Did you know Mass Audubon is offering online programs and classes during COVID-19 related closures? From birding resources to nature photography tips, you can pick up a new skill or learn about our natural world from home.
The latest Op Ed from our advocacy director takes a closer look at what’s at stake in recent Waters of the US protection rollbacks, which threaten half our country’s wetlands and many of our smaller streams. Learn more about our lawsuit to fight the changes here.
Getting SMART About Solar
Responding as a global community to the threat of climate change means expanding access to renewable energy, but this expansion shouldn’t come at the expense of our natural lands and resources. Learn more about recent state solar updates in our blog post.
Addressing Environmental Injustice in Massachusetts
A new brief from Attorney General Healy’s office highlights the longstanding impacts of environmental injustice on families in Massachusetts. Read their ideas to address these impacts — like investing in clean energy jobs and strengthening regulations to protect vulnerable communities — and our statement of support.
Bird-a-thon brings together supporters from across the state to raise essential funds for nature conservation, education, and advocacy—and to compete in an exciting team birding competition. This year’s event has gone virtual: join today!
For nearly 50 years, the Clean Water Act has helped safeguard America’s rivers, lakes, and other interconnected landscapes. Now it’s under threat, but Mass Audubon and our partners are fighting back. Learn more >
CPA Trust Fund: Planning Ahead
Since the ongoing pandemic has made it difficult to predict how much qualifying communities will receive from the CPA Trust Fund in November, the state has issued preliminary guidance to help with FY21 budget planning.
For nearly 50 years, the Clean Water Act has helped safeguard America’s rivers, lakes, and other interconnected landscapes. These resources provide wildlife habitat, swimming and fishing opportunities, and drinking water for millions of Americans.
But now, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers have finalized a rule to remove critical protections for more than half of the country’s wetlands and hundreds of thousands of streams.
What’s at Stake
The repeal focuses on the 2015 “Waters of the United States” rule (WOTUS), which defined wetlands and waterways protected nationwide under the Clean Water Act, and was developed following extensive scientific and public input.
Repealing WOTUS means removing protections from many wetlands, as well as streams that flow in response to rain or snowfall – all of which can significantly impact the health of larger water bodies by filtering out pollutants.
Denying these protections blatantly ignores the science that went into WOTUS in the first place, which showed that in order to protect our nation’s rivers and streams, smaller bodies of water and tributaries must be protected as well. Wetlands are also among our most biologically productive ecosystems, and act as both carbon sinks and floodwater absorbers – two more major reasons to strengthen, not weaken, their protections as we face the climate crisis.
We’re Fighting Back
Mass Audubon has joined the Conservation Law Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council, and other partners in filing a lawsuit in federal court that challenges the Trump administration’s rollbacks. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and 18 other states are also filing their own lawsuit.
Since 1972, the Clean Water Act has protected wetlands and streams across the United States. Now it’s our turn to protect it.
Update 7/23/2020: The revised bill has been signed into law by the Governor.
We’ll now be following its implementation closely through the state’s Mosquito Control for a 21st Century Task Force, which will include advocating for statewide reform of Massachusetts’ approach to mosquito control to improve environmental and public health practices.
The revised bill no longer allows the Reclamation Board to override all state laws, and creates a task force to review and propose updates to the state’s mosquito control system, based on science. It also includes notification and reporting requirements for aerial or other wide-scale pesticide applications. Mass Audubon supports these proposed revisions, and now the new bill is headed to the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing for further approval.
Thanks to everyone that submitted testimony or contacted committee members – advocacy around this bill by conservation groups and others made a big difference. While this redraft marks progress, we are also still hoping to see additional changes.
Original post: A bill is moving through the state’s Joint Committee on Public Health that could be damaging to Massachusetts wetlands and wildlife, and counterproductive to public health concerns.
An Act to Mitigate Arbovirus in the Commonwealth (H.4650), proposed by Governor Baker, aims to address mosquito borne disease, but it goes much too far. The bill would exempt the State Reclamation and Mosquito Control Board from all state laws and allow them to conduct mosquito eradication measures anywhere in the Commonwealth. This proposed change is based on a determination by the state Department of Public Health (DPH) that there may be a threat of mosquito borne disease somewhere in the state in the next year, but this is too vague a standard to result in such drastic measures.
The way the bill is written, there is no minimum threshold for these actions to kick in, no opportunity for input from affected communities or landowners, and no expiration date. The Reclamation Board would be exempt from all state laws, including Massachusetts’ Open Meeting Law, Public Records Act, and environmental laws like the Endangered Species and Wetlands Protection Acts.
Mass Audubon supports the recommendations of the national Centers for Disease Control and US Environmental Protection Agency calling for a science-based mosquito-borne disease management program, with the goal of protecting public health while minimizing environmental and human health risks associated with some types of mosquito control. Spraying of pesticides to control adult mosquitoes is the least effective, and most environmentally damaging, method.
Reform is needed for mosquito control in Massachusetts, since our existing systems are antiquated and fragmented. But this bill won’t achieve those reforms, instead giving more clout to the existing broken systems.
The proposed legislation is of particular concern at a time when many people are seeking to reduce their exposures to chemicals. More and more people are growing their own food and managing their yards and gardens with minimal or no pesticides, both to protect their own health and for the benefit of wild pollinators, which are in serious decline. This bill would eliminate landowner’s rights to be excluded from routine pesticide spraying.
Mass Audubon is opposing this bill at the State House and encouraging the Public Health Committee to reject it.
You can help by opposing the bill too.
Contact the Joint Committee on Public Health and let them know that this bill is too broad, putting wildlife and water supplies at risk, and that it lacks transparency by not providing a role for local boards of health or environmental groups.
Please include “PUBLIC HEALTH TESTIMONY” in the subject line of the email, and include the name, title and organization (if applicable), address, and telephone number of the person submitting testimony.
April 22 is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, which has always served as a reminder of our power to protect our planet and effect change. All month, Mass Audubon is celebrating this year’s theme of climate action. Join us!
New Leadership at Mass Audubon
We are excited to welcome David O’Neill as the new President of Mass Audubon! David has dedicated his professional career to conservation, and most recently served as Chief Conservation Officer and Senior Advisor to the CEO of National Audubon Society. Meet David >
Shaping Massachusetts’ Net-zero Vision
As a member of the Alliance for Clean Energy Solutions, Mass Audubon provided input on the state’s Determination of Statewide Emissions Limit for 2050. We support a 2050 net-zero requirement, and made additional recommendations like ensuring equity and social justice measures.
COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Webinars
Our Southeast New England Network is hosting a series of lunchtime webinar discussions focused on how we can respond to the pandemic in a way that builds a stronger and more resilient New England. Learn more and register >
Defending US Water Protections
Mass Audubon joined our conservation partners in writing to US House and Senate leadership to ask that future stimulus packages include funding for water infrastructure programs, which are critical for minimizing pollution and ensuring clean drinking water access.
Federal Stimulus Support
We also urged the Massachusetts congressional delegation to ensure that COVID-19 relief includes investments in sustainable development and clean energy. By protecting our natural resources, we can also create crucial jobs to stimulate the nation’s recovery.
The Trump administration is rolling back enforcement of environmental regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic, essentially ceasing to hold companies accountable for pollution until further notice. Mass Audubon and other environmental groups spoke out about this decision to The Boston Globe.
Supporting River and Wetland Health
Earlier this month, the state Division of Ecological Restoration announced new funding awarded to projects that will remove aging dams, restore floodplain habitat, and improve resilience to climate change. Mass Audubon’s Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary is among the recipients.
Funding Opportunity to Improve Water Quality
MassDEP is holding an informational call on April 8 about their 604(b) grant program, ahead of issuing their Request for Responses later this month. Potential grant applicants are encouraged to participate in the call to discuss new project ideas.
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.
Reminder: Make Sure You’re Registered for the Primary
The registration deadline is February 12 to be eligible to vote or change party status for the Massachusetts primary election. If you’ll be out of state or unavailable on March 3 the day of the primary, absentee ballots and early voting are available.
Thanks to Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Katie Theoharides for attending a meet and greet with Mass Audubon members last week in Arlington, where she spoke about the state’s 2020 environmental and climate change agenda.
Weighing in on Water Protection
Mass Audubon opposed a recent federal decision to remove protections for a large percentage of US streams and wetlands. Our director of advocacy spoke with WBUR about these changes and their potential implications.
Latest Local Climate Funding Announced
The next round of funding through the state Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program will provide $11.6 million in grants to communities to develop resilience strategies and adapt to climate change. 82% of Massachusetts cities and towns are now enrolled in MVP.
State Budget Process Begins
Governor Baker has released his FY21 state budget, and we’ll be advocating for full funding on Green Budget priorities like the Division of Ecological Restoration. We’ll also seek support for the Blue Hills Trailside Museum, which Mass Audubon manages for the state.
Poll of the Week
A new MassInc poll finds the majority of Massachusetts residents think they’ll need to make at least moderate changes to how they live in order to address climate change.
This Op Ed from Mass Audubon’s advocacy director takes a deeper look at the Transportation and Climate Initiative. You can still support this regional effort to reduce carbon pollution from cars and trucks.
This week, a package of new climate change bills will be debated in the state Senate, an effort that also aligns with the state’s net-zero by 2050 goal. We support these proposals, and encourage the inclusion of offshore wind to achieve their goals.
Protecting US Waters
Last week, the Trump administration finalized a rule to remove federal protections for a large percentage of US streams and wetlands. We opposed this environmentally-damaging change when it was first proposed, and several states including Massachusetts are expected to file lawsuits.
Share Your Thoughts on Mosquito Spraying
Last year, Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) occurred across a record portion of Massachusetts, resulting in a high volume of aerial pesticide spraying by the state. Mass Audubon and the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance are collecting input from watershed and environmental groups to share with the Department of Public Health.
Last month, the Massachusetts Senate passed a bill that would ban single-use plastic bags statewide. Now, the House has referred that bill to its Committee on Rules, and you can help it progress from there. Learn more
Our advocacy director Jack Clarke has been recognized by the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance as a “River Advocate.” Also honored were Steve Long of The Nature Conservancy, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Vandana Rao of the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
Mass Audubon is seeking dynamic candidates for four new positions that will help us advance our response to the threats and impacts of climate change. Learn more about these jobs, the fields of focus for which are: education, ecology, communications, and development.