SVT Responds to "Mosquito Spraying" Bill

Update May 26, 2020: The Joint Committee on Public Health has redrafted the bill, and initial reports indicate that the new version addresses our concerns. 

On April 16, 2020, Governor Charlie Baker filed a bill with the Massachusetts Legislature that covers statewide spraying to reduce the mosquito population. The Governor filed the bill--H.4650 An Act to Mitigate Arbovirus in the Commonwealth--to “empower the State Reclamation and Mosquito Control Board to engage in mosquito control activities across the Commonwealth, even in areas where there is no legislative authority to take action today, when the Commissioner of Public Health determines that an elevated risk of arbovirus exists.”   

Many conservation groups, including SVT, oppose this measure. 

We are concerned about the broad overreach of this bill. H. 4650 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, even if municipalities do not want spraying in their towns. The bill will allow the Mosquito Control Board to do this work based on a determination from Department of Public Health that there might be an elevated risk of mosquito borne disease in the next year. Once passed, this bill has no sunset clause.

During the public comment period, which ended on May 11, SVT Executive Director Lisa Vernegaard submitted a letter in opposition, writing "Sudbury Valley Trustees (SVT) opposes this legislation as written because it has broad overreach, does not provide for coordination with other agencies, lacks notification to impacted municipalities, and also lacks a sunset provision."

Lisa explained that "It is absolutely essential that prior to use of 'mosquito control activities', the State Reclamation and Mosquito Control Board should notify municipalities and the public to minimize exposure to these chemicals" and that "Many people grow their own food, with an increasing emphasis on organic methods. Landowners should not be subjected to pesticides sprayed on their homes and gardens without their knowledge or consent."

Read the full text of Lisa's letter.

The bill is now being considered by the Joint Committee on Public Health. We'll keep you informed if it gets voted out of committee and is brought before the full legislature. In the meantime, we encourage you to contact your representatives and share your comments.

SVT Comments on Hunting Expansion at Wildlife Refuges

Photo by Steve Forman.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is proposing an expansion of hunting opportunities at three national wildlife refuges in the SVT region: Great Meadows (regional), Assabet River (Sudbury-Marlborough-Maynard), and Oxbow (Harvard). Hunting has been permitted at these three refuges since 2005. 

The proposal would enlarge the area where hunting is permitted, promote opportunities for disadvantaged groups, and add some additional species, including bear, coyote, and fox. 

While SVT supports nature-based recreational hunting that focuses on species that are abundant and used for food, SVT opposes the hunting of bear, coyote, and fox, and we have submitted a public letter stating this opposition.

The USFWS has posted the draft hunt plans for expansion of hunting opportunities on its website.

The website also includes:

SVT Programs Cancelled Until End of May

Photo by Mark Levinson

In compliance with Governor Baker's extension of the statewide shutdown, the SVT office at Wolbach Farm is closed until at least May 18. We have also cancelled all programs through the end of May.

Our staff members are working from home and can still receive and respond to voicemails and emails.

During this stressful time, our trails remain open for independent walks. Please follow guidelines recommended by government health agencies, and please review our policies for parking and dog walking at this time. Please also review our regular Trail Policies.

Nature Is an Essential Service

by Matt Morris, SVT TerraCorps-AmeriCorps Member

With "nonessential" public places like malls and museums closed during the COVID-19 crisis, more people have turned to the outdoors to calm their cabin fever. SVT decided to keep our trails open to provide opportunities for everyone to enjoy open space. When used safely, nature and trails can relieve the immense stress caused by the pandemic.

SVT has changed our trail policies to address higher visitor rates and to protect people seeking solace at our reservations. We ask visitors to maintain social distance by leaving ample space for people to pass one another, wait until a bridge or boardwalk is clear before crossing, and to not touch benches, kiosks, and other structures. Dogs must be leashed to limit close contact and potential conflicts with other dogs and visitors. If the parking area is full, we ask visitors to find another designated parking area or visit a different reservation.

One of my new service activities during this time is acting as a trail ambassador where I relay the new protocols and talk with visitors (from a safe distance) about their experiences on our trails. People have been very receptive and understanding of the changes. They have also been telling me about how much joy they gain while out in nature. One woman who described herself as high-risk for COVID-19 told me how walking the trail loop with her dog brings her peace during this difficult period.

Beyond what visitors say to me, I notice the smiles and serenity on their faces. Their expressions tell me they appreciate the earth under their feet, the towering trees above them, and the many sounds of nature. The outdoors is one of the few remaining places people can escape the emotional strain of living through a pandemic.

Now more than ever, people are seeing nature as an essential service.

Beyond Earth Day: Tips for Enjoying Nature

On Wednesday, April 22, SVT marked the 50th Anniversary of the first Earth Day celebration by encouraging everyone to appreciate the wildlife in your own backyard. With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the cancellation of public celebrations, we thought it was important to commemorate this anniversary and embrace all that nature has to offer.

We collected resources, tools, and apps to help you enjoy the nature in your yard, regardless of whether you have acres of space or a single tree and birdfeeder. 

Even though Earth Day itself has passed, you can still take advantage of these resources to hone your identification skills for common birds and plants, enjoy a nature scavenger hunt, design a garden with native plantings to attract butterflies, and discover more about how life on Earth impacts the night sky.

We also provided resources for virtual programs being held throughout the month, so you can continue to explore nature in the days and weeks ahead.

Please join with SVT to celebrate the Earth and Stand Up for Nature!

Lisa Vernegaard Discusses Earth Day on "In It Together"

On Tuesday, April 21, SVT Executive Director Lisa Vernegaard was a featured guest on "In It Together," a radio program broadcast by WGBH Boston.

Lisa and host Arun Rath discussed Earth Day and SVT's plans for "Earth Day in Your Backyard."

Listen to Lisa's segment.

Framingham Mayor Supports “Yarn Bombing” Project

Framingham’s Mayor Yvonne M. Spicer recently expressed support for the collaborative effort to enliven a local park with handmade yarn flowers. 

Through a project spearheaded by Framingham MakerSpace in collaboration with the City and SVT, area residents are invited to crochet and knit yarn flowers for installation on a chain metal fence at Framingham’s Arlington Street Park.

“A lot has changed in the world since this project was brought to me by Framingham MakerSpace,” said Mayor Spicer. “Engagement with public art feels more important now because while we are all doing our best to socially distance ourselves, we have to make sure we don’t distance our connection to community.

“Art, like yarn bombing, is especially community-based. Every piece is a contribution from someone, from hands, from homes, and from love. I’m excited to share this experience with the community and look forward to the joy residents will receive from visiting the downtown Framingham Arlington Street Park when this project is rescheduled!”

The installation, which was originally planned for May 2, has been delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The project partners will accept flower donations and schedule a new installation date once we reopen our offices. Learn more.

Wanted: Handmade Flowers and Pollinators

Calling all crocheters, knitters, and those who are craftily inclined! Help us bring native "flowers" and "pollinators" to Framingham!

SVT is joining a public arts project to install a field of crocheted and knitted flowers at the Arlington Street Park in Downtown Framingham this year.

Led by Framingham MakerSpace, and with the support of the mayor’s office, the project will enliven a chain link fence at the park. The organizers are seeking knitted or crocheted flowers of any color, size, or design. This offers a great chance to use up leftover yarn.

Learn more about this project and find links to online patterns.

A Message from Lisa

Thanks to the generous and longstanding support of our members, SVT remains strong. Our staff members have been working from home, and we continue our conservation efforts.

We invite you to scroll down and watch the following short video from Executive Director Lisa Vernegaard, which provides an update on SVT's work during the statewide shutdown.


Wendler Property Protected!

On March 30, 2020, SVT and the Town of Berlin completed the protection of the Wendler Property near the town’s boundary with Bolton.

SVT and the Town have been working on this project for several months. We temporarily purchased the 30-acre property with the intent to sell it to Berlin once the town freed up the funds to reimburse us.The town has now purchased the land, and we hold a conservation restriction over it. 

A hiking trail planned for the Wendler Property will link Berlin conservation lands on Lancaster Road with Bolton's Fyfeshire Conservation Area on Wattaquadock Hill Road. Trail work has been suspended during the statewide business closures, but we plan to finish it and announce a grand opening once we are able to hold group activities again. 

Read more about the Wendler Property.