Category Archives: Community Outreach

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup Digest – August 2020

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!

Photo credit: Rishi Jain

Mass Audubon Weighs In

We supported a goal of No Net Loss of Nature’s Services within the state’s draft Resilient Lands Initiative Vision, since protecting, restoring and stewarding natural lands is critically important in responding to climate change.

We urged Governor Baker to support the continued expansion of responsibly developed offshore wind, encouraging him to raise the state’s offshore wind energy targets and to include racial equity, labor, and environmental protection provisions. We also submitted comments on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for Vineyard Wind – as the first commercial-scale offshore wind facility in the US, the 800MW project will set important precedents for the industry.

Policy News

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.

Mass Audubon is a member of the state’s Mosquito Control Task Force, which will be posting updates on the state’s website. We’ll be continuing to advocate for statewide reform.

Great Blue Heron (photo credit: John Yurka)

Climate Central

→ Our climate team answers questions about climate change in cities
→ The importance of local climate lessons
→ Perennial vegetables – a solution in the fight against hunger and climate change 
→ Home-buying website Realtor.com will now include flood risks in online US listings
→ Federal investments in energy efficiency could help create 660,000 jobs through 2023
→ Can flour show the US economy a way forward?
→ Massachusetts is part of the largest-ever multi-state collaboration to clean up transportation pollution
→ Boston is moving forward with its Community Choice Electricity program
→ Northeast US climate initiative has a major side benefit — healthier kids

Planning for Climate Resilience in Southeastern Massachusetts

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. 

Photo credit: Kevin Ham, SRPEDD

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.

Seeking 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.

The project team then selected the top six priority projects and mapped out an action plan for the watershed. Those projects include: 

  • 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  

What’s Next?

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.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup Digest – July 2020

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.

Humpback whale. Photo credit: Bill Thompson, USFWS

Mass Audubon Weighs In

In this Boston Globe article, we help explain why expanding solar energy resources is important for reducing emissions, but clear-cutting forests to do so is counterproductive.

With conservation partners, we made recommendations on Massachusetts’ 2030 Clean Energy and Climate Plan, focusing on how to include natural and working lands in plans to decarbonize the state.

We voiced support for state legislation providing economic investments in climate-smart housing, community development, and workforce training. We also suggested steering those investments to environmental justice populations and incorporating nature-based solutions.

Our Alliance for Clean Energy Solutions wrote to House leadership action on net-zero emissions and environmental justice legislation before the session runs out.

Otis State Forest

Updates from the State

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.

State legislation addressing mosquito borne disease has now been signed into law. We’ll be following its implementation and advocating for statewide mosquito control reform.

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.

MassDEP is seeking public input on their new Solid Waste Master Plan, with a particular focus on issues of environmental justice, climate change, and COVID-19 impacts. The Plan will determine how waste is managed over the next decade.

Governor Baker speaking at the Assawompset Pond project event.

Climate Central

→ Democrats in Congress have a new climate plan.
→ A floating island in the Charles River will mimic natural systems to reduce algae blooms.
→ How climate action benefits our health.
→ This toolkit offers resources for launching a coastal restoration project in your community.
→ The island of Dominica is on track to become the world’s first “hurricane-proof” country.
New study calls Boston’s sunny-day flood risk high
→ New York announces largest combined clean energy solicitation ever issued in the US
Planting tiny urban forests to boost biodiversity and fight climate change
→ NEPA rollbacks have been finalized, but lawsuits fighting them are expected

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – April 27, 2020

(sunflower photo credit: Peter Lampke)

Action You Can Take This Week: Consider a CSA

During these challenging times, supporting our local farms is a great way to strengthen community food systems, uplift farmers, and access fresh, healthy options. Mass Audubon offers CSA programs at Drumlin Farm, Moose Hill, and Boston Nature Center.

Climate Central

→ When pollution levels from coal plants decrease, asthma attacks do too
→ In his recent opinion piece, Senator Markey eyes the Green New Deal as a bridge to transition out of the COVID-19 crisis

Net Zero Massachusetts Update

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.

Poll of the Week

A new poll of 14 of the G-20 countries found a majority in every country surveyed agree that economic recovery following the pandemic should prioritize climate change.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – April 6, 2020

Help Share Climate Stories

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!

Climate Central

→ 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 Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – March 24, 2020

Take Care of Yourselves!

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.

Climate Central

→ This online policy simulator explores the impacts of different climate change solutions.

→ 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 >

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – February 10, 2020

Reminder: Make Sure You’re Registered for the Primary

The registration deadline is February 12 to be eligible to vote or change party status for the Massachusetts primary election. If you’ll be out of state or unavailable on March 3 the day of the primary, absentee ballots and early voting are available.

Climate Central

→ Climate change is shrinking winter snow in the South
→ Local legislators spar with Trump administration over Vineyard Wind review
→ Why Finland leads the field for winter cycling
→ When climate change becomes a credit problem

Learning from Environmental Leaders

Thanks to Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Katie Theoharides for attending a meet and greet with Mass Audubon members last week in Arlington, where she spoke about the state’s 2020 environmental and climate change agenda.

Weighing in on Water Protection

Mass Audubon opposed a recent federal decision to remove protections for a large percentage of US streams and wetlands. Our director of advocacy spoke with WBUR about these changes and their potential implications.

Latest Local Climate Funding Announced

The next round of funding through the state Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program will provide $11.6 million in grants to communities to develop resilience strategies and adapt to climate change. 82% of Massachusetts cities and towns are now enrolled in MVP.

State Budget Process Begins

Governor Baker has released his FY21 state budget, and we’ll be advocating for full funding on Green Budget priorities like the Division of Ecological Restoration. We’ll also seek support for the Blue Hills Trailside Museum, which Mass Audubon manages for the state.

Poll of the Week

A new MassInc poll finds the majority of Massachusetts residents think they’ll need to make at least moderate changes to how they live in order to address climate change.

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 >