New legislation that could be damaging to Massachusetts wetlands and wildlife is on the move at the State House. Learn more about why this bill is the wrong choice for mosquito control, and how you can help.
This week Mass Audubon president Gary Clayton is retiring after more than 30 years with our organization. We’ll miss his warmth, passion for nature, and the strong example he set as a leader. Thank you, Gary, for all your years of service!
Climate Action on the Cape
Mass Audubon signed on to support a Cape Cod Climate Emergency Declaration, coordinated by local groups in the region mobilizing to address the climate crisis. To date 1,300 governments around the world have declared climate emergencies, including municipalities like Amherst, Boston, and Worcester.
New MVP Funding Available
The state’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program has opened its next funding round for Planning and Action grants. Mass Audubon is a certified provider for the program, which helps communities plan for climate change and improve their resilience.
Small Fish, Big Role in our Ecosystems
Good news for seabirds and other species that feed on small fish known as sand lances – a new state regulation will reduce their overfishing. Thanks to the Division of Marine Fisheries for making this change! Mass Audubon also consulted on a recent paper on sand lances’ importance for Atlantic Ocean ecosystems.
Poll of the Week
A new Yale poll finds that a majority of American voters support financial relief for renewable energy companies, rather than bailouts for oil and gas companies, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Update 7/23/2020: The revised bill has been signed into law by the Governor.
We’ll now be following its implementation closely through the state’s Mosquito Control for a 21st Century Task Force, which will include advocating for statewide reform of Massachusetts’ approach to mosquito control to improve environmental and public health practices.
The revised bill no longer allows the Reclamation Board to override all state laws, and creates a task force to review and propose updates to the state’s mosquito control system, based on science. It also includes notification and reporting requirements for aerial or other wide-scale pesticide applications. Mass Audubon supports these proposed revisions, and now the new bill is headed to the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing for further approval.
Thanks to everyone that submitted testimony or contacted committee members – advocacy around this bill by conservation groups and others made a big difference. While this redraft marks progress, we are also still hoping to see additional changes.
Original post: A bill is moving through the state’s Joint Committee on Public Health that could be damaging to Massachusetts wetlands and wildlife, and counterproductive to public health concerns.
An Act to Mitigate Arbovirus in the Commonwealth (H.4650), proposed by Governor Baker, aims to address mosquito borne disease, but it goes much too far. The bill would exempt the State Reclamation and Mosquito Control Board from all state laws and allow them to conduct mosquito eradication measures anywhere in the Commonwealth. This proposed change is based on a determination by the state Department of Public Health (DPH) that there may be a threat of mosquito borne disease somewhere in the state in the next year, but this is too vague a standard to result in such drastic measures.
The way the bill is written, there is no minimum threshold for these actions to kick in, no opportunity for input from affected communities or landowners, and no expiration date. The Reclamation Board would be exempt from all state laws, including Massachusetts’ Open Meeting Law, Public Records Act, and environmental laws like the Endangered Species and Wetlands Protection Acts.
Mass Audubon supports the recommendations of the national Centers for Disease Control and US Environmental Protection Agency calling for a science-based mosquito-borne disease management program, with the goal of protecting public health while minimizing environmental and human health risks associated with some types of mosquito control. Spraying of pesticides to control adult mosquitoes is the least effective, and most environmentally damaging, method.
Reform is needed for mosquito control in Massachusetts, since our existing systems are antiquated and fragmented. But this bill won’t achieve those reforms, instead giving more clout to the existing broken systems.
The proposed legislation is of particular concern at a time when many people are seeking to reduce their exposures to chemicals. More and more people are growing their own food and managing their yards and gardens with minimal or no pesticides, both to protect their own health and for the benefit of wild pollinators, which are in serious decline. This bill would eliminate landowner’s rights to be excluded from routine pesticide spraying.
Mass Audubon is opposing this bill at the State House and encouraging the Public Health Committee to reject it.
You can help by opposing the bill too.
Contact the Joint Committee on Public Health and let them know that this bill is too broad, putting wildlife and water supplies at risk, and that it lacks transparency by not providing a role for local boards of health or environmental groups.
Please include “PUBLIC HEALTH TESTIMONY” in the subject line of the email, and include the name, title and organization (if applicable), address, and telephone number of the person submitting testimony.
The state released its formal letter of determination for reaching net zero emissions by 2050. Their plan includes offsetting a portion of remaining emissions through sequestration by natural sources like trees—which means land protection must play a critical role.
Op Ed: Science Matters
The latest op ed from our advocacy director highlights the need for science-driven decisions in both public health and climate change policy-making. As we learn more about our vulnerabilities, we can save lives by preparing today.
Funding Opportunity for Watershed Health
Restore America’s Estuaries Southeast New England Program (SNEP) Watershed Grants fund projects that help restore clean water and healthy ecosystems to the region. Applications are being accepted through May 29.
This Earth Day, Let’s Commit to our Planet’s Health
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our concept of business-as-usual upside down. But when it comes to our environmental safeguards, business-as-usual wasn’t good enough to begin with. It’s time to reassess how stronger environmental policies mean stronger public health policies. Learn more >
Massachusetts has updated its solar energy program to expand capacity, direct projects away from important natural lands, and increase access for low-income projects. Smart solar siting is a Mass Audubon priority – stay tuned for more on what these changes mean.
Sign to Support Nonprofits
Our colleagues at the New England Aquarium have created a petition urging Congress to provide emergency relief funding to U.S. aquariums, zoos, and other nonprofit cultural organizations that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. You can help: sign today!
States Oppose EPA Rollbacks
Adding to the list of state leaders that have spoken out against environmental rollbacks during this pandemic, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and thirteen other state AGs have urged the EPA to rescind the changes.
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our concept of business-as-usual upside down. But when it comes to environmental safeguards, business-as-usual wasn’t good enough to begin with. The COVID crisis has only further brought to light the need to keep pushing for stronger policies to protect our air and water, our climate, and our most vulnerable populations.
As we celebrate Earth Week in the midst of communities coping with the far-reaching impacts of this pandemic, it’s the perfect time to reassess how stronger environmental policies also mean stronger public health policies.
Our Shared Public Health
The current pandemic has served as an important reminder of our shared responsibility to protect public health, and it’s been inspiring to see communities coming together to support and protect each other. But once the pandemic ends, there are still pressing public health issues that need our attention, like air and water pollution. More than 70,000 people in the US are estimated to die from air pollution impacts annually. Communities in areas with higher air pollution also face a higher risk from COVID-19.
Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency has recently taken measures that will worsen pollution. By rolling back enforcement of environmental regulations during the pandemic, they are essentially ceasing to hold companies accountable for pollution until further notice. Mass Audubon and other environmental groups have been speaking out against this decision.
Previously-announced rollbacks on federal clean car standards were also recently finalized. Fortunately, there is still a chance to reverse this decision in court, and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is helping lead the charge.
This all comes at a time when we need to be buckling down on stronger pollution enforcement policies, not weakening them. The year 2020 is also when countries participating in the Paris Climate Agreement will be updating their targets. While the US is set to withdraw from the Agreement in November, it’s more important than ever for states like Massachusetts, along with communities, businesses, faith groups, and health organizations, to demonstrate bold commitments to our greenhouse gas reduction goals.
An Opportunity to Do Better
Despite these rollbacks, we have an opportunity here to reassess our priorities. What if we truly viewed pollution and the climate crisis as the wide-reaching public health issues they are? What if once we recover from this pandemic, we pivot toward addressing those urgent issues by cutting emissions and supporting our most impacted communities?
Here are a few ways you can help us get started:
Contact the EPAto tell them you oppose the recent environmental rollbacks. Let them know that our collective response to the COVID-19 crisis shouldn’t come at the expense of other public health and climate protection measures.
Share student climate stories. As a Youth Climate Strike partner, we’re helping Boston event organizers gather students’ stories on how the climate crisis has impacted them – particularly those from marginalized and frontline communities. A good opportunity if you’re home with kids, are a student yourself, or just want to spread the word!
Make the switch. By choosing to add more renewable energy into your electricity supply, you can add more clean power – and remove fossil fuel use – from the grid. It only takes a few minutes! Live in a city or town that participates in Community Choice Aggregation? See if there’s an option to “opt up” to cleaner power for your home.
Despite living in challenging times, we’ve banded together worldwide to take action and protect our most vulnerable from the threat of COVID-19. This Earth Day, let’s pledge to carry that action forward to protect the biggest public health resource for our global community – a healthy planet.
April 22 is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, which has always served as a reminder of our power to protect our planet and effect change. All month, Mass Audubon is celebrating this year’s theme of climate action. Join us!
New Leadership at Mass Audubon
We are excited to welcome David O’Neill as the new President of Mass Audubon! David has dedicated his professional career to conservation, and most recently served as Chief Conservation Officer and Senior Advisor to the CEO of National Audubon Society. Meet David >
Shaping Massachusetts’ Net-zero Vision
As a member of the Alliance for Clean Energy Solutions, Mass Audubon provided input on the state’s Determination of Statewide Emissions Limit for 2050. We support a 2050 net-zero requirement, and made additional recommendations like ensuring equity and social justice measures.
COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Webinars
Our Southeast New England Network is hosting a series of lunchtime webinar discussions focused on how we can respond to the pandemic in a way that builds a stronger and more resilient New England. Learn more and register >
Defending US Water Protections
Mass Audubon joined our conservation partners in writing to US House and Senate leadership to ask that future stimulus packages include funding for water infrastructure programs, which are critical for minimizing pollution and ensuring clean drinking water access.
Federal Stimulus Support
We also urged the Massachusetts congressional delegation to ensure that COVID-19 relief includes investments in sustainable development and clean energy. By protecting our natural resources, we can also create crucial jobs to stimulate the nation’s recovery.
Mass Audubon is a Youth Climate Strike partner, and with the shift to a virtual format, Boston event organizers are asking students to share their climate stories. If you’re home with kids, are a student yourself, or want to spread the word, learn more!
→ Carbon emissions are down, but not for long → This new study highlights the importance of soils for climate change mitigation
State Leaders Speak out on Rollbacks
Massachusetts Senators Markey and Warren have both been speaking out strongly against the EPA’s rollbacks on pollution regulations. They both joined in a group letter urging EPA to halt the changes, then sent their own letter demanding more answers.
Impacts of COVID-19 on the State Budget
Given the economic impacts of COVID-19, significant changes are expected for Massachusetts’ FY21 state budget. We’re staying informed and are still advocating for environmental program funding, as many of our requests will lead to green jobs that will be needed once the pandemic ends.
The Trump administration is rolling back enforcement of environmental regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic, essentially ceasing to hold companies accountable for pollution until further notice. Mass Audubon and other environmental groups spoke out about this decision to The Boston Globe.
Supporting River and Wetland Health
Earlier this month, the state Division of Ecological Restoration announced new funding awarded to projects that will remove aging dams, restore floodplain habitat, and improve resilience to climate change. Mass Audubon’s Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary is among the recipients.
Funding Opportunity to Improve Water Quality
MassDEP is holding an informational call on April 8 about their 604(b) grant program, ahead of issuing their Request for Responses later this month. Potential grant applicants are encouraged to participate in the call to discuss new project ideas.
Although Mass Audubon’s sanctuaries are currently closed due to the stay-at-home advisory, we have citizen science projects and activities for kids you can do closer to home. Stay tuned for more ways to take action and support your community during these challenging times.
Update from the State House
As we’ve all been adjusting to our new normal over the past few weeks, activity at the State House has redirected—but it hasn’t stopped. Here’s a quick recap on what’s been happening, from COVID-19 relief to old growth forest protections.
→ The state Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program is holding April webinars on how to apply for funding.
Speaking Up for Environmental Protections
Mass Audubon recently joined with our conservation partners to oppose two damaging changes to federal environmental laws—loosening enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and proposed “updates” to the National Environmental Policy Act that violate the law’s intent.
Free Technical Assistance Opportunity
The Southeast New England (SNEP) Network is offering communities in that region the opportunity to apply for free technical and training assistance for stormwater management and ecological restoration. Mass Audubon is a SNEP Network partner. Learn more & apply >
As we all adjust to our new normal over these past few weeks during the COVID-19 crisis, activity at the State House has redirected, but hasn’t stopped. Here’s a quick recap on what’s been happening.
COVID-19 Relief Legislation
The Massachusetts state legislature has
introduced 26 different bills (and counting) to address the current pandemic. These
proposals range from creating a COVID-19 Quarantine Assistance Fund that to
assist residents who are unable to earn wages due to infection or quarantine,
to directing the department of revenue to send a $1,000 check to households who
meet certain income criteria.
So far, the only bill that has been signed into law is S.2599, Governor Baker’s bill that waives the one week waiting period for those qualifying for unemployment.
At the federal level, congress is also working on several proposed bills to address the pandemic. One has passed so far: TheFamilies First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) was signed into law by President Trump last week. Its components include:
Providing free COVID-19 testing to the public, with no copays or deductibles.
Requiring employers with 500 or fewer employees to provide two weeks paid sick leave to employees unable to work due to quarantine or for the care of someone with COVID-19 (and provide related tax credits to the employer)
Providing $1 billion in state grants to assist in unemployment claims
Increasing funding for SNAP and WIC nutrition benefit programs.
It is expected that the Massachusetts state budget
will be delayed, and that once it does go through, there will be reduced
spending across all sectors. We’ll still continue to push for our Green Budget
priorities, since state environmental office and programs continue to need all
the support they can get.
Old Growth Forest Protections
We were pleasantly
surprised to see our priority
legislation improving protections for old growth forests was reported
favorably out of committee last week. Now it awaits approval by the Senate
Committee on Ways and Means before it can head to the House and Senate floor