Pollinators in Massachusetts are now better protected from dangerous pesticides, thanks to new regulations passed this week. The state’s Pesticide Board Subcommittee has banned most pesticide products containing neonicotinoids from sale in retail stores, and restricted their use to only licensed pesticide applicators.
Neonicotinoid pesticides are harmful to pollinators like bees, butterflies, birds, and bats. When pollinator health declines, we also see ripple effects to our farms, food systems, and biodiversity. Mass Audubon and our partners have been urging increased regulations and transparency around the use of neonicotinoids – see our statement from Mass Audubon president David O’Neill on the impact of these new regulations.
Special thanks to state Representative Carolyn Dykema, Attorney General Maura Healey, and our partners at the Massachusetts Pollinator Network for their consistent leadership on this issue, and to the many other legislators that put pressure on the state to move to action.
Is your legislator on this list? If so, you can thank them for their advocacy using our one-step alert. Better yet, call their office to thank them – phone calls go a long way toward showing how valued their actions are!
Massachusetts now joins Maryland, Connecticut, and Vermont as states leading on US neonicotinoid regulations. While there’s still more work to be done to reduce these pesticides’ remaining uses and educate consumers, this is an important step forward!
A sampling of news from Mass Audubon’s weekly advocacy updates – sign up here
Action You Can Take
The state has completed a technical review of pesticides containing neonicotinoids, which confirms that these chemicals are harmful to pollinators. Mass Audubon and our partners are submitting testimony urging restrictions on these pesticides, and others can too.
Mass Audubon Weighs In
Mass Audubon contributed to this WBUR piece on how solar arrays and farms could coexist if done right. Farmland and forests are being lost to solar development at increasing rates, so dual-use solar farms should be piloted and studied before scaling up. This comes at a time when the state has drafted a proposal to expand solar siting on farmland – we submitted comments noting that while we need to quickly increase solar capacity and access, safeguards are needed to avoid impacts to land and farmers.
In other solar news, this Boston Globe poll asks readers their thoughts on whether Massachusetts was right to adopt new rules that limit financial incentives for solar projects on sensitive lands. Mass Audubon provided the “Yes” perspective – take a look.
We also submitted public comments noting concerns over the City of Boston’s proposed removal of 124 trees along Melnea Cass Boulevard. Development that removes older trees and replants new, smaller trees is unsustainable, given the greater cooling and carbon-absorbing benefits of mature trees – benefits especially needed in cities.
In better news for urban trees, the state has announced the expansion of the Greening the Gateway Cities Program. This program works with 18 Gateway Cities throughout the state to increase tree canopy cover in urban residential areas, especially Environmental Justice neighborhoods.
Massachusetts’ Department of Public Utilities has opened an investigation to assess the future of natural gas in our state, in light of the goal of achieving net zero by 2050. We supported the petition requesting this investigation, and will be following its progress.
All nine communities with the Community Preservation Act on their ballots this election voted to adopt it, bringing the total number of CPA communities to 186. CPA helps cities and towns preserve open space and historic sites, create affordable housing, and improve outdoor recreation. And after state legislation passed last year to permanently increase revenue for the CPA Trust Fund, those benefits are now being realized, with the state announcing a 28.6% match on the first round this year – up 5% from last year.
Pollinators like bees, butterflies, and bats are in trouble. Factors like
habitat loss, pesticide use, invasive species, disease, and climate change are
all to blame, and their impacts on pollinators also present a larger threat to biodiversity
and food supply.
An Act to Protect Pollinators would establish a commission to
investigate solutions that better protect and promote pollinators’ health. The
bill would require the commission to include individuals with expertise in the
protection of pollinators, wildlife protection and expertise in native plants.
Today kicks off National Pollinator Week! Massachusetts is home to hundreds of pollinator species like bees, butterflies, beetles, and hummingbirds that are vital to fruit and vegetable crops and ecosystem health. Pollinators are threatened by pesticides, climate change, and habitat loss, and many species are in serious decline.
The good news is, there are lots of ways you can help:
Contact your state legislators in support of our priority pollinator bill, which would help protect more of their habitat here in Massachusetts.
Attend a pollinator program at Mass Audubon, or visit one of our wildlife sanctuaries with a pollinator garden to see their benefits firsthand.
Donate to Mass Audubon to fund pollinator-friendly management practices on our lands, create more gardens with native plants, and teach others how to make their land more welcoming to pollinator species.
Today kicks off National Pollinator Week! Massachusetts is home to hundreds of pollinator species vital to fruit and vegetable crops and ecosystem health. Many pollinator species are in serious decline, but there are lots of ways you can help.
A curated selection of climate news
from Mass Audubon’s climate change program manager
Mass Audubon will be speaking at this event next week on transforming climate awareness into action
Two and a half years into the Trump Administration, no climate change regulatory rollback has yet survived legal challenge in court
Climate Funding Bills in the Spotlight
Bills filed by Governor Baker and SpeakerDeLeo to fund climate change preparedness will have hearings at the State House this week. We’ll be providing testimony with partners, including our Climate Change Adaptation Coalition, in support of both bills. Look for our comments in next week’s Roundup.
It’s hard not to smile when spotting the distinctive orange patterns of a monarch butterfly. They are symbols of both fragility and strength, their delicate wings carrying many of them as far as 3,000 miles during migration season. Monarchs also serve as pollinators for many types of wildflowers.
Unfortunately, monarchs are on the decline – their populations have decreased by over 80% in the past 20 years due to factors like habitat loss, pesticides, and climate change.
Mass Audubon is signing onto a letter, led by our partners at the Center for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defense Council, to support monarch butterfly conservation funding in the federal budget. We’re urging the House Appropriations Committee to substantially increase the amount of funding spent on the conservation of monarchs, and on the restoration of their habitat.
You can help! If you live in Congresswoman Katherine Clark’s district, please urge her, as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, to increase the amount spent on monarch conservation in the FY2020 federal budget to $100 million per year.
And no matter who your federal legislators are, you can still ask them to support increased budget funding for monarchs. $100 million per year in federal budget funding would cover the cost of restoring one million acres of milkweed and pollinator habitat per year, allowing monarchs to be more resilient to the numerous threats they face.
Monarchs are one of our most beautiful harbingers of spring. Thank you for taking action to help ensure their long-term survival so we can have the privilege of co-existing with them for many seasons to come.
P.S. – There are lots more ways you can help protect Monarchs and other pollinators.
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.
One of our top legislative priorities this session is a bill related to pollinator health: S.2460, A resolve to protect pollinator habitat, filed by Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) and Representative Mary Keefe (D-Worcester). It was recently reported to the Senate Committee on Rules, the last stop before consideration before the full Senate.
We need your help to get this bill passed before the end of the session! Please call your state Senator today and ask them to support this bill, which is critical to protecting both wild and native bees, as well as a whole range of pollinators including butterflies.
Update: the bill was heard on October 3, 2017 and reported out favorably by the Committee. Thanks to everyone who took action!
Our priority pollinator protection bill is still awaiting a hearing at the State House, which is a necessary step before the legislation is able to move forward to the House and Senate floor for a vote. Pollinators like bees, birds, butterflies, and bats help sustain our food supply and natural environment, and they are under threat by factors like habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change.
An Act to Protect Pollinators (S.451/H.2926) would establish a commission to investigate methods and solutions to protect and promote pollinators’ health. The bill is currently stalled before the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. You can help the bill along by contacting your legislators and asking them to make this bill a priority! Please ask them to push for a hearing to be scheduled. Thank you for your advocacy!
Hello again! This is Paige, Mass Audubon’s Conservation Policy Intern, writing to update you about all the exciting work I’ve been involved with here on Beacon Hill.
One in every three bites of food we eat depends on pollinators, who contribute more than $24 billion to the U.S. economy. Over the past few months, I compiled compiled research(pdf) on the policy actions of other states to protect pollinators such as butterflies, bees, beetles, and moths, which are suffering from global declines. Pollinator protection policies have been enacted in 18 states covering pollinator research, pesticides, habitat protection, awareness, or beekeeping; at least 26 states also have pollinator protection plans in place. Massachusetts has recently released its own pollinator protection plan, for which Mass Audubon submitted comments. Despite this positive development, there is still work to be done. Mass Audubon is supporting state legislation, An Act to protect pollinator habitat (S.451/H.2926), establishing a commission to improve pollinator health by increasing and enhancing native pollinator habitat, as well as other legislation to reduce pesticide use and establish official guidance for pollinator forage.
Wild lupine is native to Massachusetts and helps attract bees and butterflies. Photo credit: Aaron Carlson
Climate Change Adaptation
In April, I attended a meeting to discuss the Commonwealth’s newly launched Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program. Scientists estimate that Boston could experience 26 inches of sea level rise by 2050, resulting in $463 billion worth of property damage and serious harm to residents. The MVP program will help cities and towns become more resilient by identifying climate-related hazards, creating an action plan to reduce vulnerabilities, and capacity building.
Hurricane Sandy hitting the coast of Hull, MA. Photo credit: Aislinn Dewey
Mass Audubon co-chairs the Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Coalition which is comprised of engineers, architects, planners, and environmental organizations, all concerned about the impacts of climate change on the Commonwealth. The coalition has also been focusing on passage of An Act providing for the establishment of a comprehensive adaptation management plan in response to climate change (S.472/H.2147), which would establish a planning process to address the impacts of climate change, and expand the technical assistance programs available to cities and towns. Given President Trump’s recent announcement that the U.S. is pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, state efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change are more important now than ever.
Farewell for Now
This spring I attended meetings at the State House to advocate for increased funding for environmental agencies in the state budget, and land conservation programs such as the Community Preservation Act and the Conservation Land Tax Credit. I have learned so much over the past few months and thank Mass Audubon’s Advocacy Department for being so welcoming and inclusive and for guiding me through this wonderful experience! I will continue to help out in the office this summer, researching climate adaptation efforts across the U.S., among other assignments. I am currently exploring opportunities to work full-time in the field of environmental conservation and climate change.
Paige Dolci is Mass Audubon’s spring 2017 conservation policy intern.