Mass Audubon hails state lawmakers’ agreement for significant investments in nature and climate
LINCOLN, MA--As the major $4 billion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) spending bill moves toward final passage and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk for approval, Mass Audubon leaders, who have been lobbying vigorously for investments in climate change mitigation and nature, praised the legislative conference committee for coming to an agreement this week.
“This is a significant moment for Massachusetts to ensure that nature-based climate solutions are put into place in every corner of our state, across rural and suburban settings, and especially in urban communities where residents have been disproportionately impacted by COVID,” Mass Audubon President David O’Neill said. “Not only will these funds reduce the risks of climate impacts and greenhouse gas emissions and restore critical water infrastructure, they also expand greenspaces in communities that lack trees, parks, trails, and access to nature. This is a critical, once-in-a-generation opportunity to make progress, and we are so pleased to see state lawmakers leading us there.”
Both the House and Senate approved plans over the past few weeks to spend more than $3.82 billion in ARPA federal pandemic relief funds and state surplus money. The bill was accepted by the House on Thursday and is expected to be passed in the Senate on Friday, moving it onto Gov. Baker’s desk. Just shy of $2.5 billion of ARPA funds remain for the state legislature to debate next year.
“We are especially grateful to the members of the conference committee for their hard work over the last two weeks, and for the leadership shown by members in both branches who made a point of prioritizing nature and climate,” O’Neill said. “This is a down payment on our future. We will continue to need to commit sustained funding over time. This is an essential first step.
“I’m deeply grateful as well for State Rep. Daniel M. Donahue (D-Worcester); State Rep. Smitty Pignatelli (D-Pittsfield); State Rep. Thomas A. Golden, Jr. (D-Lowell); and State Sen. Adam Hinds (D-Berkshire County),” O’Neill continued. “They championed specific earmarks for Mass Audubon projects that are both shovel-ready and shovel-worthy.” Those projects include repairs to storm-damaged trails and forests at the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox; wetland restoration at Broad Meadow Brook Conservation Center & Wildlife Sanctuary in Worcester; and an open space and parks initiative in Lowell, future site of a nature center at Rollie’s Farm.
Mass Audubon Director of Legislative and Government Affairs Sam Anderson said the final law contains about $377.6 million in investments in climate and nature, including $15 million in parks and open space; $100 million for environmental infrastructure, including local resiliency measures; $100 million for clean drinking water and sewer infrastructure; $25 million for tree planting, particularly in Gateway cities; and $7.5 million for green job workforce development.
Mass Audubon is the largest nature-based conservation organization in New England. Founded in 1896 by two women who fought for the protection of birds, Mass Audubon carries on their legacy by focusing on the greatest challenges facing the environment today: the loss of biodiversity, inequitable access to nature, and climate change. With the help of our 160,000 members and supporters, we protect wildlife, conserve and restore resilient land, advocate for impactful environmental policies, offer nationally recognized education programs for adults and children, and provide endless opportunities to experience the outdoors at our wildlife sanctuaries. Explore, find inspiration, and take action at www.massaudubon.org.