Category Archives: Community Outreach

Meet Our Team: Danica Warns

This month, our Shaping the Future of Your Community Program welcomed Danica Warns to the team as our new Southeast Regional Coordinator. She’ll be working with communities throughout the Taunton River Watershed to guide targeted land conservation and smart, sustainable development in that region.

Danica joins us from New York City, where she worked with NYC Parks to protect and restore wetlands throughout the City’s five boroughs, with a focus on volunteer stewardship of natural areas. While there, she engaged community members in wetland restoration and maintenance, aquatic wildlife monitoring, and migratory fish and oyster restoration. Working in the realm of land conservation in NYC, Danica has learned to identify and appreciate the pockets of natural areas that exist in a large city, and the importance of protecting these highly valuable resources.

Danica’s educational background is in coastal ecology, having received both her Bachelor’s in Marine Science and Master’s in Marine Conservation and Policy from Stony Brook University. She is also trained in science communication, and environmental outreach and advocacy have always been a focus of her career. She has previously worked with an environmental non-profit in Belize to communicate their research and monitoring work, on a whale watching boat in Cape Cod to monitor whale populations and educate passengers about marine conservation, and in an aquarium to inform visitors about marine life.

With a passion for finding nature’s hidden gems scattered across an overwhelmingly urban landscape, Danica’s mission is to introduce as many people as possible to the natural world around them and empower them to conserve and protect it. In her new role with Mass Audubon, she is most excited about the opportunity to help communities and land planners identify and protect local natural areas of importance and to continue to promote healthy coastal watershed management that benefits both people and nature.

Preparing for Climate Change in our Communities

September 24-30th is Climate Preparedness Week, a movement dedicated to learning, service, and actions that better prepare our communities for extreme weather events.

Climate change is already impacting towns and cities across Massachusetts, from hotter summers and rising sea levels to more frequent severe weather events and inland flooding. Meanwhile, recent extreme storms like the devastating Hurricane Dorian are reminders that extreme weather events are only getting worse globally. So while we continue working toward reducing emissions and preventing the worst future climate change scenarios, we also need to get serious about preparing for the inevitable impacts we’ll continue to see.

© Andrew Dai

Massachusetts has been a leader on this front, from the first-in-the-nation State Hazard and Mitigation Implementation Plan, to the groundbreaking Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program, which provides support for communities to begin planning for climate change. And at Mass Audubon, we’ve been working to support these efforts as MVP facilitators and advocates for adaptation planning and funding. But there’s still so much to do!

Ready to take action and help your community build resilience? Why not start by:

Need more reasons to get involved? Many climate preparedness strategies, especially those that take advantage of nature based solutions, also have co-benefits of improving public health and preserving natural resources.

Climate Preparedness Week is a great introduction to getting more involved in your local community while helping build climate resilience, and we know that connected communities are more resilient communities. We have a lot of work to do, but each person’s decisions add up. What starts with individual action can turn into collective action in a neighborhood, community, state, or even country. 

Find an event near you to get started today!

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – August 5, 2019

Help Cut Peak Energy Use

Cities are especially vulnerable to the rising temperatures that come with climate change, thanks to factors like the heat island effect. Find out why and discover one simple thing you can do to help.

State Budget Success

Governor Baker signed the FY20 budget last week, which included funding for Mass Audubon’s Trailside Museum and a permanent increase for the CPA Trust Fund. Thanks to everyone who contacted their legislators and Governor Baker about supporting these programs!

Climate Central

→ Boston is holding a public hearing on their Community Choice Energy Plan to increase renewable energy use
→ The growing carbon footprint of ride hailing in Massachusetts
12 books about climate change solutions for your summer reading list

Expanding the MVP Program

Massachusetts is seeking Regional Coordinators for the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program. The positions will support communities through the MVP process and help them advance climate resilience projects. Think you’d be a good fit? Learn more & apply >

Help Us Save CPA!

Update 8/5/2019: Great news – Governor Baker signed the FY20 budget last week, and it included these CPA funding increases. Thanks to everyone who contacted their legislators and Governor Baker in support of CPA!

The Community Preservation Act (CPA) helps cities and towns preserve open space and historic sites, create affordable housing, and develop outdoor recreational facilities. Since it went into effect in 2000, CPA has been adopted by 175 communities (50% of the Commonwealth’s cities and towns), and has helped preserve 29,289 acres of open space.

When a city or town votes to adopt CPA, they agree to add a small surcharge to local property taxes, which goes into a dedicated fund for these projects. In exchange, they receive matching funds from the Statewide CPA Trust Fund, which is generated from Registry of Deeds recording fees.  

© Community Preservation Coalition

As the number of CPA communities has increased, however, Trust Fund payouts to CPA communities have declined. Fortunately, we now have a chance to change that pattern.

The FY20 budget has been sent to Governor Baker’s desk for his final approval, and it includes a long-overdue increase to recording fees from $20 to $50 – a change that would provide the Trust Fund with an additional $36 million per year! The budget also includes a one-time transfer of $20 million to the Trust Fund from the state’s FY19 tax collection surplus.

Combined, these fixes would stabilize CPA and boost future matching funds for communities to use in local projects.

You can help make this happen! Our Community Preservation Coalition has launched a campaign to generate hundreds of phone calls to the Governor’s hotline, urging him to sign the bill. It only takes two minutes – please call today and let Governor Baker know it’s time to #SaveCPA!

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – June 24, 2019

Rally Support for Community Climate Funding

Last week was a big one for the future of climate change planning in Massachusetts—bills filed by Governor Baker and by Speaker DeLeo to fund community preparedness had their hearings. More about the bills, our input, & how you can help >

MVP Making Strides

Massachusetts has awarded $12 million in 2019 grants through the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program, which helps cities and towns become more resilient to climate change through planning and projects. Mass Audubon is a certified MVP provider.

Climate Central

→ May was the second-wettest month on record in the US.

→ Climate change preparation will cost Massachusetts $18 billion.

Join Our Team

Our Shaping the Future of Your Community program is hiring! We’re looking for a Southeast Regional Coordinator to help promote smart development and protect natural resources in the Taunton River Watershed and South Coast.

Celebrate National Pollinator Week

Today kicks off National Pollinator Week! Massachusetts is home to hundreds of pollinator species like bees, butterflies, beetles, and hummingbirds that are vital to fruit and vegetable crops and ecosystem health. Pollinators are threatened by pesticides, climate change, and habitat loss, and many species are in serious decline.

Photo credit: Zeynel Cebeci

The good news is, there are lots of ways you can help: 

  • Contact your state legislators in support of our priority pollinator bill, which would help protect more of their habitat here in Massachusetts.
  • Attend a pollinator program at Mass Audubon, or visit one of our wildlife sanctuaries with a pollinator garden to see their benefits firsthand.
  • Learn how to plant your own pollinator garden.
  • Donate to Mass Audubon to fund pollinator-friendly management practices on our lands, create more gardens with native plants, and teach others how to make their land more welcoming to pollinator species. 

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – June 3, 2019

Action You Can Take This Week: Support Youth Climate Activists

Save the date! On September 20, youth activists will be holding a global climate strike. Learn how you can support them and how you, too, can participate in a week of action.

Climate Central

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

Photo credit: National Park Service

A Green New Deal of Action

Mass Audubon supports the Green New Deal, but the US Senate has been unwilling to seriously discuss the climate’s breakdown. In the meantime, Massachusetts should step up at the state level. The latest Op Ed from our advocacy director dives into this idea.

Photo credit: NOAA

Support for Darker Night Skies

We submitted testimony in favor of legislation aimed at darker night skies. Brightly lit buildings can disorient migratory birds, and reducing unnecessary outdoor lighting would not only help protect wildlife, it would reduce emissions and save money.

A Battered Buffer

Mass Audubon weighed in for this Boston Globe article on the plight of the North Shore’s Great Marsh. The area is one of New England’s most vital coastal ecosystems, but climate change poses a threat to its survival.

Photo credit: Meagan Gonneea, Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center

Offshore Wind and Whales

With partners, we commented on the Vineyard Wind project’s latest phase of permitting, which deals with marine mammal impacts. Our letter focused on ensuring species like the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale remain protected as the project moves forward.

A North Atlantic right whale and calf

Communities Making the Right Choice

Across Massachusetts, communities are taking their energy decisions into their own hands.

Climate change is the single greatest threat facing the nature of Massachusetts, and we are already seeing its effects as warming temperatures, shifting seasons, and rising sea levels are disrupting the behavior of our wildlife and the ecosystems that support them. For their part, many communities are taking measures to prepare for impacts like extreme precipitation and flood risks, completing vulnerability assessments and developing action-oriented plans to improve their resiliency.

Community members participate in a state Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness workhop, facilitated by Mass Audubon staff

But we still have an opportunity to prevent the worst of these impacts from occurring, if we take bold and immediate action. For our part, Mass Audubon has eliminated all carbon emissions from electricity use through the purchase of renewable electricity and through on-site generation of solar power from our own 44 photovoltaic arrays.

Local efforts to reduce emissions at the community level are another crucial way to make a difference. That’s why many communities have started incorporating renewable energy components into their Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) programs, allowing them to take control over their energy choices.

Through Massachusetts state law, CCA programs enable a city or town to choose the electricity supplier for its residents and businesses. When adopting a CCA model, communities also have the opportunity to increase the renewable energy content of their electricity supply.

Solar arrays provide energy for Mass Audubon’s Boston Nature Center. Photo credit: Kylee Wilson

For example, the Green Energy Consumers Alliance’s “Green Municipal Aggregation” model recommends communities add at least 5% more Class I renewable energy per year into their electricity supply, compared to the 1% per year required by the state through their Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS). Some communities also choose to set their initial base percentage higher – Brookline, for instance, has set their base percentage at 39% compared to the state’s 14%, and the City of Newton recently made the decision to set theirs at 60%!

Some communities, like Newton, Somerville, and all 21 towns on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard have chosen to offer customers the option to “opt up” to 100% renewable energy by purchasing Class 1 Renewable Energy Certificates equal to their total electricity consumption for an additional fee.

We encourage communities to support the adoption of CCA programs that incorporate the strongest renewable energy component possible, including by increasing the percentage of electricity from Class 1 renewable sources beyond what is required by the RPS. 

Interested? Learn more about how your community can choose CCA.

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!

Welcoming our New Shaping the Future Coordinator

We are happy to introduce Lauren de la Parra as the new Project Coordinator for our Shaping the Future of Your Community Program

Most recently, Lauren is a graduate of UMass Amherst’s MS Sustainability Science program, where she focused her work on climate resilience and green infrastructure planning. During her time at UMass,  she served as a Sustainability Fellow with the City of Somerville, where she updated the City’s greenhouse gas emissions inventories and supported community engagement around the City’s Climate Action Plan. One standout memory from that time was helping organize the Plan’s launch event, including a “green carpet” where guests were photographed making their own climate action pledges, from ideas like taking public transportation to going vegan.

Lauren has always been driven to understand what inspires people to take action and make change, prompting her to study communication and human motivation as an undergraduate at McGill University, in her hometown of Montreal. This background served her well in her early career as a marketing and business development consultant, helping small business owners develop strategic communications and business plans. During this time, Lauren was a consultant for three different establishments all named after birds: Cardinal (a tea room), Sparrow (a gastropub), and Magpie (a pizzeria). Seems like destiny that she should now find herself at Mass Audubon!

Lauren is also the co-founder of Paperbark Literary Magazine, a journal of creative sustainability. She is looking forward to bringing her skills and passion for local planning to the Shaping program.