Tag Archives: wildlife protection

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup Digest – June 2020

A sampling of news from Mass Audubon’s weekly advocacy updates – sign up here.

Actions You Can Take

Birds in the US are in trouble due to factors like climate change and habitat loss, and now the Trump administration has taken another step toward rolling back Migratory Bird Treaty Act protections. We’re fighting these changes, and you can help >

Good news – the US Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act, which will permanently fund the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. Next the bill heads to the House, where we’ll continue to advocate for its swift passage – you can too.

Mass Audubon supports legislation that lays out a roadmap for Massachusetts to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Learn more about its goals in this recently recorded webinar, and help it pass by taking action here.

Eastern bluebird (photo credit: Cheryl Rose)

Mass Audubon Weighs In

Mass Audubon spoke to the Cape Cod Times about a damaging proposed state mosquito control bill. That bill has now been updated, though more changes are still needed.

Mass Audubon supports state legislation that would help nonprofits cope with the financial strains of the global pandemic. The bill would provide $75 million of public investment back into these community-based organizations.

With our coalition of wildlife protection groups, Mass Audubon submitted comments on the latest phase of federal review of the Mayflower Wind Energy project. Our comments focused on ensuring site surveys are done in a way that mitigates harm to marine mammals.

Photo credit: MA Department of Public Health

Updates from the State

Massachusetts and a coalition of 30 other states, cities, and counties are suing the Trump Administration over changes to Clean Car Standards.

After a pause due to COVID-19, the state has resumed enforcement of beverage container redemption requirements – a win for recycling.

Healthy forests are critical for public health, and the state has released updates to its Forest Action Plan to ensure the health of Massachusetts trees and forests into the future. We provided input on the updates.

Massachusetts could be on the way to removing natural gas from our energy portfolio. The state will investigate the future of the industry as we transition toward renewables.

Each year, Massachusetts celebrates its Commonwealth Heroines, women making outstanding contributions to their communities. This year’s class includes Deb Cary, Mass Audubon’s Director of Central Sanctuaries.

Climate Central

→ Hurricane season is here, and NOAA predicts an above-normal year
→ Racism derails our efforts to save the planet
→ The best protections from natural disasters could come from nature itself
→ Northeast states hit snag on offshore wind – we weigh in
→ To save the climate, look to the oceans
→ A large, bipartisan majority of Americans support bolder action on climate

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – May 4, 2020

Help Stop Mosquito Spraying from Going Too Far

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.

Climate Central

→ How much food could urban green spaces produce? More than you think.
→ Response to COVID-19 has driven global carbon emissions to levels last seen 10 years ago.
→ Massachusetts announces ecological restoration program for former cranberry bogs.
→ Are we witnessing the death of the car?

A Legacy of Leadership

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!

(Roseate tern photo credit: USFWS)

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.

Stop Mosquito Spraying from Going Too Far

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.

Update 6/8/2020: The Joint Committee on Public Health has approved a completely redrafted version of the bill by a unanimous, bipartisan vote.

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.

Loosening regulations around mosquito spraying could have impacts on our wetlands and water supplies

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.

Monarch butterfly (Photo: USFWS)

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.

All testimony must be submitted by email to Jay.Newsome@mahouse.gov and Brian.Rosman@masenate.gov no later than 5:00 p.m. on Monday, May 11.

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.

Thank you for speaking up!

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – March 24, 2020

Take Care of Yourselves!

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.

Climate Central

→ This online policy simulator explores the impacts of different climate change solutions.

→ 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 >

One More Chance to Defend Migratory Birds

The 100-year old federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) is one of our first environmental statutes, and makes it illegal to hunt, trap, kill, or possess nearly 1,000 avian species. Despite providing crucial protections, the law has been under attack since 2017.

Now, the Trump administration has taken the next step in codifying damaging changes to the MBTA into law by filing their Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

When birds die through activities like energy extraction, the MBTA helps hold companies responsible, and is a strong incentive to avoid such impacts in the first place. If the proposed change becomes law, incidental, as opposed to deliberate, bird deaths resulting from these activities – for example, birds killed in oil spills – will no longer result in prosecution.

The Northern Saw-whet owl is one of hundreds of species protected by MBTA. Photo credit: Bri Rudinsky/USFWS

You can help fight this change.

A group of national conservation organizations are suing the Department of Interior over changes to the law, and there’s still time to voice our opposition through the public review process.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting public comments on this proposed change through March 19. You can submit your own comments to voice your opposition to these protection rollbacks.  

Let USFWS know birds are already in serious trouble, due to factors like habitat loss and climate change, and that it’s unacceptable to stop holding companies responsible for bird deaths at a time when 76% of all bird species in the US are declining.

Thank you for speaking up!

Restoring Federal Protections for Birds

Last year the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), which makes it illegal to hunt, trap, and kill nearly 1,000 avian species, came under attack. The US Department of the Interior (DOI) decided “incidental,” as opposed to “intentional,” bird deaths resulting from commercial activities – for example, birds killed in oil spills – would no longer result in prosecution. This change effectively removes accountability over such deaths, since there is no incentive for companies to take measures to avoid them.

The Little Blue Heron is one of the hundreds of species protected under MBTA. Photo credit: Bill Buchanan/USFWS

Fortunately, federal legislation has now been introduced to restore these protections. The Migratory Bird Protection Act (H.R. 5552) would amend the MBTA to once again include and regulate incidental bird deaths.

You can help this bill succeed!

Please contact your US Representative to ask them to co-sponsor H.R.5552. Let them know that the MBTA is one of our country’s best protections for bird species, and that we need these protections now more than ever, since birds are disappearing at an alarming rate and are further threatened by climate change.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – October 7, 2019

Help Stop the Decline of US Birds

According to the first comprehensive review of bird population trends in decades, 29% of US birds have disappeared since 1970. Learn more about the issue and some Mass Audubon programs you can support to be part of the solution.

The Value of Nature in Narragansett Bay

This new report and website explore the $14 billion value of nature-based economic sectors in the Narragansett Bay Watershed. Mass Audubon partnered with the University of Rhode Island Coastal Institute and others on this project, which aims to inform future decision-making in the region.

Climate Central

→ Massachusetts is the most energy-efficient state in the US
→ Climate change threatens the world’s fisheries
→ The multi-state Transportation Climate Initiative releases its draft framework
→ Massachusetts is among a the 23 states suing over vehicle emission standard rollbacks

Latest Round of MVP Funding Announced

The state has announced $8 million in funding for the latest round of Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program grants. This funding will help communities plan for climate impacts and implement priority adaptation projects. Learn more about MVP and how to apply for this funding.

Are You a Community Preservation Leader?

Our Community Preservation Coalition Steering Committee is expanding! As the CPA program has grown over the years, the Steering Committee hopes to grow along with it by including wide-ranging representation from member communities. Learn more.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – September 23, 2019

An Inspiring Day of Climate Strikes

Thousands gathered for the Global Climate Strike in Boston last Friday, where the crowd heard from youth activists and political leaders. Mass Audubon sanctuaries joined strikes statewide and beyond, including in Lexington, Northampton, Providence, Worcester, and Wellesley. Kudos to climate change program manager Alexandra Vecchio for organizing Mass Audubon’s partnership in this event, and to all who attended.

Climate Central

→ An estimated four million people worldwide turned out for the youth-led Global Climate Strike. Here’s a recap of this exciting day of activism
→ Youth activist Greta Thunberg draws attention to protecting forests as a climate solution.
→ The health impacts of climate change.
→ Energy efficiency can slash emissions and get the US halfway to climate goals.

Partnering on Wind Power

Mass Audubon is an event partner and speaker at next month’s American Wind Energy Association Offshore WINDPOWER Conference in Boston. Momentum for offshore wind in the US is building, and this year’s event will feature sessions on ensuring its long-term success and reducing costs.

Speaking Up for Local Bird Species

Local bird populations are declining across Massachusetts, largely due to climate change and habitat loss.WBUR’s Morning Edition takes a closer look at these changes in a discussion with Mass Audubon’s Joan Walsh.

Fight Destructive Offshore Drilling

Update 9/16/19: Great news – all three bills passed in the House last week! Next, the Senate needs to take action. Thanks to everyone who contacted your members of congress!

Mass Audubon has been working to oppose a damaging expansion in offshore oil and gas drilling proposed by the Trump Administration, since the extraction of oil and gas through our oceans would have severe impacts on fisheries, wildlife habitat, and geological resources.

We had some good news earlier this year when components of the plan involving the Arctic Ocean and parts of the Atlantic were blocked in federal court. However, much of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are still at risk from expanded drilling, and the federal government will likely appeal the ruling, so it’s important that we keep fighting for protection of our coastlines.

Humpback whale. Photo credit: NOAA

Now we have a chance to do just that. A major vote in the US House of Representatives is expected this week on federal legislation that could make a big impact. The Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act (H.R. 1941) would ban offshore drilling & seismic testing on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Please take a minute to contact your congressperson and ask them to support H.R.1941 when it comes up for their vote. Let them know that this protection is crucial for our vulnerable marine ecosystems and wildlife, like the endangered North Atlantic right whale. You can also remind them that Massachusetts and all of New England depend on a thriving coastal and ocean economy, and that success in turn depends on healthy coastal and ocean ecosystems.

While you’re at it, ask them to support these additional drilling prevention bills, which are also set for votes this week:

The Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act (H.R. 1146) would restore protections against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Although the federal court has upheld protection for the Arctic Ocean against drilling, the Refuge could become open for drilling leases as soon as this fall.

The Protecting and Securing Florida’s Coastline Act (H.R. 205) would extend protections into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – August 19, 2019

Save the Endangered Species Act

The federal Endangered Species Act is one of America’s most successful conservation laws, and it’s under threat. The Trump Administration has finalized changes that will significantly weaken protection for vulnerable species, but you can help fight them.

Rallying Support for Vineyard Wind

Vineyard Wind would be the first US industrial offshore wind project and has the potential to power more than 400,000 homes. Earlier this month, the project was delayed by the Interior Department. At a press event with our colleagues on Cape Cod, we spoke out about this unnecessary delay.

Climate Central

→ Greta Thunberg sets sail for U.N. climate talks
→ Rhode Island is the first of the lower 48 states whose average temperature has risen by more than 2ºC, and the rest of the Northeast isn’t far behind
→ It’s official: this July was the planet’s hottest month on record

Pesticides and Endangered Species

In addition to her pledge to take action on Endangered Species Act rollbacks, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy and ten other state attorneys general have opposed an EPA proposal that risks exposing endangered species to harmful pesticides.