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.
The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources recently released their Pollinator Protection Plan to address to some of the threats facing species like bees, butterflies, moths, and beetles. Pollinator populations have been on the decline due to factors like habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change.
The Plan released by the state incorporates many suggestions Mass Audubon made during the draft Plan’s public review process, including an increased focus on wild pollinators (vs. only managed hives used in agriculture) and habitat management.
Photo credit: Albert Herring
It also includes Best Management Practices for groups from beekeepers to farmers to homeowners and gardeners, all of whom can take steps to minimize impacts to pollinators and encourage their populations to thrive.
In addition to the Pollinator Protection Plan, Mass Audubon supports proposed legislation that investigates methods for protecting and promoting pollinators’ health. Our goal now is to merge any legislative protection efforts with ensuring that the Plan guidelines are put into place effectively.
Let’s raise a pint to the honeybee, without which early man would not have discovered the first fermented honey beverages, leading to the development of the modern beers we enjoy today. In fact, alcoholic drinks made from honey were likely enjoyed long before the discovery of beer and wine, as the natural fermentation of a simple mixture of honey and water produces enough alcohol to generate good cheer.
Civilization has enjoyed honey’s many uses for thousands of years, but at no time in history have honeybee populations been as endangered as they are today. Multiple threats including pesticide exposure, loss of habitat, and the presence of pests known as varroa mites, are resulting in the loss of entire colonies of honeybees, a syndrome known as Colony Collapse Disorder.
Fortunately, scientists have uncovered a potential solution for warding off mites; it turns out that one of the main ingredients in beer, known as hops beta acids (HBA) excels at killing mites without harming bees or humans. In 2015 the US Environmental Protection Agency approved the use of potassium salts of HBA for repelling varroa mites. Because humans have long consumed HBAs in beer and in preserved meat, they are considered to be safe for use in beehives.
Besides continuing to drink beer in the hopes of supporting new and important scientific discoveries, there are other actions you can take to help protect bees, such as promoting bee habitat and reducing the use of a toxic pesticide known to be harmful to bees.
Call your state legislators today (you can look yours up here) and ask them to support our priority pollinator protection bill! You can let them know that pollinators like bees, as well as bats, birds, and butterflies, are experiencing rapid population declines, and this bill (SB451 and HD3461) would establish a commission to investigate solutions to protect and promote pollinators’ health and habitat. You can also let them know you support bill HB2113, which would regulate the spraying of pesticides containing pollinator-harming neonicotinoids on certain agricultural land.
Thank you for your advocacy, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
A rapid decline in pollinators like bees, birds, butterflies, and bats is threatening biodiversity both globally and here at home. The thousands of plant-pollinator interactions that sustain our food supply and natural environment are under threat by multiple, interacting factors including habitat loss, pesticide use, invasive species, disease, and climate change.
To address this growing crisis, President Obama introduced in 2014 a national strategy to protect pollinators. States are coordinating with federal agencies to develop statewide Pollinator Protection Plans to address some of the threats facing these species. The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) has released its own draft plan, on which Mass Audubon recently commented. We recommended that the proposed approach be expanded with strategies to benefit both wild and managed pollinators, thereby supporting both agricultural and natural ecosystems.
Photo credit: Zeynel Cebeci
The Pollination Problem
Inadequate pollination can result in reduced or delayed yields and inferior fruits. Widespread declines in honeybee populations – 44 percent of colonies last year, according to the US Department of Agriculture – has raised alarm bells not only among farmers who rent beehives for their fields but the general public and government officials as well. As a result, awareness is growing over the economic, environmental and public health impacts of biodiversity loss, with particular attention given to honeybee health.
Biodiversity is often used in a very broad context, but it is more than just a buzz word. It refers to the many components of biological diversity that comprise our agricultural and natural systems. This diversity encompasses the rich variety of genetic resources we rely on directly (crops, wild edible plants, trees, and pasture and rangeland animal species) as well as indirectly (organisms that drive nutrient cycling and pollination, and abiotic factors like local climate conditions). The often overlooked — but perhaps most critical — component of biodiversity includes the human activities and management practices that shape our natural and agricultural systems.
Wild lupine is native to Massachusetts and helps attract bees and butterflies. Photo credit: Aaron Carlson
The rapid conversion of open space to development over the past century has redefined our landscape and resulted in a dramatic decline in natural habitat. Massachusetts is home to hundreds of species of flowering plants and wild pollinators including bees, butterflies and moths, beetles, birds, and bats. Genetic diversity – in this case, supporting more diverse populations of bees and other pollinators – in both nature and modern agriculture reduces the chances of population or crop failure and ensures greater survival rates, since not all species are vulnerable to the same diseases or stressors.
Honeybee declines are just one symptom of a larger epidemic of global biodiversity loss and a catastrophic result of poor management of earth’s genetic resources, the environment and our agricultural systems. They also serve to highlight the importance of adopting policies that promote sound land management and limit harmful practices like overuse of pesticides or monoculture planting.
Photo credit: Alec Perkins
Better Land Management Can Make the Difference
Policy makers, state agencies, non-profits and private landowners now have an opportunity to improve biodiversity management in the Commonwealth by integrating commercial and wild pollinator stewardship. Adopting more pollinator-friendly land management practices reduces reliance on already-stressed managed bees by attracting more wild pollinators. Native pollinator conservation efforts can be better coordinated across state agencies and integrated with statewide land management goals. This would help to identify and accomplish overlapping conservation and farmland production goals, particularly where opportunities exist to leverage state and federal funding resources.
The Commonwealth can enhance these available tools:
Direct already authorized capital land conservation dollars (e.g. LAND, PARC grants) toward pollinator habitat protection
Target federal funding including Farm Bill conservation programs to promote pollinator habitat
Establish a special commission on pollinator health with broad stakeholder involvement, including conservation groups focused on biodiversity and wild pollinator health
Promote state agency education programs for beekeepers, pesticide applicators, land managers and the general public in protecting pollinator health
Promote state funding incentives for managing farmland as part of a continuous agroecosystem, including diverse habitats suitable for native pollinators such as deciduous and coniferous forest, open meadow, wetland and riparian areas
An Eastern tailed-blue pollinates goldenrod. Photo credit: John Flannery
From your yard and garden to the landscaping choices of commercial businesses, municipalities, and state agencies, there are myriad opportunities to protect and restore pollinators and habitats across the state. These practices also improve the resiliency of our natural landscape, making it less susceptible to the environmental stressors associated with climate change.
Pollinators are vital to the economy, agriculture, and ecology not only of Massachusetts but across the globe. We need to take every step we can to ensure that their populations – along with the plants and crops they support – can flourish.
Karen Heymann is Legislative Director Heidi Ricci is Senior Policy Analyst Christina Wiseman is Advocacy Associate