About the Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT)
Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT) is a 501(c)3 non-profit whose mission is to work with you to protect the environment for wildlife in support of the natural systems that support us all. 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.
What we do – Environmental Watchdogging, Stewardship, and Education & Outreach
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What we do:
Education and Outreach – BEAT works to keep you informed about environmental issues affecting western Massachusetts – because and informed and engaged citizenry is the environment’s best protection.
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.
We also host websites for:
- No Fracked Gas in Mass
- MassPLAN (Massachusetts PipeLine Awareness Network)
- Berkshire Wildlife Trackers
- Western Mass Naturalist (Snakes in Western MA)
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 Environmental Monitor pages. (The Environmental Monitor provides information on projects under review by the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act. These are usually large project with the potential for large environmental impact.)
Monthly gathering – BEAT hosts Pittsfield Green Drinks. Green Drinks is a monthly gathering of environmentally minded individuals. We meet 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.
Forums and Workshops – BEAT organizes forums and workshops to help people learn about the environment and what they can do to protect it. BEAT has 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 – among organizing many other smaller walks, talks, and information sessions.
We work with groups and individuals to accomplish our goals.
Volunteers – Be a part of the Team! – We work with individuals to:
- go door to door with information about our FREE TREES Greening the Gateway City initiative to lower energy use in environmental justice neighborhoods in Pittsfield,
- survey streams and rivers to document where stormwater pipes are emptying water into the river – especially during dry weather went they should not be flowing!
- collect water samples from stormwater pipes that are flowing when they should not,
- be trained as a stream continuity surveyor and survey places where streams cross under roads, railroads, and trails,
- help at Pittsfield’s 3rd Thursdays – either at our booth or by talking with others at the event,
- help with river cleanups,
- help with removing invasive species – especially hardy kiwi (aka tara vine)
- monitor and certify vernal pools,
- survey road segments for turtle and salamander crossing hot spots,
- survey road stream crossings to facilitate wildlife passage,
- stop illegal dumping,
- turn in wetland and other environmental violations to the appropriate regulators, and
- stop inappropriate development.
If you have an idea for how you would like to help, please let us know! email Jane at [email protected].
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, which has connections to almost all the other environmental and conservation organizations in, and interested in, Berkshire County.
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 (For instance, there are now far fewer questions about zoning issues, instead sticking to wetlands and conservation issues). We knew we were making a difference when one person came running into the meeting room 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 we took on one of our hardest fought battles. BEAT helped RATSSS (Residents Against the Transfer Station on South Street) stop a construction and demolition transfer station from being built on the bank of the only non-PCB polluted branch of the Housatonic River and 500 feet from peoples homes. BEAT won this battle by proving that the engineer had shown the riverfront boundaries incorrectly on the plans. The facility was eventually built on the site BEAT had suggested as an alternative 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.
Also 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.
Please explore our website to learn what we have been doing more recently to protect the environment for wildlife.