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.
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!
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.
Although Mass Audubon’s sanctuaries are currently closed due to the stay-at-home advisory, we have citizen science projects and activities for kids you can do closer to home. Stay tuned for more ways to take action and support your community during these challenging times.
Update from the State House
As we’ve all been adjusting to our new normal over the past few weeks, activity at the State House has redirected—but it hasn’t stopped. Here’s a quick recap on what’s been happening, from COVID-19 relief to old growth forest protections.
→ The state Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program is holding April webinars on how to apply for funding.
Speaking Up for Environmental Protections
Mass Audubon recently joined with our conservation partners to oppose two damaging changes to federal environmental laws—loosening enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and proposed “updates” to the National Environmental Policy Act that violate the law’s intent.
Free Technical Assistance Opportunity
The Southeast New England (SNEP) Network is offering communities in that region the opportunity to apply for free technical and training assistance for stormwater management and ecological restoration. Mass Audubon is a SNEP Network partner. Learn more & apply >
As we all adjust to our new normal over these past few weeks during the COVID-19 crisis, activity at the State House has redirected, but hasn’t stopped. Here’s a quick recap on what’s been happening.
COVID-19 Relief Legislation
The Massachusetts state legislature has
introduced 26 different bills (and counting) to address the current pandemic. These
proposals range from creating a COVID-19 Quarantine Assistance Fund that to
assist residents who are unable to earn wages due to infection or quarantine,
to directing the department of revenue to send a $1,000 check to households who
meet certain income criteria.
So far, the only bill that has been signed into law is S.2599, Governor Baker’s bill that waives the one week waiting period for those qualifying for unemployment.
At the federal level, congress is also working on several proposed bills to address the pandemic. One has passed so far: TheFamilies First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) was signed into law by President Trump last week. Its components include:
Providing free COVID-19 testing to the public, with no copays or deductibles.
Requiring employers with 500 or fewer employees to provide two weeks paid sick leave to employees unable to work due to quarantine or for the care of someone with COVID-19 (and provide related tax credits to the employer)
Providing $1 billion in state grants to assist in unemployment claims
Increasing funding for SNAP and WIC nutrition benefit programs.
It is expected that the Massachusetts state budget
will be delayed, and that once it does go through, there will be reduced
spending across all sectors. We’ll still continue to push for our Green Budget
priorities, since state environmental office and programs continue to need all
the support they can get.
Old Growth Forest Protections
We were pleasantly
surprised to see our priority
legislation improving protections for old growth forests was reported
favorably out of committee last week. Now it awaits approval by the Senate
Committee on Ways and Means before it can head to the House and Senate floor
New England’s energy system is more expensive and more polluting than it should be, but Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is helping empower electricity users to advocate for a cleaner energy system in New England. Learn more and add your voice.
Good news – Mayor Marty Walsh signed an executive order last week requiring all new municipal building construction to meet a Zero Net Carbon standard. This means every new City-owned building will have to be low-energy and fossil fuel-free.
Supporting State Adaptation Funding
Mass Audubon and members of our Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Coalition provided testimony supporting the “Greenworks” bill, which would improve climate adaptation and resiliency policy and funding. We also suggested changes to strengthen the bill.
Opposing Offshore Drilling Changes
With conservation partners, we opposed a change to the federal Coastal and Great Lakes Communities Enhancement Act that put wildlife at risk. The amendment would have facilitated dangerous offshore oil drilling, harming marine mammals in the process – and fortunately, was later defeated.
Help Improve Mosquito Messaging
The state Department of Agricultural Resources is seeking feedback on their communication about mosquitoes and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) from this summer and fall. This input will help improve outreach next season.
Speaker DeLeo’s “Greenworks” bill, which would develop a state grant program for resiliency and clean energy projects, passed in the House last week. Members of our Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Coalition helped improve the bill to include more nature-based solutions and environmental justice criteria, among others.
State agencies will hold more community workshops in August to gather input for a regional, low-carbon transportation plan. Part of the multi-state Transportation and Climate Initiative, these workshops will focus on how to reduce emissions and make our transportation systems more resilient and equitable.
Taking Action on Chemical Contamination
We signed on to testimony in support of bills that would establish an interagency task force on the group of chemicals known as PFAS. PFAS chemicals threaten both public and ecosystem health through groundwater contamination, and the state needs a plan to improve their management.
Upholding Hydropower Regulations
Mass Audubon was also among 70 groups opposing a state proposal to change the way hydropower generators are certified as river-friendly facilities. The change would allow a qualified project to retain that status regardless of environmental changes or needed updates, which could negatively impact river systems.
The Massachusetts state legislature released their final FY20 state budget over the weekend following conference committee deliberations, and there’s good news for many of Mass Audubon’s priority programs, including our Blue Hills Trailside Museum:
Trailside received $500,000, the amount we requested and a $200,000 increase compared to FY19
A long-awaited deeds fee increase that would restore needed Community Preservation Act funding was upheld, and an additional $20 million was directed to the CPA Trust Fund
Our recommended funding levels were met or exceeded for several Green Budget line items and the Mass Cultural Council (see table below)
The conference committee also included $2.19 million for state climate change adaptation programs
Now the budget is on its way to Governor Baker’s desk for
final approval. He can still veto line item funding, so help make sure he knows
Massachusetts residents value these programs! You can email his office
and encourage him to pass a budget that upholds funding levels for these
Mass Audubon will be submitting our own request to the
Governor as well.
Our Shaping the Future of Your Community program is hiring! We’re looking for a Southeast Regional Coordinator to help promote smart development and protect natural resources in the Taunton River Watershed and South Coast.
Last week was a big one for the future of climate change planning, when bills filed by Governor Baker and by Speaker DeLeo to fund community preparedness had their hearings at the State House.
The success of the state Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program has made clear that Massachusetts cities and towns are eager to be proactive about planning for climate change impacts. Planning for these impacts also reduces the long-term costs of climate-related risks and protects property values. With 71% of Massachusetts municipalities enrolled in the program’s first three years, additional funding is now needed to help meet demand for planning and action grants.
Baker’s bill, An Act Providing for Climate
Change Adaptation Infrastructure Investments in the Commonwealth (S.10),
Establish a new, sustainable source of revenue for cities and towns to fund resilient infrastructure and nature-based solutions to climate impacts
Build upon the MVP program to meet its increased demand
Increase the state’s deeds excise from $2.28 to $3.42 for every $500 of a property sale. This would allow approximately $137 million annually to be invested in climate change adaptation and resiliency projects throughout Massachusetts to protect public health, safety, and property
Deposit funds into a Global Warming Solutions Trust fund to provide loans, grants, and technical assistance to cities and towns for their priority adaptation projects
Allow funds to be spent across fiscal years, lending flexibility to support larger, more complex projects
Establish a GreenWorks resiliency program for Massachusetts cities and towns, which would include grants for public infrastructure improvements, renewable energy production and storage, and MVP-related adaptation projects
Develop a matching grant program to support and provide technical assistance for cities and towns to develop municipal microgrid clean energy systems
Develop a grant programs to encourage electrification of vehicle fleets owned by municipalities or regional transit authorities
Establish a grant program to allow municipalities to hire sustainability coordinators
Establish a Green Resiliency Fund to provide loans to municipalities for resiliency improvements and investments
Provide this funding, which would total about $1.3 billion, through the sale of specially-designated bonds
Mass Audubon submitted testimony in support of each bill, both independently and with partners like our Climate Change Adaptation Coalition and the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance. You can also read testimony on S.10 from Governor Baker and EEA Secretary Theoharides.
they are a member of the Joint Committee
on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, contact them and urge them to
report H.3846 favorably out of
Even if your legislator isn’t on either Committee, you can ask them to contact Committee members in favor of these bills. Let them know that as the impacts of climate change continue to become more severe, it’s crucial that Massachusetts cities and towns are as prepared as possible. These bills would help make sure that happens by setting aside steady income streams to fund community resiliency projects.
Action You Can Take This Week: Support a Strong State Budget
The Massachusetts Senate begins debate on their version of the state budget tomorrow, and you can help make sure they strengthen funding for the Community Preservation Trust Fund and Mass Audubon’s Trailside Museum. Ask your Senator today to support amendments for CPA and for Trailside!
A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change
This May, hundreds of valedictorians across the US will deliver the same commencement message on the need for climate action.
Boston makes the “A” list for cities leading the world on climate action!
The South Shore Climate Change Symposium, co-hosted by Mass Audubon’s North River Wildlife Sanctuary, was a successful day of idea sharing
Choosing Renewable Power for Boston
Incorporating renewable energy into local power choice programs helps communities take emission reductions into their own hands. We submitted comments on the City of Boston’s draft Community Choice Power Aggregation plan, urging them to adopt the strongest renewable component possible.
Speaking Up for Healthy Soils
We also submitted testimony with partners in support of legislation to promote healthy soils statewide. Soils are essential for life on earth, and policy makers have an important role to play in planning for their long-term health.
The Plastic Problem
Mass Audubon weighed in on this recent Cape Cod Times article on our plastic pollution problem – a global issue that includes significant impacts along Massachusetts coasts.
Next Steps Needed on Adaptation
We joined partners in supporting state legislation that would provide a needed framework – consistent, predictable policies and regulations – to support the progress Massachusetts has made so far on adaptation planning.
As the FY20 state budget continues
its progress through the State House, we’re at a crucial point for Mass
Audubon’s Blue Hills Trailside Museum funding.
Trailside is the interpretive center
for the state-owned Blue Hills Reservation and features a natural
history museum and outdoor exhibits of rescued wildlife. Mass Audubon operates
the museum in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and
Recreation, which means we receive a crucial component of Trailside’s funding
through the state budget each fiscal year. Trailside welcomes more than 100,000
visitors a year and is home to the Snowy Owl Project.
Although the Governor’s original
FY20 budget did not include funding for Trailside, Senator Walter Timilty has
filed an amendment requesting $1 million for the site. The Senate begins debate
of their version of the FY20 budget on May 21.
Over the past few years, Trailside
has faced a continuing revenue shortfall and received only a fraction of the
state funding needed to sustain its operation and public programs. Senator
Timilty’s amendment is a chance to reclaim that much-needed funding.
You can help! Please contact your state Senator and ask
them to cosponsor Senator Timilty’s Amendment #908 for Trailside, and to
support the amendment when it comes up for debate next week. A quick call
or email can make a big difference. Thank you for your advocacy!