Advocacy Issues in Focus
This article is just one of many featured in the Fall 2018 issue of Explore, Mass Audubon's quarterly magazine exclusively for members.
Ahead of the state and federal elections this fall, Mass Audubon wants elected officials to know that people who are interested in protecting the environment vote. Voting by interested and informed citizens strengthens the impact of Mass Audubon’s legislative advocacy.
Mass Audubon’s Advocacy department works with other conservation organizations, legislators, and citizen groups to shape and strengthen environmental laws and regulations. Here are six issues Mass Audubon is focusing on right now.
It’s been 100 years since the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) became law. The federal law makes it illegal to kill, possess, or otherwise harm native birds.
Unfortunately, the protections afforded them by the MBTA are in jeopardy.
In December 2017, the Department of the Interior’s Office of the Solicitor wrote a memo stating that it does not consider any incidental take—when a bird, a nest, or eggs are damaged or destroyed during the engagement of an otherwise lawful activity—to be a violation of the MBTA.
This means that no one will be held responsible for any bird deaths, no matter how many, caused by otherwise lawful activity. Only protections afforded to some species by state laws or by federal and state endangered species acts would still apply.
Preparing for Rising Sea Levels & More Extreme Storms
Last year saw record-breaking extreme weather, from wildfires to hurricanes to floods. As the climate changes, these once infrequent events are occurring more often and with more severity, and may become relatively common in the future.
One of the best ways to prepare for extreme weather events is to preserve open, natural spaces. Protecting existing salt marshes and giving them room to migrate inland with sea level rise would create an energy-absorbing shield from storm surge and erosion. Preserving forested lands in urban areas helps to soak up water, reducing sudden flows of runoff that lead to flash floods during heavy rains.
To fight climate change, we need strong policies at the state and federal level. This year Governor Charlie Baker signed into law legislation committing more than $2.4 billion to climate change, environmental protection, and community investments. It also includes the first legal requirement in the country for a state climate adaptation plan.
Keeping Our Air & Water Supply Clean
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is looking to roll back regulations that keep pollution out of our air and water supplies. Among the most impactful—EPA’s plans to gut regulations on vehicle tailpipe emissions and rescind the Waters of the United States rule that extends federal protections of large bodies of water and to smaller bodies that flow into them.
Pollinators sustain our food supply and natural environment, but a rapid decline in bees, birds, butterflies, and bats is threatening biodiversity globally and here at home.
An Act to Protect Pollinators, which was introduced into the state legislature this year but has not yet passed, establishes a commission to investigate methods and solutions to protect and promote pollinators’ health. We’ll be working toward its passage next session.
Making Sure National Monuments & Parks Stay Protected
In 2016, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts became the first marine national monument in the Atlantic. This designation protects marine species including deep-sea corals, sperm whales, and Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles.
Recently, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke advocated to reduce protections for this monument, as well as 26 others. This is on top of legislation to remove federal protection from a portion of Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge on Cape Cod. While that bill’s intent is to allow for local management of Monomoy, it could set a dangerous precedent for stripping federal protections for public lands and waters across the country.
Creating More Jobs
According to the 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report, the solar energy workforce increased by 25% in 2016, while wind energy employment increased by 32%. And, according to a report from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), solar and wind jobs are currently growing 12 times faster than those in the rest of the U.S. economy. Wind turbine technician is currently the fastest growing profession in the U.S.
The EDF report also notes that "energy efficiency jobs generally pay higher than average wages and are available to workers without college or advanced degrees."
To learn more about our Advocacy team’s efforts and to sign up for their action alerts, visit massaudubon.org/advocacy.
Mass Audubon is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and as such, is nonpartisan and does not endorse or oppose any candidate for office. Mass Audubon urges people interested in the environment and all others to participate in the democratic process by making their voices heard.