Tag Archives: land protection

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup Digest – August 2020

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!

Photo credit: Rishi Jain

Mass Audubon Weighs In

We supported a goal of No Net Loss of Nature’s Services within the state’s draft Resilient Lands Initiative Vision, since protecting, restoring and stewarding natural lands is critically important in responding to climate change.

We urged Governor Baker to support the continued expansion of responsibly developed offshore wind, encouraging him to raise the state’s offshore wind energy targets and to include racial equity, labor, and environmental protection provisions. We also submitted comments on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for Vineyard Wind – as the first commercial-scale offshore wind facility in the US, the 800MW project will set important precedents for the industry.

Policy News

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.

Mass Audubon is a member of the state’s Mosquito Control Task Force, which will be posting updates on the state’s website. We’ll be continuing to advocate for statewide reform.

Great Blue Heron (photo credit: John Yurka)

Climate Central

→ Our climate team answers questions about climate change in cities
→ The importance of local climate lessons
→ Perennial vegetables – a solution in the fight against hunger and climate change 
→ Home-buying website Realtor.com will now include flood risks in online US listings
→ Federal investments in energy efficiency could help create 660,000 jobs through 2023
→ Can flour show the US economy a way forward?
→ Massachusetts is part of the largest-ever multi-state collaboration to clean up transportation pollution
→ Boston is moving forward with its Community Choice Electricity program
→ Northeast US climate initiative has a major side benefit — healthier kids

Great News for our Great Outdoors

The Cape Cod National Seashore, protected in part thanks to LWCF funding, is visited by over 4 million people annually.
Photo credit: Karen Regan, National Park Service

The Great American Outdoors Act has been signed into law! The law includes long-awaited permanent funding for the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to protect our public lands.

LWCF helps protect invaluable wild spaces across Massachusetts and the United States. Although LWCF was permanently reauthorized last year, its annual funding still wasn’t guaranteed until now.

For 52 years, the LWCF has protected national parks and open spaces in every corner of the United States. In Massachusetts, LWCF has invested more than $220 million to protect sites like Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, the New England National Scenic Trail, and Cape Cod National Seashore. Now thanks to this law, $900 million per year will go to LWCF to ensure the continued protection of places like these.

Passed with bipartisan support and signed into law by President Trump, the Great American Great Outdoors Act is one of the most significant conservation bills in decades, and also provides $9.5 billion to support the maintenance backlog at federal lands like national parks and forests.

This is a huge win for the protection of wild spaces across the US, and for the wildlife and communities that rely on and benefit from them. Thanks to everyone who took action to help it succeed!

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup Digest – July 2020

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.

Humpback whale. Photo credit: Bill Thompson, USFWS

Mass Audubon Weighs In

In this Boston Globe article, we help explain why expanding solar energy resources is important for reducing emissions, but clear-cutting forests to do so is counterproductive.

With conservation partners, we made recommendations on Massachusetts’ 2030 Clean Energy and Climate Plan, focusing on how to include natural and working lands in plans to decarbonize the state.

We voiced support for state legislation providing economic investments in climate-smart housing, community development, and workforce training. We also suggested steering those investments to environmental justice populations and incorporating nature-based solutions.

Our Alliance for Clean Energy Solutions wrote to House leadership action on net-zero emissions and environmental justice legislation before the session runs out.

Otis State Forest

Updates from the State

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.

State legislation addressing mosquito borne disease has now been signed into law. We’ll be following its implementation and advocating for statewide mosquito control reform.

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.

MassDEP is seeking public input on their new Solid Waste Master Plan, with a particular focus on issues of environmental justice, climate change, and COVID-19 impacts. The Plan will determine how waste is managed over the next decade.

Governor Baker speaking at the Assawompset Pond project event.

Climate Central

→ Democrats in Congress have a new climate plan.
→ A floating island in the Charles River will mimic natural systems to reduce algae blooms.
→ How climate action benefits our health.
→ This toolkit offers resources for launching a coastal restoration project in your community.
→ The island of Dominica is on track to become the world’s first “hurricane-proof” country.
New study calls Boston’s sunny-day flood risk high
→ New York announces largest combined clean energy solicitation ever issued in the US
Planting tiny urban forests to boost biodiversity and fight climate change
→ NEPA rollbacks have been finalized, but lawsuits fighting them are expected

SMART-er Solar Regulations

Update 6/1/2020: Today is the last day to submit comments to the state on better solar siting. You can submit yours using our easy new system here!

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.

Installing solar canopies over existing developed areas, like this parking lot at the Cincinnati Zoo, can expand clean energy access without disturbing natural lands. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons user Quaddell (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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.

Siting Matters

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.

The town of Scituate decided to turn an old landfill into a solar photovoltaic installation – a good example of siting done right. Photo credit: US EPA courtesy of Google Earth

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 doer.smart@mass.gov.  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 Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – May 4, 2020

Help Stop Mosquito Spraying from Going Too Far

New legislation that could be damaging to Massachusetts wetlands and wildlife is on the move at the State House. Learn more about why this bill is the wrong choice for mosquito control, and how you can help.

Climate Central

→ How much food could urban green spaces produce? More than you think.
→ Response to COVID-19 has driven global carbon emissions to levels last seen 10 years ago.
→ Massachusetts announces ecological restoration program for former cranberry bogs.
→ Are we witnessing the death of the car?

A Legacy of Leadership

This week Mass Audubon president Gary Clayton is retiring after more than 30 years with our organization. We’ll miss his warmth, passion for nature, and the strong example he set as a leader. Thank you, Gary, for all your years of service!

(Roseate tern photo credit: USFWS)

Climate Action on the Cape

Mass Audubon signed on to support a Cape Cod Climate Emergency Declaration, coordinated by local groups in the region mobilizing to address the climate crisis. To date 1,300 governments around the world have declared climate emergencies, including municipalities like Amherst, Boston, and Worcester.

New MVP Funding Available

The state’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program has opened its next funding round for Planning and Action grants. Mass Audubon is a certified provider for the program, which helps communities plan for climate change and improve their resilience.

Small Fish, Big Role in our Ecosystems

Good news for seabirds and other species that feed on small fish known as sand lances – a new state regulation will reduce their overfishing. Thanks to the Division of Marine Fisheries for making this change! Mass Audubon also consulted on a recent paper on sand lances’ importance for Atlantic Ocean ecosystems.

Poll of the Week

A new Yale poll finds that a majority of American voters support financial relief for renewable energy companies, rather than bailouts for oil and gas companies, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – February 18, 2020

New Losing Ground Report Out Now!

Losing Ground: Nature’s Value in a Changing Climate is the sixth edition in our series analyzing land use patterns in Massachusetts. It highlights the value of forests, farmlands, and wetlands for climate resilience and includes targeted local data. Explore the report >

Settlement Reached for Housatonic Cleanup

A recent settlement agreement with GE will enhance and expedite the removal of PCBs from the Housatonic River, a cleanup effort that dates back to the 1980s. Mass Audubon’s Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary is located on the river. Full story >

New Environmental Appointments Announced

Mass Audubon congratulates three new state environmental leaders—Patrick Woodcock, Commissioner of the Department of Energy Resources; Jim Montgomery, Commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Recreation; and Shaun Santos, Colonel of the Environmental Police.

Help #FundLWCF

The federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) helps protect invaluable wild spaces across Massachusetts and the United States. Although LWCF was permanently reauthorized last year, its annual funding is still not guaranteed.

Mass Audubon is a member of the LWCF Coalition, and we hope to see federal legislation pass this session to secure that annual funding.

The Cape Cod Nationaoeashore is protected in part thanks to LWCF funding. Photo credit: Karen Regan, National Park Service

You can help!

The Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act (HR 3195) is awaiting action in Congress, and 172 Representatives sent a letter last week to House leadership urging them to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

Most of Massachusetts’ delegation (except for Reps. Clark and Keating) signed on to the letter – please take a minute to thank your Representative for their support if they’re on the list, particularly Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, who co-led the letter.

Thank you for helping #FundLWCF!

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – December 23, 2019

Creating New Climate Policies

Last week Mass Audubon had an opportunity to weigh in on and help draft new climate change legislation that will be introduced in 2020. We testified with environmental partners before the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change, and highlighted the sense of urgency for state lawmakers to act boldly.

New Transportation Framework Released

The Transportation Climate Initiative, a bipartisan group of Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states including Massachusetts, has released a proposal for a regional emissions reduction program within the transportation sector.

Boston Passes New Wetland Protections…

Boston City Council has adopted a new provision to protect wetlands and boost climate resilience. This decision allows for more green infrastructure in new development, protection of urban natural resource areas, and a focus on climate justice. We weighed in on this last year.

…and Resilience Requirements

The City’s Public Improvement Commission, which manages Boston’s public spaces like streets, sidewalks, and bridges, has approved a new Policy for Climate Resilience. The Policy will require future projects to more fully consider climate change impacts like sea level rise and storm surge flooding.

News from our CPA Coalition

After some delays by the state legislature in finalizing their spending plan for surplus FY19 state revenue, there was good news recently for Community Preservation Act funding – $20 million of the final spending plan is expected to go to CPA communities.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – November 25, 2019

Give Thanks for Nature by Getting Outside

Instead of heading to the mall this Black Friday, consider heading outdoors! Mass Audubon sanctuaries are offering a wide range of programs through the weekend, from hiking to wreath making. Sign up for one today!

Climate Central

Brookline votes to ban oil and gas pipes in new buildings.
→ Atmospheric greenhouse gas levels have reached another new high.
→ The European Investment Bank will stop funding fossil fuel projects.
→ Washington Post launches “Climate Solutions” coverage.

Measuring Success for CPA

Our Community Preservation Act (CPA) coalition recently updated its statistics on the program’s impact. One highlight? CPA has helped Massachusetts cities and towns preserve 30,894 acres of open space. Learn more about CPA’s success.

State Water Supplies Back to Normal

After a rainy fall, Massachusetts drought levels have returned to normal conditions. This is good news, and continuing to be mindful of water use – reducing it where possible and fixing leaks – will make our water supplies more resilient. We’ll also keep supporting smart drought policies.

Federal Wetlands Protection Bill Moves Forward

Last week Congress passed a bill to reauthorize and secure annual funding for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, which has funded over 2,950 projects and helped protect 30 million acres of habitat to date. The bill heads to the US Senate next.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – September 30, 2019

Attorneys General Sue Over Endangered Species

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is co-leading a lawsuit over federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) rollbacks. The ESA is needed more than ever in the face of climate change and habitat loss, and as Mass Audubon notes in the press release, reducing its protections now would be a big mistake.

Climate Central

→ New IPCC report: oceans and ice are absorbing the brunt of climate change
→ Most teens are worried about future climate impacts

Speaking up on Solar Siting

The state is reviewing its Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target program, which provides financial incentives for solar energy projects. We submitted comments expressing strong support for solar energy, but recommending it be located away from ecologically- and socially-valuable land.

State Funding Awarded for Land Protection

The state has awarded $12.9 million in grants to protect land and natural resources, create and restore parks, and increase climate resilience. This funding will help communities conserve 1,191 acres of land.