25Th Anniversary of the Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission


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25Th Anniversary of the Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission  Posted: August 18, 2001
Speech Given By Tom FitzGerald on July 27, 2001

 

I APPRECIATE THE INVITATION TO SPEAK THIS AFTERNOON AT THIS 25TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION.

 

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 WAS BREVITY.

 

IN LOOKING OVER THE REMARKABLE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF THE KENTUCKY NATURE PRESERVES COMMISSION AND THE ARRAY OF TALENTED INDIVIDUALS THAT IT HAS ATTRACTED AND RETAINED OVER THE YEARS, I AM STRUCK BY HOW MUCH HAS BEEN ACCOMPLISHED BY THE DEDICATED STAFF AND THE COMMISSIONERS WITH SO LITTLE FUNDING.

 

THERE IS PROBABLY NO AGENCY THAT IS LESS APPRECIATED FOR ITS WORK THAN KNPC. THAT IS WHY I AM HONORED TO HAVE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO PRAISE THEM.

 

WE KENTUCKIANS, WE HUMANS ARE AN INTERESTING AND DANGEROUS MIXTURE OF ARROGANCE AND IGNORANCE.

 

WE PLUNGE AHEAD IN OUR RELENTLESS PURSUIT OF CREATURE COMFORT, UPENDING HEAVEN AND EARTH TO GET AT NATURAL RESOURCES, TO PAVE AND WIDEN MORE ROADS TO MOVE MORE QUICKLY FROM ONE MALL TO ANOTHER, TO FILL FLOODPLAINS, WETLANDS AND RIVER HEADWATERS IN ORDER TO RESHAPE THE FACE OF THE EARTH TO OUR WHIM. WE DO IT SIMPLY BECAUSE WE CAN. IN JEFFERSON COUNTY, TO ADD A FLOURISH TO OUR CONTEMPT FOR THINGS NATURAL, WE NAME THE SUBDIVISION OR DEVELOPMENT AFTER THE NATURAL FEATURE OBLITERATED TO MAKE WAY FOR THE DEVELOPMENT.

 

WE ARE, AS PAUL EHRLICH ONCE NOTED, IN A SPACESHIP HURTING THROUGH SPACE, PULLING OUT THE BOLTS OF SPECIES DIVERSITY AND ECOLOGICAL HEALTH OUT OF THE SHIP S HULL AND DISCARDING THEM, ONE BY ONE.

 

KNPC HAS TWO VERY IMPORTANT JOBS, BOTH OF WHICH PLACE IT IN HARM S WAY. IT IS THE AGENCY THAT GETS TO TELL THE COAL INDUSTRY, THE TRANSPORTATION INDUSTRY, AND OTHER INDUSTRIAL SECTORS THAT PROPOSED ACTIONS MIGHT HARM SPECIES. IT GETS TO TELL POLITICAL OFFICIALS THAT ROADWAYS SHOULDN T BE BUILT THROUGH NATURE PRESERVES.

 

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 STARVATION PORTIONS. SIGNIFICANT LOSSES HAVE BEEN SUFFERED DUE TO CUTS IN FUNDING FROM THE SURFACE MINING PROGRAM, WHICH SHOULD BE MORE FULLY FUNDING A SERVICE PROVIDED TO IT BY KNPC THAT WOULD BE MUCH MORE COSTLY TO THE STATE AND INDUSTRY TO OBTAIN OTHERWISE.

 

LACK OF ADEQUATE GENERAL FUND SUPPORT ALSO HAMPERS KNPC IN ITS MISSION TO INVENTORY, ASSESS, IDENTIFY AND RECOMMEND PROTECTION. HALF OF THE STATE S COUNTIES REMAIN UNINVENTORIED, AND WITH KENTUCKY AMONG THE NATION S LEADERS IN SPRAWLING DEVELOPMENT, IMPORTANT NATURAL AREAS, SPECIES AND HABITAT ARE BEING AND WILL CONTINUE TO BE LOST.

 

JONI MITCHELL WROTE DON T IT ALWAYS SEEM TO GO, YOU DON T KNOW WHAT YOU VE GOT TIL ITS GONE.

 

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 COMMIT TO EACH OTHER THAT WE WILL NOT ALLOW THEM TO BE HAMSTRUNG BY INADEQUATE STAFF RESOURCES THAT WE WILL NOT ALLOW HABITAT TO BE LOST DUE TO INSUFFICIENT RESOURCES TO INVENTORY, ASSESS AND ACQUIRE THAT OUR LEGACY TO OUR CHILDREN AND THEIR CHILDREN WILL BE SOMETHING MORE THAN DOING THE MINIMUM WE COULD GET BY WITH.

 

JOIN ME, WON T YOU, IN COMMUNICATING TO THE GOVERNOR, TO THE LEADERSHIP OF THE STATE HOUSE AND SENATE, TO THE CABINET SECRETARY, AND TO THE COMMISSION AND ITS STAFF, 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 WILL DO BETTER AT FUNDING AND SUPPORTING THEIR WORK OVER THE NEXT QUARTER OF A CENTURY.

 


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