Friday, September 27, 2013

Conservation's Radical Middle

Great article from last week's Huffington Post. Check it...

By: Jason A. Atkinson

Conservation in America is shifting to the "radical middle." The extreme edges of the political spectrum, right and left, the partisans, protect the status quo. That has radicalized those caught in middle, where most Americans live, where people and their local environments suffer the consequences of partisan gridlock. People want and need action, not obstruction.
A perfect example of the radical middle is Long Island's Great South Bay. A true grassroots movement from towns like -- Babylon, Sayville, Bellport, Patchogue and a dozen others -- want their bay back. For centuries, this bay produced oysters, finfish, and clams, providing livelihoods to thousands of families. Today, that world is all but gone, destroyed by over-harvesting, rampant over-development, along with the gross mismanagement of the bay and of Fire Island, the barrier beach forming the bay's southern border. A laissez-faire approach to resource management led to a 'tragedy of the commons.'
Until now, the issues faced by Long Island's shorelines and Fire Island were addressed 'top-down,' with The Army Corps of Engineers literally drawing lines in the sand. When a storm washed away dunes on Fire Island, or breached the barrier, the solution was simple: pile more sand. Billions spent over the decades to defend the indefensible, with the baymen knowing all along their bay needed regular flushing the breaches and shifting sands provided. The bay needs clean ocean water to come in an out with the tide, regardless of who is in office. But money can move faster than sand, and after all, there were were summer homes with basements to protect. The Army Corps, like America itself, has been informed by the old rules of conservation, where man can supposedly bend nature to our will and still protect it.
With Sandy, however, came "The Breach," a place on Fire Island's National Seashore where the ocean broke through to the bay where The Army Corps of Engineers had limited jurisdiction. They couldn't, post-Sandy, go and fill it in as they had with two other breaches. Within weeks, locals began to see years of stagnation convert into clear water. Fish returned, clam growth accelerated, eelgrass started sprouting. Residents of the South Shore could see their past again -- and just maybe their future. They rallied fiercely to defend the breach against Democrats like Senator Schumer and Steve Bellone, the Suffolk County Executive, who sought its immediate closure, for reasons having nothing to do with science and everything to do with politics.

To read the rest of the article, click here.


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