Tag Archives: advocacy

Bald Eagle flying

When Pest Control Poisons Wildlife: Why It Happens and How to Help

(Disclaimer: the post below includes a photo of a dead bald eagle)

This week, Massachusetts passed a sad benchmark–the first documented case of a bald eagle death in the state from second-generation anticoagulant rodenticide (SGAR) poisoning.  

Or, in clearer terms: rat poison. 

Anticoagulant rodenticides kill rodents by preventing blood from clotting normally. But these poisons can have unintended victims when wildlife, like birds of prey, ingest them or eat prey that has consumed the bait. 

Second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) can be especially problematic since they don’t kill rodents immediately. Poisoned rodents can still live for a few days and consume more poisoned bait during that time, and the delay means they can ingest enough poison to kill a much larger animal. 

Photo: James B. Condon

Aren’t These Poisons Regulated?

Second-generation anticoagulants have been banned by the EPA from the consumer market, but licensed exterminators are still allowed to deploy them. Other rodenticides, called first-generation anticoagulant rodenticides and non-anticoagulant rodenticides, are still approved for residential consumer use if enclosed within a bait station. 

While this was the first confirmed case of an eagle death in the state as a result of SGARs, the issue of birds of prey becoming the unintended victims of these poisons is a growing problem. Nearly every raptor species is vulnerable to rodenticide poisoning. For example, one recent study found that 100% of tested red-tailed hawks at Tufts Wildlife Clinic had been exposed to anticoagulant rodenticides. Secondary poisoning has also been documented in species like foxes, bobcats, and coyotes.

What’s the Solution?

With rat populations on the rise, pest control measures continue to be necessary. But many poison-free options for preventing rodent problems exist. In addition to non-chemical traps, these include exclusion methods, like sealing up access points to buildings, and sanitation methods, like securing trash bins to reduce food sources.  

If the situation necessitates hiring a pest control company, choosing one that uses Integrated Pest Management (IPM) can also make a big impact in reducing widespread pesticide use. IPM relies on a series of pest management evaluations, and its strategies can include trapping, sealing up entry holes in foundations, walls, and roofs, and removing or trimming vegetation that obscures the ground.  

We also need laws to regulate the pesticides that do continue to be used. In California, legislation has passed prohibiting the use of SGARs until state agencies can reevaluate what long-term restrictions are needed to avoid impacts to nontarget wildlife.  

Here in Massachusetts, An Act relative to pesticides would better regulate the use of SGARs, in turn reducing their impacts on birds of prey and other wildlife. The bill would: 

  • Increase use of IPM strategies in Massachusetts 
  • Educate consumers about the benefits of IPM and impacts of SGARs 
  • Require digitization of pesticide use forms, making them more accessible and searchable 

You Can Help Stop Wildlife from Being Poisoned

Ask your state legislators to co-sponsor An Act relative to pesticides today! The more co-sponsors a bill has, the more support it has behind it and the better chance it has of passing. 

By improving our approaches to pest management, we can reduce the need for rodenticides at their source and help our wildlife thrive. 

Bald Eagle Flying © David Morris
Bald Eagle © David Morris

Paving the Way Towards an Equitable, Net-Zero Future

Photo © Rishi Jain.

Last week the Massachusetts House passed our priority climate bill, An Act creating a 2050 roadmap to a clean and thriving Commonwealth (H.4912). The bill includes critical language highlighting the role of natural and working lands in reaching net zero emissions, as well as protections for frontline communities. This action brings us one step closer to making an equitable carbon neutral future a reality. Here’s why: 

We Don’t Have to Wait for Technology 

Climate solutions already exist all around us. Take a look outside your window, and you’ll probably see a critical tool that’ll help ensure we can reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

That’s right. Nature is an indispensable ally in our collective climate fight. Not only does nature make us more resilient to climate impacts like heat, floods, and droughts, it also can help us prevent some of the worst impacts altogether.  

Forests, farms, and wetlands, for example, soak up rampant carbon dioxide like a sponge – removing excess greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change from our atmosphere. This removal process, along with limiting the burning of fossil fuels, is a climate mitigation strategy: it addresses the crisis at its roots by reducing the net amount of emissions that remain in the atmosphere.  

Climate Mitigation and a Net Zero Carbon Future Go Hand in Hand 

Natural climate solutions are crucial mitigation tools for reaching our 2050 net zero goal. It’s up to us to make sure that we urgently utilize them to tackle climate change.  

As amended, the 2050 Roadmap bill makes natural climate solutions a priority for achieving carbon neutrality statewide. It requires the state to measure the carbon stored by and released from natural and working lands across Massachusetts, and create a plan for increasing those absorption levels while reducing carbon emissions. 

Safeguarding Our Future for People and Wildlife Alike 

The amended 2050 Roadmap bill also formalizes a definition of environmental justice, which will help ensure equitable access to future environmental decision making. Environmental injustices and climate impacts are disproportionately harming low-income communities and communities of color, and the bill establishes long overdue protections to address these disparities.  

We Have a Part to Play in our Collective Climate Fight 

Mass Audubon is dedicated to boldly acting on climate change so that we can protect both our communities and our wildlife. As one of the largest conservation nonprofits in New England, we see the value of nature firsthand every day, especially in solving the climate crisis.  

We’ve been advocating for the 2050 Roadmap bill all session, and we’re excited to see it making progress. Right now, we’re thanking legislators that supported it, and you can, too. Next, the bill will head to a conference committee where we’ll continue pushing for its passage. 

We don’t have time to wait. Our future is one we must work to protect right now – and nature can help us pave the way towards equitable carbon neutrality. 

Bottle Bill Heads to the Ballot!

Courtesy of MASSPIRG

Courtesy of MASSPIRG

Last week, the Coalition to Update the Bottle Bill delivered the necessary signatures to move forward with a November ballot question that would update the three-decade-old Massachusetts Beverage Retainer Recovery Act.

Although Mass Audubon did not participate in the signature collection, we are fully supportive of the ballot campaign for this much-needed update. The campaign is heading to the ballot because the state legislature failed to pass an update to the existing bill by their deadline.

We urge Mass Audubon members and Massachusetts voters to Vote YES on Question 2 this November to Update the Bottle Bill!

About the Bottle Bill

The Bottle Bill, the nickel deposit on beverage containers, is the state’s most successful recycling and litter prevention program. Since the Bottle Bill’s passage in 1983, more than 35 billion containers have been redeemed, contributing to a healthier environment, cleaner and safer communities, and a stronger economy. But to keep up with the times and consumers’ tastes, the Bottle Bill must be updated.

An updated Bottle Bill would expand our container deposit system to include drinks such as non-carbonated beverages, water, iced tea, juice, and sports drinks. Almost 70% of deposit beverage containers are redeemed each year under the current Bottle Bill, adding to the 9-10% of containers recovered through curbside recycling.

Overall, deposit containers are recycled at a rate of about 80%, while non-deposit containers are recycled at only 23%.

Stay Informed

You can stay up-to-date on how to help with the ballot campaign by visiting the Coalition to Update the Bottle Bill’s website.

Congratulations to the Coalition for all the work that went into collecting these signatures! We will keep you informed as the campaign moves into high gear over the summer and into the fall election season.

A Win for Community Preservation

Tuesday’s election was a win for the environment here in Massachusetts. But not for the reasons you may think. Here, we are celebrating the fact that seven communities voted to adopt the Community Preservation Act (CPA) bringing the Bay State total to 155 communities.

This means that these communities have voted to dedicate local funding, with a state match, to preserve and improve open space and historic sites, create affordable housing, and develop outdoor recreational facilities.

Over the last 10 years, 42 percent of the Commonwealth’s cities and towns have preserved 15,000 acres of open space. The new CPA communities include: Beverly, Canton, Fall River, Great Barrington, Salem, Somerset, and Somerville.

Why it matters

Until the CPA was enacted back in 2000, there was no steady funding source dedicated to helping communities with strained resources address quality-of-life issues like open space, recreation, and historic preservation. CPA has proven to be a valuable tool for communities that don’t have access to other non-property tax revenue streams like hotel/motel taxes, big-ticket mitigation fees from developers, or state grants for special projects.

In municipalities that vote to adopt CPA, the program allows local officials to use a property tax surcharge and matching state funds to encourage communities to invest in areas often neglected when budgets are tight.

How it works

CPA adopting communities add a surcharge of up to three percent to municipal property taxes to raise money locally. A statewide, dedicated CPA Trust Fund distributes annual matching funds of up to 100 percent of the CPA revenues raised locally by these communities. Fees on filings at the state’s registries of deeds fund the CPA Trust.

For the past six years, a Mass Audubon legislative priority has been to update the CPA legislation to make it more beneficial (not to mention appealing). In July 2012, the Act to Sustain Community Preservation was passed as an amendment to the state budget. Among the improvements:

  • Increases in funding for the statewide Community Preservation Trust Fund, which will allow for even more improvements to towns’ and cities’ existing CPA programs.
  • Incentives for cities to join by allowing for recreation improvements and the use of higher matching funds from other local sources;
  • A provision that gives CPA communities the ability to use CPA funds to fix up existing parks and recreational facilities. Previously, CPA funds could only be used to purchase new parks and recreational facilities.

To learn more about Mass Audubon and its efforts in community  preservation, planning, and smart growth, check out our Shaping the Future of Your Community online handbook and attend a workshop.

Photo © Alison Noyce

Save the Endangered Species Act

This just in from our Advocacy department on Beacon Hill:

ACTION ALERT: Save the Endangered Species Act TODAY!

The Massachusetts Legislature is considering revisions to the state Endangered Species Act (MESA) which would result in an effective repeal of endangered species protections in the Commonwealth.

On June 14, the Joint Committee on Environment approved Senate Bill 1854An Act relative to land takings (filed by Senator Gale Candaras). The bill has been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration. The redraft will:

  • Place impossible and unprecedented requirements on the Division of Fisheries & Wildlife (DFW) to be completed in 7 months, effectively undoing current protections for the 435 species of native animals and plants at risk in Massachusetts.
  • Inject uncertainty, delays and conflict in the project review process, leading to potential fines and lawsuits against landowners and developers.
  • Up-end long-standing appeal procedures and case law putting DFW on different footing than every other agency in the Commonwealth.

This unfunded agency mandate would create an unworkable system leaving endangered species unprotected. To learn more, read the letter in opposition signed by 72 conservation and sportsmen’s organizations, which includes a bill summary and FAQ.  Here is the most recent SB1854 text.


We urge you to contact your state representative and senator – by phone, email or mail – today. Ask them to protect endangered species and oppose SB1854An Act relative to land takings and ask them to communicate their position to leadership. In the House, that’s Speaker DeLeo and Chairman of House Ways and Means Brian Dempsey and in the Senate, that’s Senate President Murray and Chairman of Senate Ways and Means Stephen Brewer.

Find out who your legislators are and how to contact them.

We expect the bill to be sent to the House Committee on Ways and Means this week and the bill may get a new number. We will keep you posted.

Thank you for stepping up to protect endangered species!

Photo of an Eastern box turtle © Joy Marzolf