A sampling of news from Mass Audubon’s weekly advocacy updates – sign up here
Action You Can Take
New England’s energy system is more polluting and expensive than it should be. Mass Audubon supports the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office’s efforts to improve energy market rules that promote affordable clean energy, healthy communities, and climate protection, and you can too.
Mass Audubon Weighs In
Five years in, the Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan is undergoing review to assess progress to date. We helped pass the legislation creating the Plan, and we’re weighing in again now, encouraging interconnected offshore wind planning that minimizes development impacts.
We joined partners in urging President-elect Biden to restore vital protections stripped this summer from the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument – the first marine national monument in the US Atlantic Ocean and home to critical and vulnerable ocean ecosystems.
Our Allens Pond and Great Neck Wildlife Sanctuaries have been awarded an EPA Southeast New England Program Watershed Grant to promote resilient ecosystems in that region. We’ll be supporting local outreach about the role habitat restoration plays in protecting communities from climate impacts.
We submitted comments during the state’s review of the Alternative Portfolio Standard, which provides financial incentives for energy efficiency and technologies to reduce emissions. We recommended more incentives for, and access to, zero-emission renewable heating technologies.
We also commented on a federal study of offshore wind construction methods. Environmentally responsible offshore wind development means avoiding impacts to marine mammals and other species, and the use of updated construction technology is critical.
As we close out a challenging year, we are also taking a moment to be thankful for the many strides we made toward advancing environmental protections, which ranged from federal laws to local community action. These 2020 wins included:
Advocating for the Great American Outdoors Act, which was signed into law. The new law includes $900 million annually in long-awaited permanent funding for the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund to protect our public lands, water resources, and cultural heritage.
Filing a lawsuit with partners in federal court that challenges rollbacks to the Clean Water Act, which has helped safeguard America’s rivers, lakes, and other interconnected landscapes for nearly 50 years.
Advancing state climate legislation, An Act to Create a 2050 Roadmap to a Clean & Thriving Commonwealth, which passed the House along with a related bill in the Senate. We are continuing to advocate for its final passage into law, and continued inclusion of strong environmental justice language and prioritization of natural climate solutions, before the session ends.
Producing the sixth edition of our statewide land use analysis, Losing Ground: Nature’s Value in a Changing Climate, highlighting the value of forests, farmlands, and wetlands for climate resilience. The rate of development has remained steady at around 13 acres/day, while the rate of conservation has increased 37% to 55 acres per day, reflecting success based on our state and local advocacy work.
Securing revisions to the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target program, which provides financial incentives for solar energy projects. Our input centered on support for solar sited away from ecologically- and socially-valuable open space. We are continuing to push for more progress to reduce the loss of forests and farmlands while increasing the pace of solar projects on rooftops, parking lots, and other altered lands.
Opposing state mosquito spraying legislation that would have been damaging to wetlands and wildlife. We achieved major improvements, including a comprehensive review under the newly formed state Mosquito Control for the 21st Century Task Force, of which we are a member. As a warmer, wetter climate is enhancing mosquito breeding and increasing the frequency of outbreaks of mosquito-borne disease, we have an opportunity to overhaul our antiquated mosquito control system, which relies on widespread spraying of pesticides. We are pushing instead for ecologically-based approaches that will benefit human health and wildlife habitat while increasing climate resilience.
Working with cities and towns on smart land use and resiliency planning through our Shaping Climate Resilient Communities Program, and reaching over 900 participants through our workshops. The program also produced new resources on the economic and health benefits our forests, wetlands, and other ecosystems provide us, and collaborated with partners to advance climate resilience in parts of Southeastern Massachusetts.
Celebrating wins for the Community Preservation Act in nine more Massachusetts cities and towns. CPA is a smart growth tool that helps communities preserve open space and historic sites, create affordable housing, and develop outdoor recreational facilities. Nearly 32,000 acres of open space have been protected through CPA to date.
Now we’re looking forward to 2021, when we’ll push the new administration to reverse recent environmental rollbacks, employ nature-based solutions, and continue advancing toward equitable climate action. Thanks to everyone that has taken action along the way by contacting elected officials, speaking up against damaging policy rollbacks, or working to improve resilience in your community. We’ll see you in the New Year!
Methane is more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, yet the federal government is rolling back methane pollution regulations. We can still act to collectively reduce these emissions.
Mass Audubon supports new federal legislation protecting communities and wildlife from harmful pesticides – you can help by asking your elected officials to sign on as cosponsors.
Mass Audubon Weighs In
We opposed changes to the US Endangered Species Act that would narrow the definition of habitat and how it’s protected, and joined partners in opposing legislation weakening the Act.
Our Shaping the Future program is partnering with our conservation science staff and Allens Pond and Great Neck wildlife sanctuaries to enhance salt marsh resilience on the South Coast.
Mass Audubon signed on as a member of the THRIVE Agenda, an economic renewal plan tackling the overlapping crises of racial injustice, climate change, unemployment, and public health.
We support responsibly developed offshore wind energy, but stronger protections are needed. We joined partners in expressing concern over failures to protect endangered marine mammals during offshore wind site surveys.
Horseshoe crab blood is used in vaccine and medication development, but this process is unsustainable for horseshoe crabs and species that depend on their eggs for food. We joined partners in calling for a synthetic alternative to be recognized for biomedical use.
A sampling of news from Mass Audubon’s weekly advocacy updates – sign up here
Actions You Can Take
Feeling sweaty? You’re not the only one. Higher temperatures also mean increased air pollution – which impacts people of color and of lower socioeconomic status most – and climate change is making matters worse. Learn how you can help >
Good news – the Massachusetts House passed A 2050 Roadmap to a Clean and Thriving Commonwealth, a Mass Audubon priority and a win for climate action, natural lands, and frontline communities. Thank your representative!
A federal court has ruled that the legal basis for Migratory Bird Treaty Act rollbacks is inconsistent with the law. The fight isn’t over, but this is a win.
Sherborn is the latest Massachusetts community to prioritize open space protection when adding to housing supply – the Town voted to adopt a zoning bylaw making Open Space Zoning the preferred method of residential development over sprawling subdivisions. Mass Audubon provided guidance on the process.
A sampling of news from Mass Audubon’s weekly advocacy updates – sign up here.
Actions You Can Take
It’s hot outside, which means we’re using more energy to keep cool. During peak hours, the state’s energy grid operators have to tap into additional dirty fossil fuels, but we can Shave the Peak.
Summer is the season for Firefly Watch. Mass Audubon has teamed up with researchers from Tufts University to track the presence of these amazing insects, and you can help!
Beautiful coastlines, sparkling beaches, and local seafood are part of what makes Massachusetts special. From food to carbon absorption, oceans provide us with so much, and they need our help. Let’s take an oath for our oceans.
Great news – Congress passed the Great American Outdoors Act, which will permanently fund the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. This is a big win for the protection of wild spaces across the US.
Our Shaping the Future of Your Community program joined partners and state leaders, including Governor Baker, at an event highlighting the Assawompset Pond region. We’re collaborating there to reduce flooding, increase climate resilience, and restore habitat.
The federal Bird-Safe Buildings Act, which would require many new or renovated public buildings to incorporate bird-safe design features to reduce collisions, passed the House. Now it heads to the Senate.
What’s better for the planet – a field full of solar panels shining in the sun, or that same number of panels placed over a parking lot? If you said parking lot, you’re right – but it’s complicated.
Responding as a global community to the threat of climate change means increasing and improving access to renewable energy sources. And here in Massachusetts, adding more clean energy to our electricity supply will be key to reaching our net-zero emissions goal by 2050. But it’s important to make sure this expanded access doesn’t come at the expense of our natural lands and resources. That’s why Mass Audubon has been participating in the public review process for Massachusetts solar energy regulations.
Last month, the state officially released updates to the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program to double statewide solar capacity. The changes also include carving out part of the program to ensure access for low-income projects.
From 2012-2017, one-quarter of all land development in Massachusetts was the result of ground-mounted solar arrays – covering about 6,000 acres of what used to be forest or farmland. Expanding solar is crucial for climate action by reducing reliance on fossil fuels, but the siting of these projects makes a difference. For instance, it’s counterproductive to clear-cut forests and convert them to industrial scale solar arrays. Forests are vital to our resiliency from the impacts of climate change, and they help absorb carbon emissions. If current trends continue, up to 150,000 acres of forest could be lost in order to meet the green energy targets.
Mass Audubon and our conservation partners urged the state to direct more SMART financial incentives to projects on rooftops, parking lots, and other areas already altered by development. This also has the benefit of locating the green energy supply closer to electrical demand – learn more about the benefits of “getting solar off the ground” in our new Losing Ground report.
Importantly, the new regulations address some of these recommendations by steering new projects away from irreplaceable natural lands. The state will end eligibility for new, large-scale, private solar projects in the most ecologically sensitive areas – habitat for state-listed rare species, core areas with large blocks of forest, and “Critical Natural Landscapes”. This is good news! However, many projects already planned before the update will still proceed in these areas under the old rules, and certain new publicly sponsored projects can still be located in these sensitive areas.
What comes next?
We look forward to seeing how these changes will improve the solar landscape in Massachusetts. We are also pressing for even more progress, like increasing funding for parking lot canopies, which cost more to build than arrays on open land but have far fewer development impacts. Co-location within farms is another potentially promising approach that may support the business’s financial viability and energy efficiency, while maintaining the land’s agricultural productivity. We are also urging the state to provide more planning assistance to small communities to help direct projects to the right locations.
Mass Audubon will be offering our feedback on the new updates, and you can too. The Department of Energy Resources is holding a virtual public hearing on Friday, May 22, and is also accepting written public comments through June 1. You can sign up to join the hearing online here, or submit written comments to [email protected]. Please include “SMART Public Comment” in the subject line.
It’s exciting to see clean energy taking off in Massachusetts and around the world. With careful planning now, we can ensure solar’s expansion is a success for consumers, the climate, and conservation.
The state released its formal letter of determination for reaching net zero emissions by 2050. Their plan includes offsetting a portion of remaining emissions through sequestration by natural sources like trees—which means land protection must play a critical role.
Op Ed: Science Matters
The latest op ed from our advocacy director highlights the need for science-driven decisions in both public health and climate change policy-making. As we learn more about our vulnerabilities, we can save lives by preparing today.
Funding Opportunity for Watershed Health
Restore America’s Estuaries Southeast New England Program (SNEP) Watershed Grants fund projects that help restore clean water and healthy ecosystems to the region. Applications are being accepted through May 29.
April 22 is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, which has always served as a reminder of our power to protect our planet and effect change. All month, Mass Audubon is celebrating this year’s theme of climate action. Join us!
New Leadership at Mass Audubon
We are excited to welcome David O’Neill as the new President of Mass Audubon! David has dedicated his professional career to conservation, and most recently served as Chief Conservation Officer and Senior Advisor to the CEO of National Audubon Society. Meet David >
Shaping Massachusetts’ Net-zero Vision
As a member of the Alliance for Clean Energy Solutions, Mass Audubon provided input on the state’s Determination of Statewide Emissions Limit for 2050. We support a 2050 net-zero requirement, and made additional recommendations like ensuring equity and social justice measures.
COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Webinars
Our Southeast New England Network is hosting a series of lunchtime webinar discussions focused on how we can respond to the pandemic in a way that builds a stronger and more resilient New England. Learn more and register >
Defending US Water Protections
Mass Audubon joined our conservation partners in writing to US House and Senate leadership to ask that future stimulus packages include funding for water infrastructure programs, which are critical for minimizing pollution and ensuring clean drinking water access.
Federal Stimulus Support
We also urged the Massachusetts congressional delegation to ensure that COVID-19 relief includes investments in sustainable development and clean energy. By protecting our natural resources, we can also create crucial jobs to stimulate the nation’s recovery.
Massachusetts has made great strides in the fight against
climate change, but we need to move even faster to avoid its worst impacts.
That’s why Mass Audubon supports H.3983, An Act to Create a 2050 Roadmap to a Clean and Thriving Commonwealth. This state legislation would update our emissions reduction targets, and requires the state to create a plan to reach net-zero by 2050, along with interim targets to keep us on track.
We’re working with our friends at the Environmental League of Massachusetts to get this bill reported out by the Committee on Ways and Means before the legislature goes on its November break, and you can help. You can use their call form, or you can contact your Representative yourself – just ask them to urge the Committee Chair to report the bill out favorably .
Mass Audubon is an event partner and speaker at this month’s Offshore WINDPOWER Conference in Boston. Momentum for offshore wind in the US is building, and this year’s event will feature sessions on ensuring its long-term success and reducing costs.
Sponsored by the American Wind Energy Association, this conference is the largest gathering of offshore wind energy professionals in the United States. This year’s conference is October 22-23. Interested in attending? Register today!