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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
In the U.S., window strikes are estimated to kill up to 1 billion birds annually, and window strikes are one of the leading causes of death for migratory birds. The problem occurs when birds see their natural habitat mirrored in windows and fly directly into the glass, causing injury, and, in 50 % or more of the cases, death.
To help reduce these preventable bird deaths, Congressman Mike Quigley (D-IL) has reintroduced the Bird-Safe Buildings Act: legislation requiring all new and redesigned federal buildings to incorporate bird-safe building materials and design features.
You can help by asking your US Representative to protect birds by cosponsoring H.R. 919, the Bird-Safe Buildings Act.
Mass Audubon’s top climate change mitigation priority is the responsible development and use of offshore wind, which could bring more than 4 gigawatts of clean, renewable energy to Massachusetts. We’ve been participating in the public review process for this growing industry, the leading project for which is currently Vineyard Wind. When built, this 800 megawatt project is expected to provide enough electricity to power approximately 400,000 homes, while removing approximately 2 million tons of carbon emissions from the air.
other projects are also on the horizon, and three additional federal leases off
Massachusetts were recently
granted in a record-breaking auction.
week, we weighed in on the latest stages in the Vineyard Wind permitting
process. This project would be located in federal waters, with transmission
cables crossing Massachusetts waters and connecting to a landfall on Cape Cod.
That means it has to go through both federal and state reviews.
First, we submitted comments with our conservation partners to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) on the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement. At a time when offshore wind is growing with unprecedented momentum, it’s crucial that BOEM ensures projects take measures to protect species like the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale and federally-protected birds.
We also submitted separate comments, again with partners, to the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. These comments focused on the Final Environmental Impact Report for Vineyard Wind’s land-based transmission cable, which also takes into account the project’s overall impact on Massachusetts. We recommended that the project follow a proposed route that would limit impacts to fish spawning areas, horseshoe crabs, and other benthic resources, and that it address the full range of potential impacts on all bird species known to forage and rest in or near the project area.
As we expect to see up to seven wind energy projects over the next few years off the Massachusetts coast, it’s important to establish sound environmental review, and mitigation, practices now. Mass Audubon’s role in this process is to help ensure the industry grows in a way that will help reduce the worst effects of climate change, without negatively impacting wildlife.
Recently, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) authorized the use of seismic testing for offshore oil and gas resources in the Atlantic Ocean. According to the lawsuit filed by a group of nine Attorneys General, including Massachusetts’ Maura Healey, this decision violates environmental law and has the potential to harm more than 300,000 marine mammals. The group is suing the Trump administration over this decision.
Specifically, the NMFS decision issued Incidental Harassment Authorizations to five private companies for seismic testing for offshore oil and gas exploration in the Mid- and South-Atlantic Ocean.
Going forward, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is
responsible for permitting geophysical surveys, and makes decisions about
energy development in the waters of the outer continental shelf. The seismic
testing decision also comes as the federal government is moving forward with a
proposal to expand US offshore oil and gas drilling – which
we also oppose.
Let BOEM know it would be unacceptable to permit any surveys that allow harmful seismic testing – you can email BOEMPublicAffairs@boem.gov. Our marine species, like the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale, are already vulnerable to threats like climate change, and the impacts of these types of tests on their populations could be disastrous.
This past Monday, Mass Audubon was among the more than 20 major climate, environmental, public health, and grassroots organizations invited to meet with Senator Markey to discuss federal climate change priorities for the new Congress. Now that House leadership has flipped, Senator Markey was optimistic that momentum is building for climate action.
The group spoke in-depth about how to advance climate-focused legislation, as well as how to start planning to make climate change more of a focus in the 2020 presidential election.
Afterwards, Senator Markey held a press conference where he
outlined his own goals
for the upcoming session, including taking steps toward a transition to 100%
clean energy within the next 20 years, and a carbon-pricing system. He also voiced
support for the “Green New Deal” being developed in the House.
Senator Markey and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island also
a report this week, as Chairs of the Senate Climate Change Task
Force, detailing the various anti-climate and anti-environment actions the
federal government has taken since President Trump took office.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed rolling back requirements for capturing methane pollution. Under the current standards, oil and gas companies are required to look for and repair leaks that release methane. The proposed changes would reduce the number of reviews required annually, along with other changes, in an attempt to reduce costs for the oil and gas sector.
Methane is 84 times more potent a greenhouse gas pollutant than carbon dioxide in the short term, and capturing this wasted methane pollution is a necessary part of addressing climate change.
You can help prevent this change, which would be a big step back for climate change mitigation at a time when we need even bolder action to prevent the worst impacts of a warming planet.
Tell EPA Administrator Wheeler that companies need to continue proactively addressing and preventing methane leaks, and to uphold the New Source Performance Standards that require such action. Let him know that the EPA has a responsibility to uphold standards that limit pollution and keep our air clean, and that we can’t afford to move backwards on our methane standards.
Last week, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) held their auction for three offshore wind leases in federal waters south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The results were staggering – the winning bids from three companies totaled $405 million, which is nearly a tenfold increase from the most recent prior federal sale! The areas could support approximately 4.1 gigawatts of commercial wind generation, enough to power nearly 1.5 million homes. Federal officials and wind industry insiders alike were surprised by the sale – this Boston Globe article looks at how the event marks a decided shift for US offshore wind energy.
In other wind news, Mass Audubon will also be commenting on the latest stage of Vineyard Wind’s proposed offshore project later this month, on which BOEM will be holding public hearings.
Expansion of offshore wind here in the US will be critical in reducing emissions that contribute to climate change.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will hold the next Massachusetts offshore wind auction – to include nearly 390,000 acres – on December 13, 2018. Nineteen companies have qualified to participate in the auction. It’s estimated that this auction could support more 4.1 gigawatts of power to supply nearly 1.5 million homes. Mass Audubon plans to review and comment on any projects resulting from the lease.
Speaking at the American Wind Energy Association Offshore Wind Conference, DOI Secretary Zinke also announced the environmental review of a proposed wind project offshore Rhode Island, and the next steps to a first-ever wind auction in federal waters off of California.
While this is good news for the growth of renewable energy, the Trump administration also plans to ease Endangered Species Act regulations to speed up the approval process for offshore wind projects. Mass Audubon will be opposing that change – for offshore wind deployment to be done in a way that is safe for wildlife, a full understanding of the risks to species is needed.
Learn more about Mass Audubon’s recent involvement with the offshore wind public review process here.
A new special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that we need to make large-scale and rapid changes to limit global temperature increase to 1.5°C, beyond which the authors say will bring on the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. The warning is clear, but we still have a chance to put into place the “disruptive innovation” needed to change course if we act now.
Global climate change must be addressed through both effective state and federal policy and our own individual actions. Our personal choices in areas like home energy use, travel methods, and diet can all contribute to this global shift.
A continued and accelerated shift to clean energy sources on a global scale will be one necessary strategy to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.