Growing our Shaping the Future Program

Our Shaping the Future of Your Community Program is excited to welcome Paige Dolci as our new Outreach Assistant. She’ll be helping to develop materials and engage communities about the value of “ecosystem services” provided by our forests and water resources.  

Paige joins us after serving with TerraCorps at Sudbury Valley Trustees. Over the span of a year, she coordinated native pollinator plantings with local organizations, conducted outreach and held trainings for citizen science initiatives, and organized youth environmental education workshops. Her favorite project while there was a collaboration between SVT, Framingham Parks and Recreation, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Framingham. The partners worked together to plant a new pollinator garden close to downtown Framingham, helping promote pollinator conservation in a high-visibility area.  

Paige graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor’s in Environmental Science and a minor in Environmental Analysis and Policy. As an undergrad, she explored various disciplines, assisting with research on climate change and nutrient cycling in New Zealand, completing a directed study on public health and environmental justice, and interning in Mass Audubon’s Legislative Affairs Office where she developed communication and web materials on pollinator protection legislation.

Paige has become increasingly passionate about climate change, access to green space, and encouraging a more sustainable, equitable use of ecosystem services. When she is not engaging with these topics, Paige enjoys spending time outside, stopping her cat from eating the houseplants, and getting innovative with tofu. Paige is excited to rejoin Mass Audubon and use her strengths in public outreach to help the Shaping program increase its impact!

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.

Help Prevent Bird-Building Collisions

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.

Photo credit: John McHugh CC BY 2.0

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.

Learn more about this issue.

Welcoming our New Shaping the Future Coordinator

We are happy to introduce Lauren de la Parra as the new Project Coordinator for our Shaping the Future of Your Community Program

Most recently, Lauren is a graduate of UMass Amherst’s MS Sustainability Science program, where she focused her work on climate resilience and green infrastructure planning. During her time at UMass,  she served as a Sustainability Fellow with the City of Somerville, where she updated the City’s greenhouse gas emissions inventories and supported community engagement around the City’s Climate Action Plan. One standout memory from that time was helping organize the Plan’s launch event, including a “green carpet” where guests were photographed making their own climate action pledges, from ideas like taking public transportation to going vegan.

Lauren has always been driven to understand what inspires people to take action and make change, prompting her to study communication and human motivation as an undergraduate at McGill University, in her hometown of Montreal. This background served her well in her early career as a marketing and business development consultant, helping small business owners develop strategic communications and business plans. During this time, Lauren was a consultant for three different establishments all named after birds: Cardinal (a tea room), Sparrow (a gastropub), and Magpie (a pizzeria). Seems like destiny that she should now find herself at Mass Audubon!

Lauren is also the co-founder of Paperbark Literary Magazine, a journal of creative sustainability. She is looking forward to bringing her skills and passion for local planning to the Shaping program.

Review on Offshore Wind Picks Up

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.

Three other projects are also on the horizon, and three additional federal leases off Massachusetts were recently granted in a record-breaking auction.

This 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.

BOEM’s most recent map shows the planned projects, and leases for potential future projects, that will make up the offshore wind industry off Massachusetts’ shores

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.

Ask Your Legislators to Support Strong Environmental Bills!

At the beginning of each legislation session, Mass Audubon decides which bills we’ll be championing. Our top priorities this session will focus on expanded clean energy initiatives, protecting pollinators and invaluable old growth forest, and expanding the impact of the Community Preservation Act.

The more legislators that decide to cosponsor a bill, the better chance it has of gaining momentum since it has more decision-makers working toward its passage. Last week we helped organize an environmental bill sign-on day at the State House. We had a great turnout, and were able to speak with lots of legislators and their staff about our priorities and encourage them to sign on as co-sponsors.

You can help too! Contact your local legislators and urge them to sign on as cosponsors for these bills before the deadline this Friday, February 1.

Our legislative priorities this session include policies to improve climate change mitigation and to protect Massachusetts’ natural resources. Boston Harbor Islands photo credit: National Park Service

Here’s more information on the top bills we’re supporting:

An Act to Secure a Clean Energy Future 
SD757; Lead Sponsor: Senator Marc Pacheco (Taunton) 
HD1248; Lead Sponsor: Representative Ruth B. Balser (Newton)

The climate of Massachusetts is already changing, and with it, our natural lands, waters, and wildlife. These changes affect our health, the nature we love, and the natural resources on which we depend. We still have time to correct our course and align Massachusetts’ climate strategy with the best scientific data available to ensure that the policies we put in place lower our greenhouse gas emissions while creating a flourishing clean energy economy.  

This bill would set emissions reduction requirements in line with the latest climate science, increase the renewable portion of the state’s energy portfolio, and set zero-emissions standards for state-owned or leased vehicle, among other components. See the bill fact sheet.

A Resolve to Protect Pollinator Habitat
SD61; Lead Sponsor: Senator Jason Lewis (Winchester)
HD1857; Lead Sponsor: Representative Mary Keefe (Worcester)

A rapid decline in pollinators like bees, birds, butterflies, and bats is threatening biodiversity both globally and here in Massachusetts. One in every three bites of food we eat depends on pollinators, but their populations have been declining for decades due to factors like disease, pesticide exposure, loss of habitat, and Colony Collapse Disorder.

This bill would establish a commission to study statewide opportunities for improving pollinator health by increasing and enhancing native habitat. See the bill fact sheet.

Photo credit: Zeynel Cebeci

An Act Relative to the Protection of Old Growth Forests
HD3173; Lead Sponsor: Representative Natalie Blais (Sunderland) 

Old-growth forests are extremely rare, and provide a host of benefits, from providing rich and diverse habitats for birds, insects and reptiles, to serving as carbon sinks by helping to sequester greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Although 3 million of Massachusetts’ 5 million acres are forested, only 1,500 acres of this land is original old-growth forest. 

Currently, old-growth forests in Massachusetts are not lawfully protected from timber cutting; instead, they are protected only by policy that could change at any time. This bill would change that by establishing a system of permanent old-growth forest reserves on state lands, among other protections. See the bill fact sheet.

An Act to Sustain Community Preservation Revenue
SD746; Lead Sponsor: Senator Cynthia Stone Creem (Newton)
HD2835; Lead Sponsor: Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante (Gloucester)

The Community Preservation Act (CPA) is a state law that allows participating communities to establish a dedicated fund for open space, historic preservation, community housing, and outdoor recreation projects. To date, over 26,000 acres have been protected through local CPA projects. When a city or town votes to adopt CPA – currently 175 Massachusetts have done so – they agree to add a small surcharge to local property taxes. In exchange, they are promised matching funds from the Statewide CPA Trust Fund. As the number of CPA communities has increased, however, Trust Fund payout to CPA communities have declined.

To sustain CPA benefits for communities, legislation increasing the Trust Fund’s dedicated funding component—registry of deeds recording fees—must be passed. This bill’s goal is to provide a minimum 50% base match to all CPA communities. See the bill fact sheet.

For more information on Mass Audubon’s legislative priorities, contact our legislative director Mike Cusher.


Meet Our Team: Mike Cusher

This week we are excited to welcome Mike Cusher to Mass Audubon’s advocacy team as our new legislative director.

Mike comes to Mass Audubon after several years as a senior legislative assistant in Congressman Jim McGovern’s Washington, DC office, where he advised the Congressman on a wide portfolio of issues, including energy, environment, and agriculture. During this time, Mike served as the Congressman’s primary adviser on protecting the Land and Water Conservation Fund, increasing funding for the Clean and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, protecting conservation land from fossil fuel infrastructure, and the 2018 Farm Bill, among other crucial environmental issues.  

Mike’s passion for the environment and land conservation began when he was 13 on a camping trip in New Hampshire, where he was awestruck by the beauty of the snow-covered Hemenway State Forest. He loves to travel domestically and internationally to see other places of natural beauty. Now, he is thrilled to work for an organization founded by Harriet Hemenway, who, after the death of her husband Augustus, donated the land their summer home was located on to the State of New Hampshire, which then became the Hemenway State Forest.  

Mike earned a B.S. in Environmental Economics from UMass Amherst and a Masters in Environmental Resource Policy from The George Washington University. He grew up in Westborough and currently lives in Somerville with his wife Taylor and their cat Autumn.

Now that the 2019-2020 state legislative session has begun, Mike is looking forward to helping Mass Audubon further our mission of protecting the nature of Massachusetts. Informed by his experiences on Capitol Hill, he’ll be helping us advance legislative priorities like expanded clean energy legislation and implementation of state climate adaptation plans.

Say No to Seismic Testing

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. 

A North Atlantic right whale and calf. Photo credit: NOAA

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.

Meeting with Senator Markey on Climate Action

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.

Photo credit: Senator Markey’s office, used with permission

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.

Watch the press conference here.

Senator Markey and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island also released 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.

We look forward to continuing to help build momentum on federal climate action. And remember, there are many ways you can take action too.

Speak Out Against More Methane Pollution

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.

Leaks in natural gas pipelines are a common source of methane. Photo by Rosemary Oakeshott

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.