The mission of the Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT) is to work with you to protect the environment in the Berkshires and beyond. Anybody who knows us will tell you that we take the “Action” part of our name seriously. Please take some time to get to know us by reading our story. When you’re finished reading, please consider contacting us and lending a hand.
BEAT works with citizens to help them learn about the environment and their role in protecting it; BEAT keeps the public informed of current local issues that could have an impact on the environment; and BEAT helps people work together to take action to protect the environment.
What we do:
BEAT keeps you informed about environmental issues affecting Berkshire County.
Website – We maintain this website to help keep you informed about what is happening right now that may affect the environment of Berkshire County and what action you can take to protect the environment.
Newsletters – BEAT publishes a weekly e-newsletter that you can subscribe to for free. Or you may check out our News, Calendar, Public Notices, and Environment Monitor pages. (The Environmental Monitor lists projects with large potential environmental impacts.)
Monthly gathering – BEAT co-hosts both Pittsfield Green Drinks and North Adams Green Drinks. Green Drinks is a monthly gathering of environmentally minded individuals. We meet every second Wednesday of the month in North Adams, and every third Tuesday of the Month in Pittsfield. Everyone is welcome – please join us!
Televise meetings – BEAT began videotaping the Pittsfield Conservation Commission hearings which are now broadcast, usually live, by Pittsfield Community Television. BEAT also videotapes for broadcast the Berkshire Metropolitan Planning Organization meetings, and many other meetings that could have an environmental impact either positive or negative. These meetings are broadcast on local community access television. This has served to better educate the citizens of Pittsfield about the function of conservation commissions and to give individuals a voice in the permitting processes.
Forums and Workshops – BEAT organizes forums and workshops to help people learn about the environment and what they can do to protect it. In 2010, BEAT organized: workshops on certifying vernal pools, trainings to monitor segments of roads for turtles crossing, trainings to survey stream crossings for their ability to pass wildlife, and served on the organizing committees for the Northeast Wildlife Trackers Conference and 4th Biennial Northeastern Transportation and Wildlife Conference - among organizing many other smaller walks, talks, and information sessions.
We work with groups and individuals to accomplish our goals.
Individual Partners – We work with individuals to organize river cleanups, monitor and certify vernal pools, survey road segments for turtle and salamander crossing hot spots, survey road stream crossings to ensure wildlife passage, stop illegal dumping, turn in wetland and other environmental violations to the appropriate regulators, and stop inappropriate development. (Take a look at some of the issues we are working on or have worked on.)
Organizational Partners – BEAT works with numerous other organizations to accomplish our goals. We could not do this without them. Please, check out our links page that has connections to almost all the other environmental and conservation organizations in, and interested in, Berkshire County.
In 2008, BEAT organized a meeting with the Environmental League of Massachusetts’s President George Bachrach [left of Jane] and Managing Director Ken Pruitt [far left] with members of the Massachusetts Environmental Collaborative and other western Mass. environmental activists. [photo from ELM's 2008 annual report - with permission]
Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring – BEAT hosts Berkshire Wildlife Trackers volunteer wildlife monitoring program with a vision of maintaining and enhancing the linkages among the already protected landscapes in and around Berkshire County, so wildlife will always have a way to move from one protected habitat to another with as little adverse human interaction (such as being hit by a car) as possible. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer please let us know!
Decreasing the impact of our transportation system on ecosystems in the Berkshires – BEAT attends meetings of the Transportation Advisory Committee to the Berkshire Metropolitan Planning Organization – the group that makes the decisions on state transportation money is spent.
BEAT speaks out on important environmental issues.
Environmentalist of the Year – BEAT’s executive director, Jane Winn, was recently named Environmentalist of the Year by the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions.
Commenting – BEAT testifies at environmental hearings and submits written comments on many projects in Berkshire County that have a large enough impact to be listed in the Environmental Monitor.
We also submit comments on state-wide and national policy and regulations.
A Seat at the Table – BEAT has a seat at the table for the Citizens’ Coordinating Council. These are meetings with General Electric Company (GE), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and area environmental groups at which we discuss issues related to GE’s contamination of the Housatonic River. The Citizens’ Coordinating Council meetings give BEAT an opportunity to push for a better cleanup of the mess that GE made.
BEAT is supported by people like you, and by generous grants from:
Massachusetts Environmental Trust New England Grassroots Environment Fund TransWild
Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation
Central Berkshire Fund
Norcross Wildlife Foundation
A Brief History
In 2002, a small group of people started BEAT when we watched as the system of laws and regulations failed to protect a vernal pool, even though the regulators at both the local and state level were aware of the concerns we raised.
This led BEAT to start videotaping the meetings of the Pittsfield Conservation Commission and broadcasting these meetings on local community television. Now these meetings are usually carried live. Not only did this make a difference in the way these meetings were conducted, but also the public became more aware of what the function of a conservation commission is (there are now many fewer questions about zoning issues, instead sticking to wetlands and conservation issues), and even better – one person came running into the meeting breathless, having seen the meeting on television and wanting to add their comments about the issue.
BEAT now videotapes several other meetings including the Berkshire Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Pittsfield Municipal Airport Commission, and the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, as well as environmental meetings throughout the county.
In 2005, BEAT helped RATSSS (Residents Against the Transfer Station on South Street), stop a construction and demolition transfer station from being located on the bank of the only non-PCB polluted branch of the Housatonic River and 500 feet from peoples homes. BEAT proved the engineer had shown the riverfront boundaries incorrectly on the plans. The new location for this facility is about where we suggested would be an appropriate alternative site in the very beginning of the 3 year battle.
In 2006, a citizen came to us complaining that no matter who he complained to the city of Pittsfield was going to sell land along the Housatonic River that he said had been given to the city as conservation land, to a commercial venture to use as a parking lot. BEAT was able to have the Pittsfield Conservation Commission document that the land was indeed (it was stated in the deed) given as conservation land. The Commission then demanded that the property no longer be used for parking and eventually forced the city to install a barrier to prevent parking there.
In 2006, a volunteer came to BEAT asking for assistance starting a Keeping Track® wildlife monitoring group. Together we formed Berkshire Wildlife Trackers. In 2007, the first group of BWT wildlife monitors graduated from training and are starting to monitor wildlife habitat in the Berkshires with a vision of maintaining and enhancing the wildlife habitat connections among protected landscapes in and around the Berkshires and, with our partners, all the way up through Vermont into Quebec.