advocates now back land preservation, expert says.
Jo Collins Mathis Ann Arbor News 04/07/2002
Not since Earth Day
1970 ushered in the environmental movement has there been
such an exciting time to work in land conservation, a
leading Midwest conservationist told a gathering of his
peers in Ann Arbor Saturday.
Today, a majority of
people support conservation, and institutions that once
promoted land consumption are changing to promote land
preservation, said Tom Bailey, executive director of Michigan's
Little Traverse Conservancy.
Bailey was a keynote
speaker at the three-day Midwest Land Trust Conference
sponsored by the Land Trust Alliance Midwest Program serving
190 nonprofit, grass-roots land trusts in the 12-state
area. The conference ends today.
Thirty years ago, attention
to the environment was a new thing, Bailey told an audience
of about 120. Now polls show up to 90 percent of Americans
believe in the importance of protecting the environment.
The climate is ripe for change, he said.
"Most of our institutions
relating to land and the way we work with land are 19th
century institutions: our property tax system, most of
our legal system and the way it treats land and real estate,"
Bailey said. "A lot of our laws that regulate land use
and distribution and division have their roots in the
The attitude back then
was that land is a commodity to be used, that civilization
had to be protected from the onslaught of wilderness.
That's changed, Bailey said.
"We understand that
land is not a commodity to be used up; it's a resource
to be husbanded," he said. "We understand now that civilization
is not threatened by the wilderness. It's in fact the
wilderness that's threatened by civilization. Instead
of the frontier that we need to conquer being wild country,
the frontier we need to conquer is ourselves. The frontier
we need to conquer is our own activity, our development,
our technology, the over-application of those in ways
that will diminish our quality of life and ultimately
said. Bailey said there's
now nearly as much understanding about land conservation
as land development, and that political changes will make
tax policies and infrastructure subsidies less friendly
to sprawl than they have been in the past.
"As the Realtors say,
'They're not making any more real estate,' he said. "And
that's right. The frontier is gone ... Now is the time
to mobilize all our resources: political, economic, ideological
... to bring about this transition to the land ethics
and the land institutions that will serve us best in the
Bailey said many involved
in the early days of the environmental movement worked
in divisive ways.
"What we've discovered
is we can accomplish more by building bridges than we
can be creating gaps," he said, before encouraging the
crowd to be inclusive, look for the win-win solution,
and seek balance as modeled by nature itself.
Bill Hanson, executive
director of the Washtenaw Land Trust for less than a month,
was eager to meet and learn from movers and shakers in
the conservation movement. He said he agreed with Bailey's
call for cooperation and kindness.
"Everybody stands to
gain from land preservation," Hanson said. "We shouldn't
pit interest groups against each other. We should look
for ways to cooperate ... There are wonderful opportunities
for smart land preservation in Washtenaw County, and there's
great momentum for preserving the best of our agricultural
and natural areas in the county. I just want to get out
of the way of that momentum and let it happen."
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