Building Resilient Communities

Helping Massachusetts prepare for the impacts of climate change is among Mass Audubon’s top advocacy priorities. At the local level, our Shaping the Future of Your Community program is working with partners in the Resilient Taunton Watershed Network to help cities and towns make smart and cost-effective adaptation choices.

Thanks to an EPA Healthy Communities Grant, Mass Audubon and our partners have been working in the Taunton River watershed to provide resources to communities as they plan for climate change impacts.  This low-lying watershed was a critical pilot study for this work, as it is particularly vulnerable to flooding, is the fastest developing watershed in the Commonwealth, and nearly a third of the land is undeveloped, unprotected, and of high ecological value and critical for climate resilience.

Healthy natural systems provide many benefits to the challenges posed by climate change, from forests that sequester and store carbon dioxide to wetlands that act as natural flood absorbers. Nature-based approaches, also known as green infrastructure, to climate change adaptation can provide significant cost savings compared to to manmade engineering solutions. We focused our efforts on providing effective nature-based solutions into local land use management, development, and restoration efforts.

The Taunton River and its watershed are vulnerable to flooding. Photo: Wikimedia Commons user Marcbela

We held interactive workshops in Dighton, Halifax, Middleboro, Norton, and Taunton where we heard from local decision makers from more than 25 communities on the climate change vulnerabilities their cities and towns face. We discussed how to identify high priority lands for conservation with our Mapping And Prioritizing Parcels for Resilience tool, and provided a green infrastructure map for the watershed, developed by Manomet.  The project also offered case studies on successful examples of green infrastructure projects that already exist in the region. We listened to the unique challenges of each community and tailored these resources to their needs. We are also continuing our partnership with RTWN to help communities in the Taunton watershed implement their green infrastructure projects.

The training program left local communities within the watershed equipped to make choices that will make them more resilient to future impacts of climate change.  Now we are taking what we’ve learned and bringing it to communities statewide and beyond.  We are working with the state’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program to train hundreds of people working in 71 communities on MVP plans; and are sharing the training materials and lessons learned with many other groups including the Citizen Planner Training Collaborative and Rhode Island Green Infrastructure Coalition.

Participants in our workshops discussed how to identify high priority lands for conservation and incorporate green infrastructure into adaptation planning.

The Healthy Communities Project was a partnership among the Southeast Region Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD), Mass Audubon, The Nature Conservancy, Manomet, and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.

You can learn more about the project, and view the presentations and case studies, here.