Meet Our Natural Resources Commission Candidates
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The mission of the Natural Resources Commission is to provide stewardship of, education about, and advocacy for the Town of Wellesley’s park, conservation, recreation and open space system so that the full value of the Town’s natural assets can be passed onto future generations. This commission works on many projects with Sustainable Wellesley and is one of two Town governmental committees truly looking at the environment and sustainaiblity concerns. There are two seats available for 3-year terms, with two incumbents running (Joan E Gaughan and Lise Olney).
What is your track record on sustainability, including any particular interests and experience with sustainable ideas and initiatives?
During my tenure on the NRC we have had many sustainable initiatives. We have run an active campaign under the expert guidance of Dr. Sarah Little to educate our citizens to the dangers of pesticide/ herbicide use to our health, the health of our wildlife and the environment in general. Many forums were run, much literature was developed and distributed. We have had dialogues with even the local golf courses, especially Wellesley Country Club, which abuts some of our town wells. Healthy organic lawn signs were created and people displayed them proudly as a contrast to the “Chem Lawn “ signs.
The NRC has protected our limited and precious open space on more than one occasion from assaults on it (two serious ones during my chairmanship) and the constant encroachment of its boundaries. Strong efforts were made to try to use herbicides in Morses pond to eradicate the weed problem. I fought this with other NRC members and were successful.
Other strong efforts were made by many in town to use artificial turf for fields composed of recycled tires which contained many harmful carcinogens. The NRC along with the Cancer Prevention Committee again were successful in convincing Town Meeting to choose the more expensive alternative of virgin rubber.
In past years the NRC has promoted composting of food waste by encouraging and helping to make available through the RDF back yard food composters.
We have promoted recycling in our community and in our schools, through the Environmental Aide program in our elementary schools of which I was a member for many years and though scout and other groups.
As an NRC member I have protected our tree canopy by not allowing trees to be removed unless they are hazardous. We have even needed to impose fines on people who have violated our laws. Many of our new trees planted along FBP were financed from fines imposed on severe violations. I sat though many meetings with our legal council to insure we received adequate compensation. We actively encourage citizens to replant trees that must be removed and work with our very competent arborists to make sure we maintain a beautiful tree canopy in town.
I have shepherded three Eagle Scout candidates through their projects to help to protect habitat and encourage usage of our open space. They have built trails, bog bridges, bat houses, and wildflower gardens to encourage pollinators, just to name a few.
I endorsed and supported our plastic bag ban and hope to work to reduce use of polystyrene and other non recyclable materials in the near future.
The NRC has been aware of the many gas leaks that have been harming our health and the health of our tree canopy and have worked and will continue to work to hold the gas companies accountable.
I have worked diligently with the Trails Committee ( I am the NRC liaison)to promote use of our trails to help people realize how important a walk in the woods is to the health of our citizens both physically and mentally.
I ( and Denny Nackoney) have developed and run 6 successful Kids’ Trail Days where we try to educate our youth about the importance and fun of open space. I have introduced many groups, including this one, to the biodegradability of trash left in the woods( or anywhere) based on studies done at the Woods Hole Institute.
I have been active in a number of sustainability initiatives in Wellesley. Currently, I am co-leading the reinvigorated Power to Choose campaign, which aims to increase participation in the Municipal Light Plant’s voluntary renewable energy program. I am a citizen representative on the committee working on the town’s proposed LED streetlight conversion. As a Town Meeting member from Precinct E, I worked to pass the recent plastic bag ban. I am also an active member of Sustainable Wellesley and Wellesley Green Schools.
I have been on the Sustainable Wellesley leadership team since 2011, helping build Sustainable Wellesley into a strong grassroots non-profit that advocates for sustainable living and decision-making in our town.
In 2015, I co-founded the Massachusetts Interfaith Coalition for Climate Action to help organize people of faith to take collective action on issues of climate justice, and to advocate at the state level for a transition to clean renewable energy.
For the past three years, I have served on the Wellesley Natural Resources Commission. Last year, I co-led the successful initiative to pass a bag bylaw to reduce plastic litter and encourage residents to switch to environmentally friendly reusable bags. I have also organized a public forum to discuss Wellesley’s 200-plus gas leaks on March 21 at the library–this event is co-sponsored by Sustainable Wellesley, the Board of Selectmen, and others. We have also initiated the NRC’s new Grow Green Wellesley campaign to promote eco-landscaping and reduce pesticide use in cooperation with the Board of Health and Sustainable Wellesley, with whom we are co-sponsoring a day-long forum called “Landscapes for Living” on May 13 (also at the library).
2. What do you think the priorities of the NRC should be for the next three years of your prospective term?
Over the next three years I believe the NRC priorities should be to do everything we can to hold the gas companies accountable for the leaks that are harming our trees.
We should encourage the town to build only new buildings that are LEED certified to the highest degree possible.
We should continue to run campaigns and educational seminars to encourage citizens to use only organic fertilizers and discontinue use of pesticides and herbicides, use LED bulbs in their homes, recycle more, compost more. (Our own WHS uses a single stream recycling system- this is unacceptable to me and I will personally work to change this). Innovative solutions are already available for food waste. We need to do more research to see what solution will best work for our town.
We should continue to work with the Planning Board to strengthen our by-laws wherever possible to protect as many trees as we can, even on private property.
We need to continue to protect and rehabilitate all our ponds as we have with Morses Pond and insure that our wetlands are preserved .
I believe the NRC should be involved as much as possible with the planning of the North 40, especially the area around the vernal pool.
If I am elected, I will make it a priority to work with colleagues at the NRC to find practical ways to secure the repair of Wellesley’s more than 200 ongoing natural gas leaks. These gas leaks present health concerns for our residents and are a threat to our 3,000 public shade trees. I will also strongly support the ongoing work of the NRC to promote organic integrated pest management throughout town to protect our drinking water.
I have been a physician-scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital for more than 15 years. If I am elected to the Natural Resources Commission, I will bring a public health perspective to the stewardship of our town’s natural resources. As a first example of this, I will be speaking about the health effects of natural gas leaks at the upcoming town forum on this topic, planned for March 21st.
I think the top priorities for the NRC for the next three years should be:
– Addressing gas leaks that are a danger to our environment, our health, and our pocketbooks
– Reducing pesticide use and encouraging environmentally sound landscaping practices in collaboration with the Health Department
– Focusing on the health of our town ponds and establishing a plan to maintain their viability
– Pursuing additional waste and litter reduction initiatives in collaboration with the Department of Public Works and the Town of Wellesley Sustainable Energy Committee
– Strengthening ties to the Wellesley schools to encourage the incorporation of environmental sustainability into all aspects of the school system
3. What specific actions would you take to further the Town’s commitments to waste reduction, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, maintaining our tree canopy, and preserving and enhancing our open space system?
Specific actions are, as said above, to work to strength by-laws , look for innovative solutions to food waste, run campaigns to educate citizens and youth to recycle more, protect our open space including ponds and wetlands, reduce pesticide use, not to idle cars, buses, turn down the heat; wear an extra sweater, build environmentally sound buildings, grow native plants, encourage pollinators. Use every source available to hold gas companies accountable for gas leaks, even minor ones. Work to ban polystyrene and other non recyclable materials. The NRC should continue to preserve, protect and try to enhance our open space. We need to be vigilant in maintaining our previous, successful initiatives and all the properties that are under our jurisdiction.
Wellesley has already set an ambitious goal to reduce town-wide greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent below 2007 levels by 2020. We need to do more work to achieve this goal, including decreasing energy consumption in town and increasing our commitment to renewable energy. If I am elected to the NRC, I will work with colleagues in other town boards, including the Municipal Light Plant and the Sustainable Energy Commission, to ensure we fulfill our commitment to carbon reduction. Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and the numerous natural gas leaks in town must be addressed; this will protect our shade trees as well, since leaking methane kills nearby vegetation. With regard to waste reduction, the Bates Elementary School has been a leader in reducing cafeteria waste. I am already working with the Fiske Elementary School to adopt this program, and I will work to support the transfer of this program to other schools. I will also promote the WasteWise Wellesley campaign to encourage sustainable materials management across town. Lastly, I will be a careful steward of our town’s open spaces, which are one of our most valuable assets.
Specific actions I will take include:
– Working to reduce polystyrene use: I am currently researching a proposal to restrict polystyrene (“Styrofoam”) in Wellesley. While researching the bag bylaw that passed last year, I learned that 20 communities in Massachusetts are now regulating polystyrene. Polystyrene does not biodegrade in the environment and is known to pose a risk to human health.
– Continuing to address gas leaks: With our public forum on March 21, we hope to begin a town-wide conversation about how we can most expeditiously address the dozens of gas leaks in Wellesley that we know are contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and damaging our tree canopy.
– Advocating for preservation of open space on the North 40: The acquisition of the North 40 property in 2015 is perhaps the greatest opportunity in a generation to expand preserved open space in Wellesley. I will be a strong advocate for adding the property to Wellesley’s system of protected open space.