Conservators Annual Dinner Meeting
May 25, 2011
Mass Audubon's Bob Wilber:
"The Best Tactic is Hope"
Bob Wilber, Director of Land Protection for the Massachusetts Audubon Society, brought a positive message to the Newton Conservators' annual dinner on May 25, 2011. Mr. Wilber served as the keynote speaker as the Conservators celebrated our 50th Anniversary. He told the audience of 130 that there is much to be hopeful about, from a conservation perspective, and that open space advocates gain more community support with a message of hope than with warnings of doom.
Mr. Wilber congratulated the Conservators on 50 years of achievement, much of which was on display at exhibits in the room. He noted that Massachusetts was the birthplace of the land trust movement in the 1890s and that the state has more land trusts per square mile than any other state. Contrary to many people's impression, he said, today there is more conserved land than developed land in the state. The economic downturn has created large opportunities for land conservation, with land prices in decline and money for acquisitions able to buy more. In spite of the difficult times, the Commonwealth has responded by making $50 million per year available for open space acquisitions for five years.
||Bob Wilber with Conservators president Jane Sender
photo by Henry Finch
With news of wars, terrorism, and a recession creating a mood of gloom, he said, people need a message of hope, and when they hear one they respond. Only about 5% of the U.S. population are active conservationists, but conservation does have broad popular support. Conservationists can reach out to the other 95% by stressing broad themes:
- the benefits of clean water
- the benefits of clean air
- the importance of open space for spiritual renewal and as a place to "tune out" the high-stress man-made world.
Mr. Wilber suggested that open space advocates form alliances with various groups:
- schools, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, and youth groups
- farmers and community gardeners
- Community Preservation Committees, which are the source of most funding in participating Massachusetts communities for land acquisitions.
Mr. Wilber suggested a tree-planting initiative as one way to connect with local volunteers. (In fact, the Conservators have implemented some of the same approaches, accessing CPA funds for acquisitions and working with Newton's newest conservation organization, the Newton Tree Conservancy, which plants trees.)
Mr. Wilber noted that, more than anything else, a lack of access for land owners to information is a hindrance to conservation. An important function of a land trust like the Conservators is to serve as an information clearinghouse. He encouraged us to give others in the community the opportunity to work with us.
"Here's to the next 50 years," he said, "for the Newton Conservators to make an impact for conservation."