The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – May 28, 2019

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!

Climate Central

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

Guiding Strong Ocean Management

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

Trailside director Norman Smith preparing to release a snowy owl

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.

Bob Durand and Mass Audubon’s Jack Clarke

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

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – May 13, 2019

Ask Your State Senator to Support Trailside Funding

Trailside Museum Sanctuary Director Norman Smith educating visitors. Photo © Kent Harnois

Mass Audubon’s Blue Hills Trailside Museum is the interpretive center for the state-owned Blue Hills Reservation, and is home to programs like the Snowy Owl Project. Help make sure Trailside gets the state budget funding it needs.

Climate Central

Photo credit: Ryan O’Sullivan

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

  • See how much you know about what can be done to fight climate change with this quiz
  • This infographic from our Community Preservation Coalition explores how the Community Preservation Act also helps combat climate change

Improving Outdoor Opportunities

Photo credit: National Park Service

We submitted testimony last week in support of An Act Establishing the Office of Outdoor Recreation, which would work across sectors like public health, tourism, and economic development to promote recreational opportunities in Massachusetts’ outdoor spaces.

Drumlin Farm Education Honored at State House

Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm has received the Secretary’s Award for Excellence for their Riverschools Project, a collaboration with local schools to strengthen awareness and appreciation of river resources. Congratulations to the team!

Input Needed: Culvert and Small Bridge Replacements

Photo credit: MassDER

Climate change is a frequent concern for communities when dealing with culvert and small bridge infrastructure, since they’ll need to accommodate increased storm flows and flood levels. The state’s Culvert and Small Bridge Working Group is seeking public input as they develop recommendations to address these and other challenges

Support Trailside in the State Budget

As the FY20 state budget continues its progress through the State House, we’re at a crucial point for Mass Audubon’s Blue Hills Trailside Museum funding.

Trailside is the interpretive center for the state-owned Blue Hills Reservation and features a natural history museum and outdoor exhibits of rescued wildlife. Mass Audubon operates the museum in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, which means we receive a crucial component of Trailside’s funding through the state budget each fiscal year. Trailside welcomes more than 100,000 visitors a year and is home to the Snowy Owl Project.

Trailside director Norman Smith preparing to release a snowy owl

Although the Governor’s original FY20 budget did not include funding for Trailside, Senator Walter Timilty has filed an amendment requesting $1 million for the site. The Senate begins debate of their version of the FY20 budget on May 21. 

Over the past few years, Trailside has faced a continuing revenue shortfall and received only a fraction of the state funding needed to sustain its operation and public programs. Senator Timilty’s amendment is a chance to reclaim that much-needed funding.

You can help! Please contact your state Senator and ask them to cosponsor Senator Timilty’s Amendment #908 for Trailside, and to support the amendment when it comes up for debate next week. A quick call or email can make a big difference. Thank you for your advocacy!

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – May 5, 2019

Thank Your Congressperson for Supporting Climate Action

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons user Arthurguo (Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)

Last week Congress passed the Climate Action Now Act to uphold US commitment to the Paris climate agreement. It’s the first large-scale climate change legislation to pass congress in nearly 10 years, and Massachusetts’ delegation unanimously voted yes. Please take a minute to contact your representative to thank them for taking climate action.

Meeting with Congressman Moulton

Mass Audubon and our environmental partners met with Congressman Seth Moulton last week at his Salem office, where our discussion included topics like conservation funding and regional marine fisheries issues. Learn more about the meeting.

Climate Central

Photo credit: Zeynel Cebeci

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

Upholding National Environmental Protections

Green sea turtle photo credit: NOAA

We joined partners in opposing changes in the Navy’s compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. The proposed revision would make it easier to approve projects that adversely affect endangered and threatened species

Coastal Protections at Risk

We also submitted joint comments on proposed changes to the Coastal Zone Management Act, which would weaken state-level review of federal coastal development projects. This is especially problematic at a time when expanded offshore oil and gas drilling has been proposed at the federal level.

Offshore Drilling Expansion Delayed

Humpback whales are among the many species whose habitat could be impacted by an expansion in offshore drilling. Photo credit: NOAA

Good news though – federal plans to expand offshore drilling have been postponed. The delay is largely due to a recent court decision upholding protections in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. While this news is encouraging, a delay doesn’t mean our fight is over, so we’ll be keeping it up.

Poll of the Week

According to a MassInc poll, 68% of Massachusetts voters support the creation of a regional carbon-trading plan for transportation.

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!

Reducing Plastic Bag Pollution Statewide

In Massachusetts, nearly 100 communities have taken action to reduce pollution by passing single-use plastic bag bans. Now, the state legislature has a chance to pass legislation that would create a cohesive, statewide law.

We testified last week before the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture in support of An Act reducing plastic bag pollution (H.771), which would significantly reduce the use of single-use plastic bags across the state.

Over 100 billion plastic shopping bags are consumed in the US each year, and while a small portion are reused or recycled, millions end up in landfills and along roadsides, in waterways, and floating in the ocean.

Marine animals are at risk of ingesting plastic bags they mistake for food, like jellyfish. Green sea turtle photo credit: NOAA

These single-use bags pose a threat to sea turtles, whales, and other marine animals that die from eating plastic bags they mistake for food.  And because they are made from polyethylene, which is made from crude oil and natural gas, plastic bags deplete nonrenewable resources and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

Countries across the globe have started getting serious about plastic bags – the UK, Bangladesh, China, and dozens of others have successfully banned or introduced a tax on disposable plastic bags.

Mass Audubon will continue to support communities in their local efforts, but it’s time for Massachusetts to take action at the statewide level to provide consistency for businesses and consumers.

You can help! Please email your state representative and ask them to support H.771. Let them know that we need a comprehensive, statewide policy to reduce single-use plastic bags and the pollution they cause in our oceans and waterways. Reducing the use of these bags statewide will contribute to a shift away from disposable, petroleum-based products.

Offshore Drilling Expansion Partially Blocked

Good news – the Trump administration’s plan to expand offshore oil and gas drilling in parts of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans has been blocked in federal court.

Thanks to a lawsuit brought forward by the League of Conservation Voters and ten other conservation and indigenous groups, a federal judge has upheld permanent protection from offshore drilling for select protected areas of the Atlantic Ocean, and nearly all of the Arctic Ocean, as established by President Obama in 2016.

Mass Audubon has been speaking out on this issue too, and while this is decidedly a victory, our work isn’t over. Much of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are still at risk from expanded drilling, and the Trump administration will likely appeal the ruling.

Expanded offshore drilling could threaten species like the endangered North Atlantic right whale. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

We have to keep up the opposition! At the national level, the Coastal & Marine Economies Protection Act was introduced in Congress to ban offshore drilling & seismic testing on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. And here in Massachusetts, Mass Audubon supports legislation filed by Cape and Islands Senator Julian Cyr that would prohibit offshore oil and gas drilling in state waters. We’ll keep you posted on opportunities to support these bills as they comes up for hearings and votes.

And save the date – our partners at the Massachusetts chapter of the Surfrider Foundation will be organizing a Boston-area event on May 18 as part of Hands Across the Sand. This global initiative is a chance to stand in solidarity and support protection of our lands and waters from fossil fuel development.