Author Archives: Christina W

About Christina W

Mass Audubon's Advocacy Associate

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – May 5, 2019

Thank Your Congressperson for Supporting Climate Action

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons user Arthurguo (Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)

Last week Congress passed the Climate Action Now Act to uphold US commitment to the Paris climate agreement. It’s the first large-scale climate change legislation to pass congress in nearly 10 years, and Massachusetts’ delegation unanimously voted yes. Please take a minute to contact your representative to thank them for taking climate action.

Meeting with Congressman Moulton

Mass Audubon and our environmental partners met with Congressman Seth Moulton last week at his Salem office, where our discussion included topics like conservation funding and regional marine fisheries issues. Learn more about the meeting.

Climate Central

Photo credit: Zeynel Cebeci

A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change program manager

Upholding National Environmental Protections

Green sea turtle photo credit: NOAA

We joined partners in opposing changes in the Navy’s compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. The proposed revision would make it easier to approve projects that adversely affect endangered and threatened species

Coastal Protections at Risk

We also submitted joint comments on proposed changes to the Coastal Zone Management Act, which would weaken state-level review of federal coastal development projects. This is especially problematic at a time when expanded offshore oil and gas drilling has been proposed at the federal level.

Offshore Drilling Expansion Delayed

Humpback whales are among the many species whose habitat could be impacted by an expansion in offshore drilling. Photo credit: NOAA

Good news though – federal plans to expand offshore drilling have been postponed. The delay is largely due to a recent court decision upholding protections in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. While this news is encouraging, a delay doesn’t mean our fight is over, so we’ll be keeping it up.

Poll of the Week

According to a MassInc poll, 68% of Massachusetts voters support the creation of a regional carbon-trading plan for transportation.

Meeting with Congressman Moulton

Last week, Mass Audubon and our environmental partners met with Congressman Seth Moulton and his staff at their Salem office. We discussed a wide range of issues, from chemical contamination of drinking water supplies at military sites, to regional marine fisheries issues.

We also focused on funding mechanisms for conservation, including the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, securing annual funding for which is one of our key federal priorities.

Congressman Moulton with Jack Clarke, Mass Audubon’s director of public policy & government relations

Our conversation emphasized the need for fact-based decision-making and bipartisan dialogue. We look forward to continuing this work with the Congressman as we advocate for federal policies that uphold and strengthen our environmental protections.

In addition to Mass Audubon, the other groups in attendance included Appalachian Mountain Club, Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental League of Massachusetts, The Nature Conservancy, The Trustees, and Union of Concerned Scientists. 

Preparing Our Communities for Climate Change

by Mike Cusher

In 2018, the United States dealt with 14 different billion-dollar weather disasters. The four highest annual occurrences of billion-dollar weather disasters have all been within the past decade, and last year’s events had a total economic impact of $91 billion. This number includes both the direct costs of destruction as well as indirect costs like lost wages during and after the disaster, both of which pale in comparison to the increased health risks and tragic loss of life due to these storms.

Massachusetts was impacted by two of these devastating weather disasters last year during nor’easters that hit in January and in March. With these events, we are seeing the destruction of our 1,500 miles of coastline and major flooding of our inland rivers. The Commonwealth is in desperate need of increased revenue to ensure our most vulnerable communities are ready for more such impacts in the coming years. We know that being proactive in response to these weather events will cost less, and reduce damage, compared with reacting to disasters after they have occurred.

The nor’easter of March 2018 caused significant coastal flooding and hurricane-force winds in Massachusetts. Photo credit: NOAAA

A big part of the solution comes from the state Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program, which enhances climate adaptation practices at the local level. The program provides support for communities across Massachusetts to consider their local strengths and vulnerabilities to climate change, and to prioritize actions they can take to create a safer and more resilient future. Mass Audubon is a certified MVP provider, and assists communities with this work.

But in addition to these local planning efforts, Massachusetts also needs more funding for state and local agencies to prioritize resilience. This occurs through actions like retrofitting vulnerable flood controls, transportation infrastructure, and water resources, and by implementing regional climate-smart land and coastal protection frameworks.

Conserving wetlands, which naturally absorb floodwaters, is one way to strengthen community resilience against climate change impacts. Photo credit: USFWS

Earlier this year, Governor Baker introduced legislation to address this need. An Act providing for climate change adaptation infrastructure investments in the Commonwealth (S.10) would create a new stream of funding to help our communities prepare for the future. The Governor’s proposal would raise $137 million annually, through a real estate tax increase, to go into the Global Warming Solutions Trust Fund.  This funding would then be reinvested into our cities and towns, both through the MVP program and as other assistance for the state and local communities to protect vulnerable assets.

This legislation is a way to leverage a small increase in the deeds excise tax, paid during real estate transfers, into a major investment in the future of our Commonwealth. S.10 is a promising next step in our ongoing process to deal with the greatest threat our world has ever faced.

Mike Cusher is Mass Audubon’s legislative director

Conservation Groups Head to DC

Earlier in April, Mass Audubon took part in the Land Trust Alliance DC fly-in. This annual event is a chance for land trusts from around the US to meet in our nation’s capital, where we strategize and meet with federal leaders on our land protection priorities.

Along with The Trustees, the Greater Worcester Land Trust, and the Kestrel Land Trust, Mass Audubon met with staff for Senator Warren, Senator Markey, Congresswoman Clark, Chairman Neal, Congresswoman Pressley, Congressman Kennedy, Congresswoman Trahan, and Congressman Keating, The group also met personally with Chairman McGovern along with his staff.

L-R: Mike Cusher, Mass Audubon; Colin Novick, Greater Worcester Land Trust; Jen Ryan, The Trustees; Kristin DeBoer, Kestrel Land Trust; Congressman Jim McGovern

Our meetings focused on:

  • Ensuring full funding for the recently reauthorized Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • Timely implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill, which expanded several agricultural conservation programs, but needs to be put into action for states and organizations to take advantage of the programs’ benefits
  • Building support for H.R.1992, the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act, which would close loopholes that allow bad actors to take advantage of the charitable deduction for land donations

Protecting nature for people and wildlife is a team effort. Building these relationships, both  with Congressional offices and with other land trusts in Massachusetts and across the country, is an invaluable component of Mass Audubon’s advocacy work. By working together, we strengthen our collective impact and  ensure a greater chance of success for our shared legislative priorities.

Thanks to the Land Trust Alliance for organizing another successful event!

Reducing Plastic Bag Pollution Statewide

In Massachusetts, nearly 100 communities have taken action to reduce pollution by passing single-use plastic bag bans. Now, the state legislature has a chance to pass legislation that would create a cohesive, statewide law.

We testified last week before the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture in support of An Act reducing plastic bag pollution (H.771), which would significantly reduce the use of single-use plastic bags across the state.

Over 100 billion plastic shopping bags are consumed in the US each year, and while a small portion are reused or recycled, millions end up in landfills and along roadsides, in waterways, and floating in the ocean.

Marine animals are at risk of ingesting plastic bags they mistake for food, like jellyfish. Green sea turtle photo credit: NOAA

These single-use bags pose a threat to sea turtles, whales, and other marine animals that die from eating plastic bags they mistake for food.  And because they are made from polyethylene, which is made from crude oil and natural gas, plastic bags deplete nonrenewable resources and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

Countries across the globe have started getting serious about plastic bags – the UK, Bangladesh, China, and dozens of others have successfully banned or introduced a tax on disposable plastic bags.

Mass Audubon will continue to support communities in their local efforts, but it’s time for Massachusetts to take action at the statewide level to provide consistency for businesses and consumers.

You can help! Please email your state representative and ask them to support H.771. Let them know that we need a comprehensive, statewide policy to reduce single-use plastic bags and the pollution they cause in our oceans and waterways. Reducing the use of these bags statewide will contribute to a shift away from disposable, petroleum-based products.

Offshore Drilling Expansion Partially Blocked

Good news – the Trump administration’s plan to expand offshore oil and gas drilling in parts of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans has been blocked in federal court.

Thanks to a lawsuit brought forward by the League of Conservation Voters and ten other conservation and indigenous groups, a federal judge has upheld permanent protection from offshore drilling for select protected areas of the Atlantic Ocean, and nearly all of the Arctic Ocean, as established by President Obama in 2016.

Mass Audubon has been speaking out on this issue too, and while this is decidedly a victory, our work isn’t over. Much of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are still at risk from expanded drilling, and the Trump administration will likely appeal the ruling.

Expanded offshore drilling could threaten species like the endangered North Atlantic right whale. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

We have to keep up the opposition! At the national level, the Coastal & Marine Economies Protection Act was introduced in Congress to ban offshore drilling & seismic testing on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. And here in Massachusetts, Mass Audubon supports legislation filed by Cape and Islands Senator Julian Cyr that would prohibit offshore oil and gas drilling in state waters. We’ll keep you posted on opportunities to support these bills as they comes up for hearings and votes.

And save the date – our partners at the Massachusetts chapter of the Surfrider Foundation will be organizing a Boston-area event on May 18 as part of Hands Across the Sand. This global initiative is a chance to stand in solidarity and support protection of our lands and waters from fossil fuel development.

Big News for Land Protection – LWCF is Now Permanent!

Great news – the federal lands bill that includes permanent re-authorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has been signed into law by President Trump!

The Natural Resources Management Act (S.47) not only reauthorizes LWCF, which expired in September, but also designates more than one million new acres of protected wilderness. Please take a minute to thank your US Representative for their recent vote in support of this bill – the Massachusetts delegation voted “yes” across the board.

The Cape Cod National Seashore has been preserved thanks in part to LWCF funding

The bill also designates sections of the Nashua, Squannacook, and Nissitissit Rivers as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, which helps ensure the preservation of rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values. Mass Audubon has supported this designation for the past 3 years while the Nashua River Wild and Scenic Study Committee worked to secure it.

Now that the Natural Resources Management Act has been signed into law, we can celebrate the continued protection of our invaluable wild spaces across Massachusetts and the United States. Thanks to everyone who took the time to contact your legislators in support of this bill – you helped ensure its passage!

Help Protect Monarch Butterflies

It’s hard not to smile when spotting the distinctive orange patterns of a monarch butterfly. They are symbols of both fragility and strength, their delicate wings carrying many of them as far as 3,000 miles during migration season. Monarchs also serve as pollinators for many types of wildflowers.

Unfortunately, monarchs are on the decline – their populations have decreased by over 80% in the past 20 years due to factors like habitat loss, pesticides, and climate change.

Photo credit: USFWS

Mass Audubon is signing onto a letter, led by our partners at the Center for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defense Council, to support monarch butterfly conservation funding in the federal budget. We’re urging the House Appropriations Committee to substantially increase the amount of funding spent on the conservation of monarchs, and on the restoration of their habitat.

You can help! If you live in Congresswoman Katherine Clark’s district, please urge her, as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, to increase the amount spent on monarch conservation in the FY2020 federal budget to $100 million per year.

Photo credit: USFWS

And no matter who your federal legislators are, you can still ask them to support increased budget funding for monarchs.  $100 million per year in federal budget funding would cover the cost of restoring one million acres of milkweed and pollinator habitat per year, allowing monarchs to be more resilient to the numerous threats they face.

Monarchs are one of our most beautiful harbingers of spring. Thank you for taking action to help ensure their long-term survival so we can have the privilege of co-existing with them for many seasons to come.

P.S. – There are lots more ways you can help protect Monarchs and other pollinators.

Growing our Shaping the Future Program

Our Shaping the Future of Your Community Program is excited to welcome Paige Dolci as our new Outreach Assistant. She’ll be helping to develop materials and engage communities about the value of “ecosystem services” provided by our forests and water resources.  

Paige joins us after serving with TerraCorps at Sudbury Valley Trustees. Over the span of a year, she coordinated native pollinator plantings with local organizations, conducted outreach and held trainings for citizen science initiatives, and organized youth environmental education workshops. Her favorite project while there was a collaboration between SVT, Framingham Parks and Recreation, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Framingham. The partners worked together to plant a new pollinator garden close to downtown Framingham, helping promote pollinator conservation in a high-visibility area.  

Paige graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor’s in Environmental Science and a minor in Environmental Analysis and Policy. As an undergrad, she explored various disciplines, assisting with research on climate change and nutrient cycling in New Zealand, completing a directed study on public health and environmental justice, and interning in Mass Audubon’s Legislative Affairs Office where she developed communication and web materials on pollinator protection legislation.

Paige has become increasingly passionate about climate change, access to green space, and encouraging a more sustainable, equitable use of ecosystem services. When she is not engaging with these topics, Paige enjoys spending time outside, stopping her cat from eating the houseplants, and getting innovative with tofu. Paige is excited to rejoin Mass Audubon and use her strengths in public outreach to help the Shaping program increase its impact!

Land and Water Funding Close to Victory

Update 3/12/19: The bill was signed into law! Learn more.

Update 3/4/19: The bill making LWCF permanent passed in the House! Thank you everyone who called and wrote to their Representatives.

Great news – the US Senate voted last week to pass public lands legislation that would ensure the future of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The Natural Resources Management Act (S.47) not only reauthorizes LWCF, which expired in September, but also makes its reauthorization permanent. The bill also designates more than a million new acres of protected wilderness, among many other features.

Thanks to everyone who contacted Senators Markey and Warren urging them to support the bill – both voted in favor of its passage. Overall it passed with a strong majority of 92-8.

Bish Bash Falls, Mount Washington, MA. Photo credit: MA DCR

The US House of Representatives still needs to vote on this legislation before the LWCF can be reauthorized. Help keep up the momentum by contacting your US Representative and ask them to support S.47. Please also take a minute to contact Senators Markey and Warren  to thank them for their support. For 52 years, the LWCF has protected land throughout Massachusetts, from the Cape Cod National Seashore to Bash Bish Falls State Park in Mount Washington. To see those successes made permanent will secure the future of these public lands for generations to come.