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.
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.
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.
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.
Clean air. Safe drinking water. Social connection. Climate protection.
What do these things have in common? They’re all benefits provided by forests.
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.
Changes to the US Endangered Species Act (ESA) have been proposed that would significantly weaken how habitat is protected under the law, but we can still help prevent them.
The changes would narrow the definition of habitat under the ESA, limiting the ability of federal agencies to conserve and restore areas important for the survival of ESA-listed species.
The proposed definition does not incorporate habitat areas in need of restoration, or account for shifts in habitat ranges expected to come with climate change, both of which are essential to the recovery of threatened and endangered species. At a time when habitat destruction and climate change are threatening so many species, we should be improving, not weakening, the way we protect them under the ESA.
A sampling of news from Mass Audubon’s weekly advocacy updates – sign up here
Actions You Can Take
Feeling sweaty? You’re not the only one. Higher temperatures also mean increased air pollution – which impacts people of color and of lower socioeconomic status most – and climate change is making matters worse. Learn how you can help >
Good news – the Massachusetts House passed A 2050 Roadmap to a Clean and Thriving Commonwealth, a Mass Audubon priority and a win for climate action, natural lands, and frontline communities. Thank your representative!
A federal court has ruled that the legal basis for Migratory Bird Treaty Act rollbacks is inconsistent with the law. The fight isn’t over, but this is a win.
Sherborn is the latest Massachusetts community to prioritize open space protection when adding to housing supply – the Town voted to adopt a zoning bylaw making Open Space Zoning the preferred method of residential development over sprawling subdivisions. Mass Audubon provided guidance on the process.
This summer, Mass Audubon’s Shaping the Future of Your Community program collaborated with partners and communities to advance nature-based floodwater management and increase climate resilience in southeastern Massachusetts.
Through this project, the communities of Freetown, Lakeville, Middleborough, New Bedford, Rochester, and Taunton took action around an area of interconnected lands and ponds known as the Assawompset Ponds Complex.
About Assawompset Ponds Complex
The Assawompset Ponds Complex serves as an important regional resource for public water supply, recreation, and wildlife habitat. Assawompset Pond is the largest natural freshwater lake in Massachusetts and serves as the headwaters of the Nemasket River, which contains the largest herring run in the state.
Flooding around the Complex and the Nemasket River has been an ongoing issue in recent years, and is only expected to worsen as precipitation trends shift due to climate change. Past flooding has caused evacuations, property damage, and interruption of critical utility and road infrastructure. While several studies of the area and its flooding trends had been performed over the years, it was time to take those findings and turn them into priority actions, with an emphasis on holistic watershed-scale planning efforts that prioritize nature-based solutions.
Nature, of course, has intrinsic value, but it also provides measurable benefits to people, like air and water filtration and carbon absorption. These services can in turn benefit local economies and help us adapt to climate change. Nature-based solutions to problems like flooding and storm damage are often cheaper, simpler, and more effective than built solutions.
Our team, which included both technical experts and local stakeholders, studied and prioritized the most promising methods – both nature-based, like wetland restoration, and built, like culvert replacements – for reducing local flooding issues. Hearing about local experiences, not only with flooding but with the resulting impacts to water quality, habitat, and recreation, was a vital step in the planning process.
Wetland restoration for improved floodwater storage
Developing a long-term hydrologic model to support water supply and fish passage
Replacing undersized culverts to improve streamflow
Plus more – learn about all the priority projects in the team’s final report
Now that priority actions have been identified, the project team is turning planning into action, holding site visits and securing grant funding to start implementing solutions. We joined state leaders, including Governor Baker, at an event highlighting the project’s successful partnership at the regional, state, and local levels.
With funding secured from a SNEP Network Technical Assistance Grant and the Taunton River Stewardship Council, the project team is moving forward with further assessment of current conditions in the upper Nemasket River, and exploring potential management actions and their associated outcomes with the Ponds communities. These studies will inform the next steps local managers take to begin implementing solutions.
As Massachusetts communities continue to experience and plan for the impacts of climate change, proactive management of the Assawompset Ponds Complex can serve as an example in valuing local stakeholder engagement, a regional approach to planning, and nature’s role in our resilience.
Partners on this project included Mass Audubon, the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District, Manomet, and the Horsley Witten Group, Inc., with support of The Nature Conservancy and other Resilient Taunton Watershed Network partners. It was made possible through funding secured in the FY2020 state budget and managed by the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration.
A sampling of news from Mass Audubon’s weekly advocacy updates – sign up here.
Actions You Can Take
It’s hot outside, which means we’re using more energy to keep cool. During peak hours, the state’s energy grid operators have to tap into additional dirty fossil fuels, but we can Shave the Peak.
Summer is the season for Firefly Watch. Mass Audubon has teamed up with researchers from Tufts University to track the presence of these amazing insects, and you can help!
Beautiful coastlines, sparkling beaches, and local seafood are part of what makes Massachusetts special. From food to carbon absorption, oceans provide us with so much, and they need our help. Let’s take an oath for our oceans.
Great news – Congress passed the Great American Outdoors Act, which will permanently fund the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. This is a big win for the protection of wild spaces across the US.
Our Shaping the Future of Your Community program joined partners and state leaders, including Governor Baker, at an event highlighting the Assawompset Pond region. We’re collaborating there to reduce flooding, increase climate resilience, and restore habitat.
The federal Bird-Safe Buildings Act, which would require many new or renovated public buildings to incorporate bird-safe design features to reduce collisions, passed the House. Now it heads to the Senate.
Did you know New England’s forests provide health benefits valuing hundreds of millions of dollars per year?
Or that wetlands play a pivotal role in storing carbon?
Our Shaping the Future of Your Community program has created a new set of resources on the many benefits that natural areas provide to people, also known as ecosystem services.
Our five “Value of Nature” fact sheets—which highlight Forests, Coastal Areas, Wetlands & Waterways, Grasslands & Farmland, and Urban Green Space—take a deeper look at the importance of our ecosystems for human health and the economy.
Based on a literature review of over 100 technical papers, they provide easy access to facts and figures on the importance of protecting natural spaces.
They also demonstrate why nature-based solutions are often the best choice when addressing problems like flooding and poor air quality within communities—problems that are increasingly pressing in the face of climate change.
These five fact sheets are part of a larger project focused on the Narragansett Bay Watershed that includes information on the economic valuation of 13 key industry sectors compiled by the University of Rhode Island, and a water quality modeling study in the Bay by Stanford University’s Natural Capital Project.
A sampling of news from Mass Audubon’s weekly advocacy updates – sign up here.
Actions You Can Take
Birds in the US are in trouble due to factors like climate change and habitat loss, and now the Trump administration has taken another step toward rolling back Migratory Bird Treaty Act protections. We’re fighting these changes, and you can help >
Mass Audubon supports legislation that lays out a roadmap for Massachusetts to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Learn more about its goals in this recently recorded webinar, and help it pass by taking action here.
Mass Audubon supports state legislation that would help nonprofits cope with the financial strains of the global pandemic. The bill would provide $75 million of public investment back into these community-based organizations.
With our coalition of wildlife protection groups, Mass Audubon submitted comments on the latest phase of federal review of the Mayflower Wind Energy project. Our comments focused on ensuring site surveys are done in a way that mitigates harm to marine mammals.
Healthy forests are critical for public health, and the state has released updates to its Forest Action Plan to ensure the health of Massachusetts trees and forests into the future. We provided input on the updates.
Each year, Massachusetts celebrates its Commonwealth Heroines, women making outstanding contributions to their communities. This year’s class includes Deb Cary, Mass Audubon’s Director of Central Sanctuaries.
Beyond its intrinsic value, nature provides measurable benefits to people by offering solutions to some of our biggest environmental problems. Our new set of five fact sheets takes a deeper look at the financial and health benefits of ecosystems like forests, wetlands, and urban green spaces.
Good news: the mosquito control bill that posed damaging changes to natural lands and public health has been redrafted. Thanks to everyone that submitted testimony or contacted committee members – advocacy around this bill made a big difference.
Learn About Net Zero Planning
Mass Audubon supportsH.3983, state legislation that lays out a road map for Massachusetts to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Our climate change program director is moderating a virtual conversation on the bill next Thursday – sign up today!
Supporting Stimulus Funds for Public Lands
Mass Audubon joined partners in urging Congress to fund programs that benefit wildlife and restore public lands in future COVID-19 stimulus bills. We advocated for conservation programs that will create hundreds of thousands of jobs and provide benefits to people, communities, and the environment.
MVP Toolkit: Public Health and the Healthcare Sector
As Massachusetts’ Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program grows, so do the range of needs of participating cities and towns. The state has created guidance for understanding the intersections between public health, the healthcare sector, and climate change, and for developing projects with health-related co-benefits.