Category Archives: Land Management

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

Important Conversations on Conservation

Recently, Congresswoman Katherine Clark convened an environmental round table at Mass Audubon’s Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary. Mass Audubon staff, including president Gary Clayton, Broadmoor director Elissa Landry, and legislative director Karen Heymann, and our partner groups shared ideas and concerns, including those involving unprecedented threats facing federal laws like the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air Act. We also discussed the need to reauthorize the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) before it expires in September.  We agreed that these challenging times require strong partnerships and a greater resolve to work together to find new solutions.

Karen Heymann (left) during a roundtable discussion with Congresswoman Clark (second from left) and environmental partners at Mass Audubon’s Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary

For 52 years, LWCF has protected national parks and open spaces in every corner of the United States. Massachusetts alone has received more than $223 million from the LWCF to protect everything from wildlife refuges and working forests to community parks.

In support of LWCF, legislative director Karen Heymann spoke alongside Congressman Joe Kennedy and other environmental groups at an event at Fisher Hill Reservoir Park in Brookline. Hosted by the Environmental League of Massachusetts, the event focused on the importance of protecting our natural spaces for future generations.

Several environmental groups were represented on the panel of speakers that joined Congressman Kennedy (center)

Support Funding for Conservation Land Donations

Massachusetts’ Conservation Land Tax Credit (CLTC) program offers an incentive for landowners who donate land for conservation purposes. CLTC is long overdue for a funding expansion that would allow for a larger number of these credits to be offered.

Photo credit: Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust

The House version of the state budget passed earlier this spring included that funding increase, proposing to raise the cap on CLTC from $2 million to $5 million over the next three years. Now, a conference committee is settling the differences between the House and Senate budget versions, and are expected to report out their own version on Wednesday for the Governor’s approval.

You can help CLTC get its funding! Please contact your legislator, and ask them to urge budget conference committee members to keep the CLTC increase in the budget.

Saving the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Update 2/4/19: Public lands legislation that includes permanent reauthorization for LWCF could come up for a vote in the US Senate as early as this week. Mass Audubon is reaching out to our Senators, and you can help.

Please contact Senators Markey and Warren and urge them to support S.47, and to oppose any weakening amendments that could remove LWCF funding or other land protections from the bill.

Let them know that the Land and Water Conservation Fund has been expired for four months now, at a total cost of $300M lost to conservation and recreation projects across the country, including Massachusetts. Now that the government has been reopened, the Senate should act as soon as possible to #SaveLWCF.

The Cape Cod National Seashore, protected in part thanks to LWCF funding, is visited by over 4 million people annually. Photo credit: Karen Regan, National Park Service

Update 11/26/18: Unfortunately, time ran out for Congress to renew the LWCF before it expired in September. There is still hope for the program to be renewed to avoid the additional loss of funding for our open spaces, but Congress needs to hear from us. Add your voice.

Original post: Massachusetts is fortunate to have spectacular seashores, wildlife refuges, and national scenic trails that contribute to a $16.2 billion outdoor recreation economy. Many of these places have been protected thanks in part to the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), America’s most important program to conserve irreplaceable lands and improve outdoor recreation opportunities throughout the nation.

For 52 years, the LWCF has protected national parks and open spaces in every corner of the United States. In Massachusetts, LWCF has invested more than $223 million to protect this sites like Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, the New England National Scenic Trail, and Cape Cod National Seashore (see the Spotlight on Massachusetts: LWCF fact sheet).

Without action by Congress, the LWCF’s authorization will expire on September 30, 2018.

As a member of the LWCF Coalition, this week we are spreading the #SaveLWCF message to save our natural and historic treasures in Massachusetts. If the LWCF disappears, so too will opportunities for future protection of the places we love.

Learn how you can help #SaveLWCF on the Coalition website.

Meeting with Congressman Moulton

It’s been a busy few weeks of meeting with our congressional delegation! In the latest of our series of meetings, Mass Audubon and our partners met last week with Congressman Seth Moulton at his district office in Salem.

We discussed issues like the proposed Hydro-Quebec project, and related reservoir flooding and river diversions. We also explained our concerns about the federal legislation that would alter the management of a portion of Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. The bill, filed by Massachusetts Congressman William Keating on behalf of the town of Chatham, is a misguided attempt to clarify a disagreement over management of the Refuge’s western boundary, but if passed would create a dangerous precedent for future legislation by others to give away, strip or weaken federal control over protected lands. We have instead been encouraging a negotiated, collaborative solution to be arrived at in Chatham Town Hall.

For these reasons, we encouraged Congressman Moulton to oppose the federal boundary change if it comes to a vote.

A scene from Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge in Chatham