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Kentucky Resources Council, PO Box 1070, Frankfort, KY 40602 Phone [502] 875-2428

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PO Box 1070, Frankfort, KY 40602  Phone 502.875.2428, Fax 502.875.2845

KRC Speech On The Occasion Of The 35th Anniversary Of The Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission  Posted: September 8, 2011

SPEECH ON THE OCCASION OF THE 35TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE KENTUCKY NATURE PRESERVES COMMISSION
Sept. 8, 2011
Capitol Rotunda

I APPRECIATE THE INVITATION TO SPEAK THIS AFTERNOON AT THIS 35TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION, AND IN PARTICULAR TO SHARE THIS MOMENT WITH INDIVIDUALS WHO LIT THE FLAME OF NATURAL LANDS STEWARDSHIP, AND THOSE WHO HAVE FANNED AND STOKED THAT FLAME THROUGH THESE MANY DIFFICULT YEARS.

IT IS CUSTOMARY TO BRING A GIFT TO AN ANNIVERSARY PARTY, SO I THOUGHT AND THOUGHT AND DECIDED THAT THE BEST GIFT I COULD GIVE IS AN UNCHARACTERISTIC BREVITY ON MY PART.

THERE IS NO AGENCY IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY THAT IS LESS APPRECIATED FOR ITS WORK THAN KNPC. THAT IS WHY I AM HONORED TO HAVE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO PRAISE THEM, AS I DID IN 2001 ON THE OCCASION OF THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY, AND AGAIN IN 2003 WHEN I WAS DEEPLY HONORED TO BE THAT YEAR’S RECIPIENT OF THE BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY AWARD – GIVEN THAT YEAR TO AN INVASIVE SPECIES OF IRISHMAN TRANSPLANTED TO EASTERN KENTUCKY IN 1972 FROM THE ASPHALT JUNGLE OF NEW YORK CITY.

I HAVE A PROFOUND RESPECT AND ADMIRATION FOR THE WORK OF THE KENTUCKY NATURE PRESERVES COMMISSION – FOR THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF A RELATIVE HANDFUL OF TALENTED AND DEDICATED INDIVIDUALS, GUIDED BY A DIVERSE GROUP OF CITIZEN COMMISSIONERS, WHO WAKE EACH DAY SEEKING ONLY TO FURTHER PROTECTION OF OUR NATURAL HERITAGE, TO ADVANCE OUR KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING OF OUR NATURAL HERITAGE, AND TO HELP US TO BETER UNDERSTAND AND VALUE OF BIODIVERSITY.

EVEN AS I AM HEARTENED BY THE EFFORTS THAT HAVE BEEN UNDERTAKEN BY THE COMMISSION, IN PARTNERSHIP WITH STATE AGENCIES AND THE PRIVATE SECTOR IN PROTECTING THE BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY OF THE STATE, I AM TROUBLED AT HEART BY THE DOGGED PERSISTENCE OF THE MYTH THAT HAS DRIVEN OUR SHORT-SIGHTED ENVIRONMENTAL POLICIES DURING THE PAST FEW DECADES – THE MYTH THAT PROTECTION OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY INCLUDING SPECIES DIVERSITY IS A VALUE AT ODDS WITH AND TO BE COMPROMISED OR “BALANCED” IN ORDER TO ACCOMMODATE SHORT-TERM ECONOMIC EXIGENCIES – THAT WE CAN CUT CORNERS IN ECOLOGICAL PROTECTION AND BARGAIN WITH NATURE WITHOUT CONSEQUENCE.

WE HUMANS, ARE CAPABLE OF GREAT NOBILITY, AND ALSO OF GREAT ARROGANCE AND IGNORANCE FOR NATURE. INCREASINGLY DIVORCED FROM THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT, WE PLUNGE AHEAD IN A SEEMINGLY BOTTOMLESS PURSUIT OF CREATURE COMFORTS, LITERALLY UPENDING HEAVEN AND EARTH TO GET AT NATURAL RESOURCES, TO PAVE AND WIDEN ROADS TO MOVE US MORE QUICKLY FROM ONE PLACE TO ANOTHER; FILLING IN WETLANDS AND RIVER HEADWATERS, AND RESHAPING THE FACE OF THE EARTH IN WITH LITTLE CONSIDERATION OF THE LIMITS IMPOSED BY NATURE. WE EXHIBIT AN IGNORANCE BORDERING ON CONTEMPT, AT TIMES PUNCTUATING OUR DESTRUCTION OF NATURAL FEATURES IN OUR LAND DEVELOPMENT BY NAMING THE NEW DEVELOPMENT AFTER THE MOST PROMINENT NATURAL FEATURE WE HAVE OBLITERATED.

WE ARE, AS PAUL EHRLICH NOTED, IN A SPACESHIP HURTLING THROUGH SPACE, PULLING OUT THE RIVETS OF SPECIES DIVERSITY FROM THE HULL AND DISCARDING THEM, ONE BY ONE. AND IT IS THANKLESS, ENDLESS WORK IN WHICH THE COMMISSION STAFF ARE ENGAGED, EDUCATING US ALL AND SPEAKING TRUTH TO THE POWERS THAT BE THAT WE CANNOT SUSTAIN TRUE ECONOMIC PROGRESS IF WE DEFICIT SPEND OUR NATURAL CAPITAL, OUR CHILDREN'S NATURAL CAPITAL, AS IF IT WERE EXPENDIBLE SURPLUS.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION, ONCE A NONPARTISAN GOAL EMBRACED ACROSS THE POLITICAL SPECTRUM, HAS UNFORTUNATELY BECOME A WEDGE POLITICAL ISSUE IN THE PAST THIRTY YEARS. MISSING IS A WISDOM THAT PLACES A GREATER VALUE ON PROTECTION AND ENHANCEMENT OF THE DIVERSITY OF SPECIES AND THE HEALTH OF THE ECOSYSTEMS THAT ARE THE REAL CAPITAL OF OUR STATE'S ECONOMIC FUTURE.

KNPC HAS SEVERAL VERY IMPORTANT MISSIONS. IT IS THE AGENCY THAT GETS TO TELL THE COAL INDUSTRY, THE TRANSPORTATION INDUSTRY, AND OTHER INDUSTRIAL SECTORS THAT PROPOSED ACTIONS MIGHT HARM INCONVENIENT SPECIES. IT GETS TO TELL POLITICAL OFFICIALS THAT ROADWAYS SHOULDN’T BE BUILT THROUGH NATURE PRESERVES SIMPLY BECAUSE IT IS THE PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE. KNPC HAS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF INVENTORYING, CATALOGING, AND SAFEGUARDING OUR REMNANT NATURAL LANDSCAPES AND SIGNIFICANT SPECIES FROM PRESSURES FROM ALL QUARTERS TO USE THESE AREAS FOR TODAY’S WANTS AND NEEDS.

NOT AN EASY JOB, AND IN FACT A THANKLESS ONE.

IN ITS STEWARDSHIP ROLE, IT IS IN A MAD DASH AGAINST PELL-MELL DEVELOPMENT, TO INVENTORY, TO ASSESS, TO IDENTIFY AND PROTECT THOSE AREAS OF HIGH ECOLOGICAL VALUE THAT ARE INCREASINGLY AT RISK FROM THOUGHTLESS GROWTH.

FOR THOSE PRESERVES THAT HAVE BEEN ENTRUSTED TO ITS CARE, IT ATTEMPTS TO WATCH OVER MUCH AREA WITH FEW STAFF RESOURCES.

ONE MIGHT THINK THAT WE WOULD PLACE GREATER VALUE ON PROTECTION AND ENHANCEMENT OF THE DIVERSITY OF SPECIES AND HEALTH OF THE ECOSYSTEMS THAT ARE THE REAL CAPITAL OF OUR STATE’S ECONOMIC FUTURE. YET THE KNPC BUDGET HAS GONE FROM A LOW-FAT DIET TO MALNOURISHMENT DURING THE LAST DECADE.

LACK OF ADEQUATE GENERAL FUND AND USER SUPPORT HAMPERS KNPC IN ITS MISSION TO INVENTORY, ASSESS, IDENTIFY AND RECOMMEND PROTECTION. AFTER 35 YEARS, 35% OF THE STATE’S LAND HAS YET TO BE INVENTORIED. ABSENT GREATER SUPPORT FOR THEIR MISSION, LAND USE CHANGES WILL CONTINUE TO OVERTAKE IMPORTANT NATURAL AREAS, SPECIES AND HABITAT BEFORE THEY CAN BE INVENTORIED AND EVALUATED FOR PROTECTION.

THE THEOLOGIAN PAUL TILLICH NOTED THAT “MAN AND NATURE BELONG TOGETHER IN THEIR CREATED GLORY - IN THEIR TRAGEDY AND IN THEIR SALVATION.”

WE HAVE PRECIOUS LITTLE TIME TO REVERSE THE COURSE OF SPECIES AND HABITAT LOSS. IF WE REALLY WANT TO HONOR THE COMMISSION AND THE DEDICATED STAFF AND COMMISSIONERS, PAST AND PRESENT, LET US NOT SIMPLY COME HERE TODAY AND THEN RETURN TO OUR DAILY GRIND WITH LITTLE THOUGHT OF THEM TOMORROW. LET US INSTEAD COMMIT TO EACH OTHER IN THIS HALLOWED PLACE, TODAY, THAT WE WILL BECOME BETTER ADVOCATES FOR THE NATURE PRESERVES SYSTEM AND THE COMMISSION AND STAFF – THAT WE WILL WORK TO MAKE OUR LEGACY TO OUR CHILDREN AND THEIR CHILDREN SOMETHING MORE THAN OUR “NO MORE STRINGENT THAN” POLICY OF DOING THE MINIMUM WE COULD GET BY WITH.

JOIN ME, WON’T YOU, IN COMMUNICATING TO THE GOVERNOR, TO THE LEADERSHIP AND MEMBERS OF THE STATE HOUSE AND SENATE, TO THE CABINET SECRETARY, AND TO CANDIDATES THAT SEEK OUR VOTES AND SUPPORT, THAT WE DO VALUE THE WORK OF THE NATURE PRESERVES COMMISSION AS STEWARDS OF THE DIVERSITY AND QUALITY OF OUR NATURAL ENVIRONMENT, AND THAT WE EXPECT NO LESS FROM THEM. LET US INSIST ON FULL, DURABLE, SUSTAINED FUNDING OF THE HERITAGE LAND CONSERVATION FUND AND OF THE NATURE PRESERVES COMMISSION. LET US TOGETHER CREATE A POLITICAL AND CULTURAL “CLIMATE CHANGE” IN WHICH SPECIES AND HABITAT LOSS DUE TO IGNORANCE AND AVARICE WILL NOT BE TOLERATED.

LET US APPROACH OUR STEWARDSHIP OF GOD'S CREATION AND OUR CHILDREN'S LEGACY, WITH REVERENCE, AND OUR MANAGEMENT OF A NATURAL ENVIRONMENT WHOSE INTRICACIES WE BUT DIMLY UNDERSTAND, WITH HUMILITY. THANK YOU AND HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO THE COMMISSION AND STAFF!!!!

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