According to the first comprehensive review of bird population trends in decades, 29% of US birds have disappeared since 1970. Learn more about the issue and some Mass Audubon programs you can support to be part of the solution.
The Value of Nature in Narragansett Bay
This new report and website explore the $14 billion value of nature-based economic sectors in the Narragansett Bay Watershed. Mass Audubon partnered with the University of Rhode Island Coastal Institute and others on this project, which aims to inform future decision-making in the region.
The state has announced $8 million in funding for the latest round of Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program grants. This funding will help communities plan for climate impacts and implement priority adaptation projects. Learn more about MVP and how to apply for this funding.
Are You a Community Preservation Leader?
Our Community Preservation Coalition Steering Committee is expanding! As the CPA program has grown over the years, the Steering Committee hopes to grow along with it by including wide-ranging representation from member communities. Learn more.
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 >
Update 8/5/2019: Great news – Governor Baker signed the FY20 budget last week, and it included these CPA funding increases. Thanks to everyone who contacted their legislators and Governor Baker in support of CPA!
The Community Preservation Act (CPA) helps cities and towns preserve open space and historic sites, create affordable housing, and develop outdoor recreational facilities. Since it went into effect in 2000, CPA has been adopted by 175 communities (50% of the Commonwealth’s cities and towns), and has helped preserve 29,289 acres of open space.
When a city or town votes to adopt CPA, they agree to add a
small surcharge to local property taxes, which goes into a dedicated fund for these
projects. In exchange, they receive matching funds from the Statewide CPA Trust
Fund, which is generated from Registry of Deeds recording fees.
As the number of CPA communities has increased, however,
Trust Fund payouts to CPA communities have declined. Fortunately, we now have a
chance to change that pattern.
The FY20 budget has been sent to Governor Baker’s desk for his final approval, and it includes a long-overdue increase to recording fees from $20 to $50 – a change that would provide the Trust Fund with an additional $36 million per year! The budget also includes a one-time transfer of $20 million to the Trust Fund from the state’s FY19 tax collection surplus.
Combined, these fixes would stabilize CPA and boost future matching funds for communities to use in local projects.
You can help make this happen! Our Community Preservation Coalition has launched a campaign to generate hundreds of phone calls to the Governor’s hotline, urging him to sign the bill. It only takes two minutes – please call today and let Governor Baker know it’s time to #SaveCPA!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Last month, the state Senate approved an amendment to the FY18 state budget that would increase the state match for Community Preservation Act (CPA) communities. Without immediate action to adjust the recording fees at the state’s Registries of Deeds, the CPA Trust Fund distribution for the 172 participating communities will plunge to an all-time low of approximately 11% of locally-raised revenues in 2018.
When CPA was signed into law by Governor Cellucci in 2000, it was heralded as a true partnership between the Commonwealth and local communities. Today however, a large gap has developed between the approximately $150 million invested annually by the 172 CPA cities and towns and the $26 million contributed by the state. A nominal $25 adjustment in recording fees would increase the base CPA state match to approximately 32%, which is the historic average distribution over the last eight years.
A conference committee is now reconciling the House and Senate versions of the budget. Because the CPA amendment was only included in the Senate’s version of the budget, the House side of the conference committee must agree to keep it in the final version. We need to make sure this happens, and you can help!
Please call your state Representative and ask him/her to contact the offices of Speaker Robert DeLeo, Ways & Means Chairman Brian Dempsey, and the rest of the budget conference committee and encourage them to include the CPA Trust Fund increase in the final FY18 budget. You can let them know that increasing the Trust Fund will help advance land protection and sustainable development for communities across the Commonwealth.
When Massachusetts cities and towns vote to adopt the Community Preservation Act (CPA), they become eligible for state matching grants that help fund CPA projects. 172 cities and towns – nearly half of all the cities and towns in Massachusetts – have adopted CPA and collectively raised $1.75 billion dollars for community preservation. Over 9,000 CPA projects have been completed to date, including the protection of 26,000 acres of open space and preservation of 4,400 historic resources.
The Department of Revenue released its annual budget memo to municipalities last week, and it includes an estimate of a 15% funding match (based on what communities levy through surcharges on property taxes) for the first round of FY2018 CPA Trust Fund distribution. Cities and towns that adopted a surcharge of 3% will receive additional funding in rounds two and three.
Unfortunately, this 15% estimate does not include Boston Springfield, Holyoke, Pittsfield and all other cities and towns that recently adopted CPA, as they won’t receive their first match until the fall of 2018. So, unless the legislature acts to support the CPA Trust Fund, the match will take another big drop next year. Mass Audubon continues to advocate in support of An Act to Sustain Community Preservation Revenue, which would adjust the recording fees at the Registries of Deeds to provide a higher match to all 172 CPA communities.
Center Hill Preserve, a 78-acre property in Plymouth, was Massachusetts’ top preservation priority in 2006 when it came on the market. CPA funds helped protect it.
It was an exciting election night for cities and towns considering the Community Preservation Act (CPA) on their local ballots, which as of this morning has been adopted in 172 municipalities across the Commonwealth. Communities voting to adopt CPA were Billerica, Boston, Chelsea, Holyoke, Hull, Norwood, Pittsfield, Rockland, Springfield, Watertown, and Wrentham. Initiatives in Amesbury, Danvers, East Bridgewater, Palmer, and South Hadley failed to be adopted.
Pearson Farm in Mendon and conservation land in Sturbridge are examples of how CPA funds have helped preserve open space and historic places. Photo credit: Community Preservation Coalition
Mass Audubon was recognized by the late Governor Paul Cellucci for playing a pivotal role in passing the original CPA legislation in 2000. CPA is a tremendously effective tool that enables participating cities and towns to establish a dedicated fund for open space, outdoor recreation projects, historic preservation and community housing. CPA funds are generated by a small surcharge on local property tax bills, as well as annual distributions to the town from the statewide Community Preservation Trust Fund. To date, nearly 20,000 acres of land has been preserved.
According to Mass Audubon’s Losing Ground and research out of Harvard Forest, we are entering an era of renewed growth and development; our forests and natural lands are increasingly being fragmented and developed, severely threatening the environmental health of Commonwealth and region. Development pressures often result in unplanned growth, changing the fundamental character of our communities before our very eyes. There is much work to be done in determining how best to balance the needs of our economy and the public with natural resource protection.
Center Hill Preserve, Plymouth; Common Pasture, Newburyport. Photo credit: Community Preservation Coaliton
Many cities and towns are now adopting changes in their local zoning by-laws, ordinances, and master plans, as well as by updating their open space plans and working to conserve forests, farmland and other open space in their communities. In order the achieve these ambitious planning goals, a reliable source of funding is needed to ensure the growth of healthy, vibrant communities.