The conservation value – call for a 2024 summit

September 5, 2023

We live by values. Regrettably, the value of conservation faces perilous challenges in our town and surrounding areas. Too often, open spaces and even state parklands fall victim to the wrongs of collective apathy, commercial exploitation and government inaction.  

Think about what this area looked like 25 years ago. Now project forward 25 years. Whether it be the specter of runaway construction off Kings Highway, the attempt to locate a restaurant and bar in Cape Henlopen State Park, or the idea of running a pipe across the county with treated sewage (effluent) and dumping it in the bay and ocean, the problem is the same: Conservation is being devalued. Is that the world we want to leave to our children? 

There is a beauty that dwells in open spaces and parklands. It is a beauty that radiates a transcendent grace, a beauty where nature is allowed to unfold in mysterious yet vital ways. Commercial and recreational exploitation can destroy that. Already the loss of trees, green habitats, marshes and natural resources is startling. Then there are environmental threats in places where brown-headed nuthatches nest, where white-tailed deer graze, where mud turtles crawl, and where monarch butterflies flutter.  

The current situation is already appalling. Reckless development is ordinary. Bumper traffic is common. Green lands are converted into cement. Trees are leveled at startling rates. Incredibly, the preservation ethic is not paramount in our state parks. Meanwhile, local, county and state public officials lack a coherent plan about how to stop the environmental mayhem. 

Conservation is premised on the belief that nature’s priceless gifts must be protected. Therefore, people of faith, upstanding businesspersons, principled public officials, scrupulous journalists and civic-minded citizens must work together. Fortunately, there is an ever-blossoming conservation ethos thanks to groups such as Preserve Our Park, the Open Space Alliance, Sussex County Land Trust, the Greater Lewes Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Delaware Sierra Club, Sussex Preservation Coalition, Sussex 2030 and the Sussex Alliance for Responsible Growth, among others. 

If conservation is the value, preservation must be the imperative. To that end, one idea is a well-organized and action-oriented summit on Earth Day (April 22) for groups and the public to develop strategies for compensatory and regulatory options. Let us move on a united front to conserve what might otherwise be destroyed. Take heed: Tomorrow begins today! 

Ronald K.L. Collins and Paul M. Sparrow
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