A sampling of news from Mass Audubon’s weekly advocacy updates – sign up here
Actions You Can Take
The state is working to expand siting of solar installations on farmland, and while we need to quickly increase solar capacity and access, safeguards are also needed to avoid impacts to land and farmers. Today is the deadline to submit comments – we’ll be weighing in, and you can too.
Mass Audubon Weighs In
After delays related to COVID-19, state legislators are picking up again on FY21 budget planning. With our Green Budget Coalition, we are advocating for funding for state environmental agencies that protect our public land, water, and endangered species.
Mass Audubon and partners provided guidance to federal officials on their obligations for bird monitoring and mitigation under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This guidance focused on the construction and operation plan for Vineyard Wind, but should serve as an outline for all offshore wind projects.
We asked the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to adopt an ecosystem-based catch limit for menhaden, a small fish that serves as an important food source for larger fish, like striped bass, and other wildlife, from humpback whales to osprey. The Commission ultimately voted to reduce the quota by 10%, improving sustainability.
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!
→ 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.
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.
→ 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 >
As we all adjust to our new normal over these past few weeks during the COVID-19 crisis, activity at the State House has redirected, but hasn’t stopped. Here’s a quick recap on what’s been happening.
COVID-19 Relief Legislation
The Massachusetts state legislature has
introduced 26 different bills (and counting) to address the current pandemic. These
proposals range from creating a COVID-19 Quarantine Assistance Fund that to
assist residents who are unable to earn wages due to infection or quarantine,
to directing the department of revenue to send a $1,000 check to households who
meet certain income criteria.
So far, the only bill that has been signed into law is S.2599, Governor Baker’s bill that waives the one week waiting period for those qualifying for unemployment.
At the federal level, congress is also working on several proposed bills to address the pandemic. One has passed so far: TheFamilies First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) was signed into law by President Trump last week. Its components include:
Providing free COVID-19 testing to the public, with no copays or deductibles.
Requiring employers with 500 or fewer employees to provide two weeks paid sick leave to employees unable to work due to quarantine or for the care of someone with COVID-19 (and provide related tax credits to the employer)
Providing $1 billion in state grants to assist in unemployment claims
Increasing funding for SNAP and WIC nutrition benefit programs.
It is expected that the Massachusetts state budget
will be delayed, and that once it does go through, there will be reduced
spending across all sectors. We’ll still continue to push for our Green Budget
priorities, since state environmental office and programs continue to need all
the support they can get.
Old Growth Forest Protections
We were pleasantly
surprised to see our priority
legislation improving protections for old growth forests was reported
favorably out of committee last week. Now it awaits approval by the Senate
Committee on Ways and Means before it can head to the House and Senate floor
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.
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.
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!
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 >
The FY20 state budget is headed to Governor Baker’s desk. Good news for climate change adaptation programs, Mass Audubon’s Trailside Museum, Green Budget priorities, and CPA—which all received the funding levels we recommended. Help ensure the final budget stays strong!
Last week we attended Governor Baker’s award ceremony for the town of Millbury’s MVP action grant-funded downtown greening project. Our Shaping the Future program helped the town develop the plan, and will be advising on later stages of the project.
The Massachusetts state legislature released their final FY20 state budget over the weekend following conference committee deliberations, and there’s good news for many of Mass Audubon’s priority programs, including our Blue Hills Trailside Museum:
Trailside received $500,000, the amount we requested and a $200,000 increase compared to FY19
A long-awaited deeds fee increase that would restore needed Community Preservation Act funding was upheld, and an additional $20 million was directed to the CPA Trust Fund
Our recommended funding levels were met or exceeded for several Green Budget line items and the Mass Cultural Council (see table below)
The conference committee also included $2.19 million for state climate change adaptation programs
Now the budget is on its way to Governor Baker’s desk for
final approval. He can still veto line item funding, so help make sure he knows
Massachusetts residents value these programs! You can email his office
and encourage him to pass a budget that upholds funding levels for these
Mass Audubon will be submitting our own request to the
Governor as well.
Action You Can Take This Week: Compost for the Climate
Did you know food waste makes up one-quarter of our state’s trash? That means biodegradable, plant-based materials are needlessly ending up in landfills and contributing to climate change. But there’s an easy fix – composting. Pledge to start today!Did you know food waste makes up one-quarter of our state’s trash? That means biodegradable, plant-based materials are needlessly ending up in landfills and contributing to climate change. But there’s an easy fix – composting. Pledge to start today!
A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change program manager
Our advocacy director Jack Clarke has been reappointed by Governor Baker to the Massachusetts Ocean Advisory Commission. The Commission provides guidance on implementation of the state Ocean Management Plan, along with other ocean management issues.
State Budget Update
The Massachusetts Senate passed their version of the FY20 budget last week, including amendments funding Mass Audubon’s Trailside Museum and a needed increase for the CPA Trust Fund. Next, the House and Senate budgets will be reconciled in conference committee
Fish and Game Day at the State House
Mass Audubon congratulates former state Senator, Representative, and Environmental Affairs Secretary Bob Durand on his recent appointment to the Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife Board.
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!
A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change
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
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.
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.
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.