Category Archives: Land Management

Help Rally Support for Community Climate Funding

Last week was a big one for the future of climate change planning, when bills filed by Governor Baker and by Speaker DeLeo to fund community preparedness had their hearings at the State House.

The success of the state Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program has made clear that Massachusetts cities and towns are eager to be proactive about planning for climate change impacts. Planning for these impacts also reduces the long-term costs of climate-related risks and protects property values. With 71% of Massachusetts municipalities enrolled in the program’s first three years, additional funding is now needed to help meet demand for planning and action grants.

Nature based solutions, like protecting floodplains and forests, are prioritized through MVP.

Governor Baker’s bill, An Act Providing for Climate Change Adaptation Infrastructure Investments in the Commonwealth (S.10), would:

  • Establish a new, sustainable source of revenue for cities and towns to fund resilient infrastructure and nature-based solutions to climate impacts
  • Build upon the MVP program to meet its increased demand
  • Increase the state’s deeds excise from $2.28 to $3.42 for every $500 of a property sale. This would allow approximately $137 million annually to be invested in climate change adaptation and resiliency projects throughout Massachusetts to protect public health, safety, and property
  • Deposit funds into a Global Warming Solutions Trust fund to provide loans, grants, and technical assistance to cities and towns for their priority adaptation projects
  • Allow funds to be spent across fiscal years, lending flexibility to support larger, more complex projects

Speaker DeLeo’s “Greenworks” bill (H.3846) would:

  • Establish a GreenWorks resiliency program for Massachusetts cities and towns, which would include grants for public infrastructure improvements, renewable energy production and storage, and MVP-related adaptation projects
  • Develop a matching grant program to support and provide technical assistance for cities and towns to develop municipal microgrid clean energy systems
  • Develop a grant programs to encourage electrification of vehicle fleets owned by municipalities or regional transit authorities
  • Establish a grant program to allow municipalities to hire sustainability coordinators
  • Establish a Green Resiliency Fund to provide loans to municipalities for resiliency improvements and investments
  • Provide this funding, which would total about $1.3 billion, through the sale of specially-designated bonds
Flooding following a storm this past winter. Photo credit: FEMA

Mass Audubon submitted testimony in support of each bill, both independently and with partners like our Climate Change Adaptation Coalition and the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance. You can also read testimony on S.10 from Governor Baker and EEA Secretary Theoharides.

You can help too!  

If your state representative or senator is a member of the Joint Committee on Revenue, contact them and urge them to report S.10 favorably out of committee, so it can continue its path toward being signed into law.

If they are a member of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, contact them and urge them to report H.3846 favorably out of committee.

Even if your legislator isn’t on either Committee, you can ask them to contact Committee members in favor of these bills. Let them know that as the impacts of climate change continue to become more severe, it’s crucial that Massachusetts cities and towns are as prepared as possible. These bills would help make sure that happens by setting aside steady income streams to fund community resiliency projects.

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 17, 2019

Left image: USFWS

Celebrate Pollinator Week

Today kicks off National Pollinator Week! Massachusetts is home to hundreds of pollinator species vital to fruit and vegetable crops and ecosystem health. Many pollinator species are in serious decline, but there are lots of ways you can help.

Climate Central

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

  • Mass Audubon will be speaking at this event next week on transforming climate awareness into action
  • Two and a half years into the Trump Administration, no climate change regulatory rollback has yet survived legal challenge in court

Climate Funding Bills in the Spotlight

Bills filed by Governor Baker and Speaker DeLeo to fund climate change preparedness will have hearings at the State House this week. We’ll be providing testimony with partners, including our Climate Change Adaptation Coalition, in support of both bills. Look for our comments in next week’s Roundup.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – May 20, 2019

Action You Can Take This Week: Support a Strong State Budget

The Massachusetts Senate begins debate on their version of the state budget tomorrow, and you can help make sure they strengthen funding for the Community Preservation Trust Fund and Mass Audubon’s Trailside Museum. Ask your Senator today to support amendments for CPA and for Trailside!

Trailside’s work includes the Snowy Owl Project. Photo credit: USFWS

Climate Central

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

  • This May, hundreds of valedictorians across the US will deliver the same commencement message on the need for climate action.
  • Boston makes the “A” list for cities leading the world on climate action!
  • The South Shore Climate Change Symposium, co-hosted by Mass Audubon’s North River Wildlife Sanctuary, was a successful day of idea sharing
State Representative Joan Meschino was a speaker at the South Shore Climate Change Symposium

Choosing Renewable Power for Boston

Incorporating renewable energy into local power choice programs helps communities take emission reductions into their own hands. We submitted comments on the City of Boston’s draft Community Choice Power Aggregation plan, urging them to adopt the strongest renewable component possible.

Speaking Up for Healthy Soils

We also submitted testimony with partners in support of legislation to promote healthy soils statewide. Soils are essential for life on earth, and policy makers have an important role to play in planning for their long-term health.

Drumlin Farm produce

The Plastic Problem

Mass Audubon weighed in on this recent Cape Cod Times article on our plastic pollution problem – a global issue that includes significant impacts along Massachusetts coasts.

Photo credit: NOAA

Next Steps Needed on Adaptation

We joined partners in supporting state legislation that would provide a needed framework – consistent, predictable policies and regulations – to support the progress Massachusetts has made so far on adaptation planning.

Coastal properties like these are vulnerable to sea level rise and storm damage. Photo credit: John Phelan

Meeting with Congressman Moulton

Last week, Mass Audubon and our environmental partners met with Congressman Seth Moulton and his staff at their Salem office. We discussed a wide range of issues, from chemical contamination of drinking water supplies at military sites, to regional marine fisheries issues.

We also focused on funding mechanisms for conservation, including the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, securing annual funding for which is one of our key federal priorities.

Congressman Moulton with Jack Clarke, Mass Audubon’s director of public policy & government relations

Our conversation emphasized the need for fact-based decision-making and bipartisan dialogue. We look forward to continuing this work with the Congressman as we advocate for federal policies that uphold and strengthen our environmental protections.

In addition to Mass Audubon, the other groups in attendance included Appalachian Mountain Club, Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental League of Massachusetts, The Nature Conservancy, The Trustees, and Union of Concerned Scientists. 

Preparing Our Communities for Climate Change

by Mike Cusher

In 2018, the United States dealt with 14 different billion-dollar weather disasters. The four highest annual occurrences of billion-dollar weather disasters have all been within the past decade, and last year’s events had a total economic impact of $91 billion. This number includes both the direct costs of destruction as well as indirect costs like lost wages during and after the disaster, both of which pale in comparison to the increased health risks and tragic loss of life due to these storms.

Massachusetts was impacted by two of these devastating weather disasters last year during nor’easters that hit in January and in March. With these events, we are seeing the destruction of our 1,500 miles of coastline and major flooding of our inland rivers. The Commonwealth is in desperate need of increased revenue to ensure our most vulnerable communities are ready for more such impacts in the coming years. We know that being proactive in response to these weather events will cost less, and reduce damage, compared with reacting to disasters after they have occurred.

The nor’easter of March 2018 caused significant coastal flooding and hurricane-force winds in Massachusetts. Photo credit: NOAAA

A big part of the solution comes from the state Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program, which enhances climate adaptation practices at the local level. The program provides support for communities across Massachusetts to consider their local strengths and vulnerabilities to climate change, and to prioritize actions they can take to create a safer and more resilient future. Mass Audubon is a certified MVP provider, and assists communities with this work.

But in addition to these local planning efforts, Massachusetts also needs more funding for state and local agencies to prioritize resilience. This occurs through actions like retrofitting vulnerable flood controls, transportation infrastructure, and water resources, and by implementing regional climate-smart land and coastal protection frameworks.

Conserving wetlands, which naturally absorb floodwaters, is one way to strengthen community resilience against climate change impacts. Photo credit: USFWS

Earlier this year, Governor Baker introduced legislation to address this need. An Act providing for climate change adaptation infrastructure investments in the Commonwealth (S.10) would create a new stream of funding to help our communities prepare for the future. The Governor’s proposal would raise $137 million annually, through a real estate tax increase, to go into the Global Warming Solutions Trust Fund.  This funding would then be reinvested into our cities and towns, both through the MVP program and as other assistance for the state and local communities to protect vulnerable assets.

This legislation is a way to leverage a small increase in the deeds excise tax, paid during real estate transfers, into a major investment in the future of our Commonwealth. S.10 is a promising next step in our ongoing process to deal with the greatest threat our world has ever faced.

Mike Cusher is Mass Audubon’s legislative director

Conservation Groups Head to DC

Earlier in April, Mass Audubon took part in the Land Trust Alliance DC fly-in. This annual event is a chance for land trusts from around the US to meet in our nation’s capital, where we strategize and meet with federal leaders on our land protection priorities.

Along with The Trustees, the Greater Worcester Land Trust, and the Kestrel Land Trust, Mass Audubon met with staff for Senator Warren, Senator Markey, Congresswoman Clark, Chairman Neal, Congresswoman Pressley, Congressman Kennedy, Congresswoman Trahan, and Congressman Keating, The group also met personally with Chairman McGovern along with his staff.

L-R: Mike Cusher, Mass Audubon; Colin Novick, Greater Worcester Land Trust; Jen Ryan, The Trustees; Kristin DeBoer, Kestrel Land Trust; Congressman Jim McGovern

Our meetings focused on:

  • Ensuring full funding for the recently reauthorized Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • Timely implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill, which expanded several agricultural conservation programs, but needs to be put into action for states and organizations to take advantage of the programs’ benefits
  • Building support for H.R.1992, the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act, which would close loopholes that allow bad actors to take advantage of the charitable deduction for land donations

Protecting nature for people and wildlife is a team effort. Building these relationships, both  with Congressional offices and with other land trusts in Massachusetts and across the country, is an invaluable component of Mass Audubon’s advocacy work. By working together, we strengthen our collective impact and  ensure a greater chance of success for our shared legislative priorities.

Thanks to the Land Trust Alliance for organizing another successful event!

Big News for Land Protection – LWCF is Now Permanent!

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 Cape Cod National Seashore has been preserved thanks in part to LWCF funding

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!

Land and Water Funding Close to Victory

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 of 92-8.

Bish Bash Falls, Mount Washington, MA. Photo credit: MA DCR

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.

Local Efforts Make the Difference for Water Conservation

by Ariel Maiorano

Remember the drought of 2016? Wells went dry, and reservoirs dropped precipitously low. The second-largest city in New England, Worcester, ran so low on water that they had to tap into additional sources (to the tune of over $1 million). Unfortunately, droughts are becoming increasingly more frequent and extreme, especially as our climate changes. Even though Massachusetts receives 15% more water annually compared to averages in the early 20th century, that precipitation now arrives in heavy bursts followed by prolonged dry spells. These dry times have enormous implications for municipal drinking water supplies. Luckily, there’s a lot we can do to protect those supplies, some of which is extremely low cost.

In a local letter to the editor published earlier this month in the Sharon Advocate , resident and town Water Conservation Estimator Paul Lauenstein shared  that the Town of Sharon reduced their annual water consumption to the lowest it’s been since 1984 thanks to public education and outreach. You can find the text of Lauenstein’s letter here.

Overall, the town of about 18,000 has reduced public well water pumping by one-third since its peak in the mid-1990s, from upwards of 600 million gallons to below 400 million gallons. Below is a figure from the town’s 2016 Water Quality Report, detailing the decrease in water usage since the 1995 spike.

Source: Water Quality Report for 2016, Town of Sharon

Lauenstein’s letter attributes Sharon’s success to adopting policies like rebates for resource-efficient appliances, and incorporating environmental education into public school curricula to shift local practices. The town Water Department also prioritized leak repairs and included reminders to reduce consumptions in water bills.  By taking low-cost and common-sense approaches to water conservation, the town successfully and significantly reduced community-wide water usage.

Water conservation offers a broad range of benefits, including improved public health, cost savings, resource availability, ecosystem value, and well-being of wildlife.  Sufficient water supplies are critical to communities throughout the Commonwealth that pump locally-sourced groundwater to meet the needs of their populations.

One of the many benefits of conservation listed by Lauenstein is the preservation of Atlantic White Cedar Swamp. This rare habitat not only provides spectacular habitat for local species and recreational benefits from wildlife watching, but it also provides the service of filtering and purifying water on-site that is later pumped by local wells. By conserving water to keep this resource healthy, Sharon is letting nature work for them and allowing the ecosystems to purify water so that built infrastructure doesn’t have to.  “Green infrastructure” exists in every community and by prioritizing its protection, communities can improve their bottom line as well as enjoy co-benefits like  flood reduction and improved climate resilience.

Conserving wetlands, which naturally absorb floodwater, is one way to reap the benefits of “green infrastructure.” Photo credit: USFWS

Mass Audubon’s Shaping the  Future of Your Community Program encourages communities across the Commonwealth to identify naturally-occurring  green infrastructure in their own towns, and to take steps to conserve it. Check out our five-part guide that introduces you to what green infrastructure is, how to protect it, and how to re-incorporate it in already-developed areas. Ready to take the next step? Learn how to update your local bylaws and regulations to encourage these types of nature-based solutions.

Whether your community is conserving landscapes like Atlantic White Cedar Swamp, or is looking for more cost-effective ways to manage local water, we can follow the Town of Sharon’s common sense approach.

Ariel Maiorano is Mass Audubon’s Assistant Coordinator for the Shaping the Future of Your Community Program