The North Country: Communal Conservation?
In my last blog, I spoke about the realities of a small-scale, volunteer-run non-profit and the difficulties that accompany that. During the last few weeks of my internship, however, I discovered a few jewels in the landscape of the Land Trust.
Despite any obstacles faced, the heart of the North Country is truly the collective of local watersheds and surrounding ecosystems. The Land Trust must act as the arteries and veins, providing safe passage through which messages and messengers flow. Those messengers, the cells, are the rest of the community, working to defend their homes. With the ability to listen, communicate, and respond, each inhabitant of St Lawrence County can thrive in a healthy environment. The Land Trust is trying – albeit with much stumbling – to encourage such living.
Consequently, the biggest lesson I learned from them was one that I had already been preaching – community. Working with the Land Trust has broadened my understanding of the role of humans in conservation, something that, in all my time as an Environmental Studies student, I had never experienced firsthand. As the Trust, for instance, strove to officially establish Hart’s Falls as a public space, I was privy to queries, criticism and encouragement. Many inhabitants of the North Country enjoy swimming, canoeing and hiking locally, but movements to conserve the ecosystems on which those activities rely can be slow. Hearing feedback and connecting with neighbors near and far allowed me to see the how vital their support really is. The Land Trust is working to protect not an obscure system or misguided belief, but the firm reality that all of Earth’s inhabitants rely on healthy waterways and landbases. Seven miles out of Heuvelton, I drink water from a spring-fed well. A chemical spill down the road will literally poison my daily cup of tea. A friend of mine runs a small dairy – what happens when her cattle troughs run dry because the nearest wetland was drained? Or, what about those in Canton, whose dishwater is pumped out of the Grasse? Demands for a pharmaceutical filter at the water treatment plant could protect your children from something worse than germs.
Working with the Land Trust allowed me an insider’s view of public perception and visions, and while no organization is flawless, I understand now the importance of supporting such work. Responsibility for communal health lies with all and the St Lawrence and Thousand Islands Land Trusts, Tug Hill Tomorrow and Indian River Lakes Conservancy are making strides to halt and reverse destruction. I spoke to a lot of folks this summer who had never heard of conservation projects in the North Country, and I realized how vital those untapped human resources could be; how much power those numbers hold. Besides, it’s not hard to get involved in conservation – take your first step, get outside and explore.