on to the regional Transportation Climate Initiative Program (TCI-P), which aims to significantly reduce regional carbon emissions from our largest source, the transportation sector. Learn more about the TCI-P’s benefits and shortcomings.

The state Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program has released new toolkits, which include several Mass Audubon resources. The Program is also encouraging cities and towns considering applying for the FY22 MVP Action Grant application round to fill out a short Expression of Interest form.

Climate Central

→ Global heating could stabilize if net zero emissions are achieved
→ A record number of billion-dollar climate disasters took place in 2020
→ A federal appeals court has struck down the Trump Administration’s Clean Power Plan replacement
→ US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord 
→ Vineyard Wind has resumed its permitting process after temporarily withdrawing their construction and operation plan from review last month

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup digest – December 2020

A sampling of news from Mass Audubon’s weekly advocacy updates – sign up here

Action You Can Take

New England’s energy system is more polluting and expensive than it should be. Mass Audubon supports the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office’s efforts to improve energy market rules that promote affordable clean energy, healthy communities, and climate protection, and you can too.

Mass Audubon Weighs In

Five years in, the Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan is undergoing review to assess progress to date. We helped pass the legislation creating the Plan, and we’re weighing in again now, encouraging interconnected offshore wind planning that minimizes development impacts.

We joined partners in urging President-elect Biden to restore vital protections stripped this summer from the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument – the first marine national monument in the US Atlantic Ocean and home to critical and vulnerable ocean ecosystems.

Our Allens Pond and Great Neck Wildlife Sanctuaries have been awarded an EPA Southeast New England Program Watershed Grant to promote resilient ecosystems in that region. We’ll be supporting local outreach about the role habitat restoration plays in protecting communities from climate impacts.

We submitted comments during the state’s review of the Alternative Portfolio Standard, which provides financial incentives for energy efficiency and technologies to reduce emissions. We recommended more incentives for, and access to, zero-emission renewable heating technologies.

We also commented on a federal study of offshore wind construction methods. Environmentally responsible offshore wind development means avoiding impacts to marine mammals and other species, and the use of updated construction technology is critical.

Climate Central

→ This video explores Mass Audubon’s work helping restore floodplain forest along the Connecticut River
→ Sea level rise and coastal flooding threaten affordable housing
→ On bug boxes, climate grief, and human health

Celebrating 2020 Advocacy Wins

As we close out a challenging year, we are also taking a moment to be thankful for the many strides we made toward advancing environmental protections, which ranged from federal laws to local community action. These 2020 wins included:  

  • Advocating for the Great American Outdoors Act, which was signed into law. The new law includes $900 million annually in long-awaited permanent funding for the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund to protect our public lands, water resources, and cultural heritage.  
  • Filing a lawsuit with partners in federal court that challenges rollbacks to the Clean Water Act, which has helped safeguard America’s rivers, lakes, and other interconnected landscapes for nearly 50 years.  
  • Advancing state climate legislation, An Act to Create a 2050 Roadmap to a Clean & Thriving Commonwealth, which passed the House along with a related bill in the Senate. We are continuing to advocate for its final passage into law, and continued inclusion of strong environmental justice language and prioritization of natural climate solutions, before the session ends.
  • Producing the sixth edition of our statewide land use analysis, Losing Ground: Nature’s Value in a Changing Climate, highlighting the value of forests, farmlands, and wetlands for climate resilience. The rate of development has remained steady at around 13 acres/day, while the rate of conservation has increased 37% to 55 acres per day, reflecting success based on our state and local advocacy work.  
  • Securing revisions to the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target program, which provides financial incentives for solar energy projects. Our input centered on support for solar sited away from ecologically- and socially-valuable open space. We are continuing to push for more progress to reduce the loss of forests and farmlands while increasing the pace of solar projects on rooftops, parking lots, and other altered lands.  
  • Opposing state mosquito spraying legislation that would have been damaging to wetlands and wildlife.  We achieved major improvements, including a comprehensive review under the newly formed state Mosquito Control for the 21st Century Task Force, of which we are a member. As a warmer, wetter climate is enhancing mosquito breeding and increasing the frequency of outbreaks of mosquito-borne disease, we have an opportunity to overhaul our antiquated mosquito control system, which relies on widespread spraying of pesticides. We are pushing instead for ecologically-based approaches that will benefit human health and wildlife habitat while increasing climate resilience.   
  • Working with cities and towns on smart land use and resiliency planning through our Shaping Climate Resilient Communities Program, and reaching over 900 participants through our workshops. The program also produced new resources on the economic and health benefits our forests, wetlands, and other ecosystems provide us, and collaborated with partners to advance climate resilience in parts of Southeastern Massachusetts.   
  • Celebrating wins for the Community Preservation Act in nine more Massachusetts cities and towns. CPA is a smart growth tool that helps communities preserve open space and historic sites, create affordable housing, and develop outdoor recreational facilities. Nearly 32,000 acres of open space have been protected through CPA to date.  

Now we’re looking forward to 2021, when we’ll push the new administration to reverse recent environmental rollbacks, employ nature-based solutions, and continue advancing toward equitable climate action. Thanks to everyone that has taken action along the way by contacting elected officials, speaking up against damaging policy rollbacks, or working to improve resilience in your community. We’ll see you in the New Year!

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup digest – November 2020

A sampling of news from Mass Audubon’s weekly advocacy updates – sign up here

Action You Can Take

The state has completed a technical review of pesticides containing neonicotinoids, which confirms that these chemicals are harmful to pollinators. Mass Audubon and our partners are submitting testimony urging restrictions on these pesticides, and others can too.

Mass Audubon Weighs In

Mass Audubon contributed to this WBUR piece on how solar arrays and farms could coexist if done right. Farmland and forests are being lost to solar development at increasing rates, so dual-use solar farms should be piloted and studied before scaling up. This comes at a time when the state has drafted a proposal to expand solar siting on farmland – we submitted comments noting that while we need to quickly increase solar capacity and access, safeguards are needed to avoid impacts to land and farmers.

In other solar news, this Boston Globe poll asks readers their thoughts on whether Massachusetts was right to adopt new rules that limit financial incentives for solar projects on sensitive lands. Mass Audubon provided the “Yes” perspective – take a look.

We also submitted public comments noting concerns over the City of Boston’s proposed removal of 124 trees along Melnea Cass Boulevard. Development that removes older trees and replants new, smaller trees is unsustainable, given the greater cooling and carbon-absorbing benefits of mature trees – benefits especially needed in cities.

Policy News

In better news for urban trees, the state has announced the expansion of the Greening the Gateway Cities Program. This program works with 18 Gateway Cities throughout the state to increase tree canopy cover in urban residential areas, especially Environmental Justice neighborhoods.

Massachusetts’ Department of Public Utilities has opened an investigation to assess the future of natural gas in our state, in light of the goal of achieving net zero by 2050. We supported the petition requesting this investigation, and will be following its progress.

All nine communities with the Community Preservation Act on their ballots this election voted to adopt it, bringing the total number of CPA communities to 186. CPA helps cities and towns preserve open space and historic sites, create affordable housing, and improve outdoor recreation. And after state legislation passed last year to permanently increase revenue for the CPA Trust Fund, those benefits are now being realized, with the state announcing a 28.6% match on the first round this year – up 5% from last year.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup Digest – October 2020

A sampling of news from Mass Audubon’s weekly advocacy updates – sign up here

Actions You Can Take

The state is working to expand siting of solar installations on farmland, and while we need to quickly increase solar capacity and access, safeguards are also needed to avoid impacts to land and farmers. Today is the deadline to submit comments – we’ll be weighing in, and you can too.

Mass Audubon Weighs In

After delays related to COVID-19, state legislators are picking up again on FY21 budget planning. With our Green Budget Coalition, we are advocating for funding for state environmental agencies that protect our public land, water, and endangered species.

Mass Audubon and partners provided guidance to federal officials on their obligations for bird monitoring and mitigation under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This guidance focused on the construction and operation plan for Vineyard Wind, but should serve as an outline for all offshore wind projects.

We asked the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to adopt an ecosystem-based catch limit for menhaden, a small fish that serves as an important food source for larger fish, like striped bass, and other wildlife, from humpback whales to osprey. The Commission ultimately voted to reduce the quota by 10%, improving sustainability.

Osprey nesting at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary

Climate Central

→ Officials turning to Indigenous communities for guidance on wildfire management
→ This new tool provides neighborhood-level information on potential climate change vulnerabilities for every US community and county
→ Our changing climate: the message in our forecasts
→ Massachusetts has lost some ground in our latest state emissions inventory
→ The latest World Energy Outlook report looks at global energy use and emission trends for 2020
→ Massachusetts’ Attorney General’s office has released a new report on their efforts to fight environmental regulatory rollbacks

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup Digest – September 2020

A sampling of news from Mass Audubon’s weekly advocacy updates – sign up here

Actions You Can Take

Help keep up the pressure to get state climate legislation passed into law this session – ask your legislators to keep pushing for progress on emission reduction targets, equitable decision-making, and natural climate solutions.

Methane is more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, yet the federal government is rolling back methane pollution regulations. We can still act to collectively reduce these emissions.

Mass Audubon supports new federal legislation protecting communities and wildlife from harmful pesticides – you can help by asking your elected officials to sign on as cosponsors.

Pesticides pose a threat to grassland species like the Eastern Meadowlark. Photo credit: USFWS

Mass Audubon Weighs In

We opposed changes to the US Endangered Species Act that would narrow the definition of habitat and how it’s protected, and joined partners in opposing legislation weakening the Act.

Our Shaping the Future program is partnering with our conservation science staff and Allens Pond and Great Neck wildlife sanctuaries to enhance salt marsh resilience on the South Coast.

We provided input on the state’s Climate Resilience Design Standards and Guidelines, which will incorporate climate resilience into certain state projects.

Mass Audubon signed on as a member of the THRIVE Agenda, an economic renewal plan tackling the overlapping crises of racial injustice, climate change, unemployment, and public health.

We support responsibly developed offshore wind energy, but stronger protections are needed. We joined partners in expressing concern over failures to protect endangered marine mammals during offshore wind site surveys.

Horseshoe crab blood is used in vaccine and medication development, but this process is unsustainable for horseshoe crabs and species that depend on their eggs for food. We joined partners in calling for a synthetic alternative to be recognized for biomedical use.

Assawompset Pond, Lakeville, MA. Photo credit: Kevin Ham

Policy News

Communities have been awarded $11.1 million through the latest round of Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness grants. Mass Audubon will be assisting the towns of Lakeville and Plympton with projects improving watershed management and targeted land protection.

The state has released a new report about safety and environmental challenges posed by over 25,000 road stream crossings across the state, and community needs for addressing these issues.

Climate Central

→ Assessing climate vulnerability in Mass Audubon salt marshes 
→ Looking to land for climate solutions 
→ Massachusetts fire season: not so normal
→ Climate change could be fueling an “acceleration of pandemics”
→ Views That Matter: race and opinions on climate change of Boston area residents

Standing Up for Forests

Clean air. Safe drinking water. Social connection. Climate protection. 

What do these things have in common? They’re all benefits provided by forests. 

Photo credit: Eagle Eye Institute

Forests purify our air and water, and capture carbon from the atmosphere, helping to reduce the impacts of climate change (see our fact sheet on forest ecosystem services for more benefits). These services aren’t just good for the planet – they are vital to our health. For instance, thanks to their air filtration function, New England’s forests provide health benefits like reductions in respiratory illness, asthma, and hospitalization valuing $550 million per year. The current pandemic has further increased our dependence on forests as more people flock to the outdoors for recreation, relaxation, and restoration. 

The majority of New England’s forest land is unprotected, and given our area’s increasing population and high rates of development, forests are likely to continue to face threats in the future. Many cities across the U.S. are also experiencing declines in urban forest cover over time – a troubling trend since communities of color, low-income communities, and other vulnerable groups already face barriers to spending time in the outdoors, and are often more negatively impacted by air pollution and the urban heat island effect. These problems are compounded in urban areas that lack outdoor space. 

Whether you live in a city or the middle of the woods, our forests, parks, and green spaces provide an abundance of community services. Now more than ever we must care for, protect, and stand up for the forests that can keep us all healthy. 

Taking a Stand 

Mass Audubon is a member of the Northeast Forest Network, which has just launched a new Stand Up for Forests campaign that shines a light on the ways forests connect and sustain us. Check out and share the new messaging toolkit, Forests Make Us Healthier, to raise awareness about the value of trees, parks, and forests to community well-being and the need to invest in their protection and stewardship. 

Join us in amplifying the message that protecting forests from development and managing them well are among the most important things we can do to mitigate the impacts of climate change in the Northeast. To reach our goals, we’ll need policies that encourage smart, responsible land development, and that value and consider the most historically excluded neighborhoods when making land conservation and land use decisions. 

Get involved by taking the pledge to Stand Up for Forests today! 

Mass Audubon is working to protect forests every day. Here are a few of those ways: