Tag Archives: Shaping the Future

Growing our Shaping the Future Program

Our Shaping the Future of Your Community Program is excited to welcome Paige Dolci as our new Outreach Assistant. She’ll be helping to develop materials and engage communities about the value of “ecosystem services” provided by our forests and water resources.  

Paige joins us after serving with TerraCorps at Sudbury Valley Trustees. Over the span of a year, she coordinated native pollinator plantings with local organizations, conducted outreach and held trainings for citizen science initiatives, and organized youth environmental education workshops. Her favorite project while there was a collaboration between SVT, Framingham Parks and Recreation, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Framingham. The partners worked together to plant a new pollinator garden close to downtown Framingham, helping promote pollinator conservation in a high-visibility area.  

Paige graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor’s in Environmental Science and a minor in Environmental Analysis and Policy. As an undergrad, she explored various disciplines, assisting with research on climate change and nutrient cycling in New Zealand, completing a directed study on public health and environmental justice, and interning in Mass Audubon’s Legislative Affairs Office where she developed communication and web materials on pollinator protection legislation.

Paige has become increasingly passionate about climate change, access to green space, and encouraging a more sustainable, equitable use of ecosystem services. When she is not engaging with these topics, Paige enjoys spending time outside, stopping her cat from eating the houseplants, and getting innovative with tofu. Paige is excited to rejoin Mass Audubon and use her strengths in public outreach to help the Shaping program increase its impact!

Welcoming our New Shaping the Future Coordinator

We are happy to introduce Lauren de la Parra as the new Project Coordinator for our Shaping the Future of Your Community Program

Most recently, Lauren is a graduate of UMass Amherst’s MS Sustainability Science program, where she focused her work on climate resilience and green infrastructure planning. During her time at UMass,  she served as a Sustainability Fellow with the City of Somerville, where she updated the City’s greenhouse gas emissions inventories and supported community engagement around the City’s Climate Action Plan. One standout memory from that time was helping organize the Plan’s launch event, including a “green carpet” where guests were photographed making their own climate action pledges, from ideas like taking public transportation to going vegan.

Lauren has always been driven to understand what inspires people to take action and make change, prompting her to study communication and human motivation as an undergraduate at McGill University, in her hometown of Montreal. This background served her well in her early career as a marketing and business development consultant, helping small business owners develop strategic communications and business plans. During this time, Lauren was a consultant for three different establishments all named after birds: Cardinal (a tea room), Sparrow (a gastropub), and Magpie (a pizzeria). Seems like destiny that she should now find herself at Mass Audubon!

Lauren is also the co-founder of Paperbark Literary Magazine, a journal of creative sustainability. She is looking forward to bringing her skills and passion for local planning to the Shaping program.

Local Efforts Make the Difference for Water Conservation

by Ariel Maiorano

Remember the drought of 2016? Wells went dry, and reservoirs dropped precipitously low. The second-largest city in New England, Worcester, ran so low on water that they had to tap into additional sources (to the tune of over $1 million). Unfortunately, droughts are becoming increasingly more frequent and extreme, especially as our climate changes. Even though Massachusetts receives 15% more water annually compared to averages in the early 20th century, that precipitation now arrives in heavy bursts followed by prolonged dry spells. These dry times have enormous implications for municipal drinking water supplies. Luckily, there’s a lot we can do to protect those supplies, some of which is extremely low cost.

In a local letter to the editor published earlier this month in the Sharon Advocate , resident and town Water Conservation Estimator Paul Lauenstein shared  that the Town of Sharon reduced their annual water consumption to the lowest it’s been since 1984 thanks to public education and outreach. You can find the text of Lauenstein’s letter here.

Overall, the town of about 18,000 has reduced public well water pumping by one-third since its peak in the mid-1990s, from upwards of 600 million gallons to below 400 million gallons. Below is a figure from the town’s 2016 Water Quality Report, detailing the decrease in water usage since the 1995 spike.

Source: Water Quality Report for 2016, Town of Sharon

Lauenstein’s letter attributes Sharon’s success to adopting policies like rebates for resource-efficient appliances, and incorporating environmental education into public school curricula to shift local practices. The town Water Department also prioritized leak repairs and included reminders to reduce consumptions in water bills.  By taking low-cost and common-sense approaches to water conservation, the town successfully and significantly reduced community-wide water usage.

Water conservation offers a broad range of benefits, including improved public health, cost savings, resource availability, ecosystem value, and well-being of wildlife.  Sufficient water supplies are critical to communities throughout the Commonwealth that pump locally-sourced groundwater to meet the needs of their populations.

One of the many benefits of conservation listed by Lauenstein is the preservation of Atlantic White Cedar Swamp. This rare habitat not only provides spectacular habitat for local species and recreational benefits from wildlife watching, but it also provides the service of filtering and purifying water on-site that is later pumped by local wells. By conserving water to keep this resource healthy, Sharon is letting nature work for them and allowing the ecosystems to purify water so that built infrastructure doesn’t have to.  “Green infrastructure” exists in every community and by prioritizing its protection, communities can improve their bottom line as well as enjoy co-benefits like  flood reduction and improved climate resilience.

Conserving wetlands, which naturally absorb floodwater, is one way to reap the benefits of “green infrastructure.” Photo credit: USFWS

Mass Audubon’s Shaping the  Future of Your Community Program encourages communities across the Commonwealth to identify naturally-occurring  green infrastructure in their own towns, and to take steps to conserve it. Check out our five-part guide that introduces you to what green infrastructure is, how to protect it, and how to re-incorporate it in already-developed areas. Ready to take the next step? Learn how to update your local bylaws and regulations to encourage these types of nature-based solutions.

Whether your community is conserving landscapes like Atlantic White Cedar Swamp, or is looking for more cost-effective ways to manage local water, we can follow the Town of Sharon’s common sense approach.

Ariel Maiorano is Mass Audubon’s Assistant Coordinator for the Shaping the Future of Your Community Program

Building Resilient Communities

Helping Massachusetts prepare for the impacts of climate change is among Mass Audubon’s top advocacy priorities. At the local level, our Shaping the Future of Your Community program is working with partners in the Resilient Taunton Watershed Network to help cities and towns make smart and cost-effective adaptation choices.

Thanks to an EPA Healthy Communities Grant, Mass Audubon and our partners have been working in the Taunton River watershed to provide resources to communities as they plan for climate change impacts.  This low-lying watershed was a critical pilot study for this work, as it is particularly vulnerable to flooding, is the fastest developing watershed in the Commonwealth, and nearly a third of the land is undeveloped, unprotected, and of high ecological value and critical for climate resilience.

Healthy natural systems provide many benefits to the challenges posed by climate change, from forests that sequester and store carbon dioxide to wetlands that act as natural flood absorbers. Nature-based approaches, also known as green infrastructure, to climate change adaptation can provide significant cost savings compared to to manmade engineering solutions. We focused our efforts on providing effective nature-based solutions into local land use management, development, and restoration efforts.

The Taunton River and its watershed are vulnerable to flooding. Photo: Wikimedia Commons user Marcbela

We held interactive workshops in Dighton, Halifax, Middleboro, Norton, and Taunton where we heard from local decision makers from more than 25 communities on the climate change vulnerabilities their cities and towns face. We discussed how to identify high priority lands for conservation with our Mapping And Prioritizing Parcels for Resilience tool, and provided a green infrastructure map for the watershed, developed by Manomet.  The project also offered case studies on successful examples of green infrastructure projects that already exist in the region. We listened to the unique challenges of each community and tailored these resources to their needs. We are also continuing our partnership with RTWN to help communities in the Taunton watershed implement their green infrastructure projects.

The training program left local communities within the watershed equipped to make choices that will make them more resilient to future impacts of climate change.  Now we are taking what we’ve learned and bringing it to communities statewide and beyond.  We are working with the state’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program to train hundreds of people working in 71 communities on MVP plans; and are sharing the training materials and lessons learned with many other groups including the Citizen Planner Training Collaborative and Rhode Island Green Infrastructure Coalition.

Participants in our workshops discussed how to identify high priority lands for conservation and incorporate green infrastructure into adaptation planning.

The Healthy Communities Project was a partnership among the Southeast Region Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD), Mass Audubon, The Nature Conservancy, Manomet, and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.

You can learn more about the project, and view the presentations and case studies, here.

Mass Audubon Receives Grant to Help Communities Restore Water Quality

Our Shaping the Future of Your Community program has received a grant from the Foundation for MetroWest to help communities protect and restore natural water balance and water quality through resilient landscapes. This work will focus on the MetroWest region of Massachusetts, which is experiencing climate change through more intense storm events punctuated by increased frequency of droughts – impacts that are only expected to worsen in the future. Events like these contribute to increased floods, erosion, and water pollution as well as periods of low or no flow in streams, which can stress fish and other aquatic life.

The impacts are amplified when we cover forests and fields that soak up and filter water with impervious surfaces, like sprawling developments and wide roads, that create water runoff that carries pollution into our waterways.

The Assabet River in Hudson, MA. Photo credit: John Phelan

We will introduce public and municipal officials to a more natural approach to land management through Low Impact Development (LID) and native plants. The project will demonstrate how local decisions can restore the water cycle and water quality while providing an attractive, high-quality landscape and improving climate resilience for current and future generations. The goal is to increase awareness and adoption of these cost-effective and practical techniques.

Our water resources are increasingly stressed, but conserving and restoring the natural landscape with native plants can offer social, environmental, and economic benefits.

 

Established in 1995, the Foundation for MetroWest is the only community foundation serving the 33 cities and towns in the region. The Foundation promotes philanthropy in the region, helps donors maximize the impact of their local giving, serve as a resource for local nonprofits and enhance the quality of life for all our residents. Since inception, the Foundation has granted $11.6 million to charitable organizations and currently stewards more than $15 million in charitable assets for current needs and future impact.