We’re days into a shiny new year, and sensational negative headlines continue to abound in the national press. Despite what you hear on the nightly news about environmental regulation, however, we see great opportunity to make a real difference in the health of the Neponset Watershed this year. Watershed communities are in the process of identifying effective ways to reduce polluted runoff from rainstorms and snowmelt (stormwater is a primary source of pollution in the Neponset); restore habitat through removal of long-neglected dams and elimination of invasive species choking out our native flora and fauna; and educate youth and adults alike about water conservation and stewardship.
Partisan bickering appears to stymie progress on everything in the U.S. Congress and it can be pretty depressing. But do you know what’s not a partisan issue? A healthy environment. In fact, I think everyone can agree that they would like to see their kids, nieces, nephews and beyond grow up in an environment that won’t harm them or hinder their healthy development, right? So there’s really no reason to think—regardless of pessimistic headlines—that we can’t build on the progress we’ve made to further advance common-sense environmental policy.
Still not convinced 2018 is a year in which to be optimistic about environmental issues? How about if I tell you that the most important policies are LOCAL policies. When have you known the federal government to be quick on its feet to address an issue? It seldom is so responsive, I assure you. And there’s a reason for that (beyond those about which you learned about in civics class): Local policies 1) can be easier to implement, outside of the cumbersome federal bureaucracy, 2) are more likely tailored for local needs, and 3) demonstrate the effectiveness—or ineffectiveness—of different policy approaches to similar issues. As a result, the most effective and feasible policies rise to the top and can be later implemented more broadly at higher levels of government.
While, in general, the legislative process is deliberately a slow one, it becomes easier to navigate the closer one gets to “the people.” At your next town meeting, look at how many issues the community takes action on; it may be more than a session of the state or federal legislatures, and often the issues have a more direct impact on your everyday life. That means great power rests with local residents’ in shaping the policies that protect and restore natural resources for their benefit—and, ultimately, the benefit of those around them.
This new year, NepRWA aims to be your partner in these efforts, and our focus for 2018 is hyperlocal—we cannot accomplish our mission of restoring and protecting the watershed without you! So we want to work with local communities and ensure they have the resources and information they need to effectively care for the environment in which they live, work and play.
Happy New Year!
Kerry Snyder, Advocacy Director