Why Conservation Matters to Me
By: Nancy Clair Laird McInaney, trustee, The Nature Conservancy in Georgia
I never thought turning over rocks looking for spring lizards would turn into a career. But somehow it did. My dad knew the tricks: a rock that was next to flowing water and had a little space underneath it. Inevitably, he would turn over that rock and a spring lizard would slither away before we could catch it and hold it for a few precious seconds. But seeing it counted. And being together looking for them counted even more.
My dad took me to the wild places – to the forests and streams of North Georgia and into the forests and swamps of South Georgia, keeping an eye out for gopher tortoises and fox squirrels and listening for woodpeckers. He instilled in me a lifelong love of nature and for that I am eternally grateful.
I eventually become an outdoor instructor for the National Outdoor Leadership School and Outward Bound in various Western states – Wyoming, Oregon, Utah and Alaska. After 20+ years away, I have returned home to Georgia.
A lot has changed in our beautiful state. Some of the wild places are gone, but many still exist. The urgency to protect what we have has never been more important. The population of Metro Atlanta is expected to triple to 1.2 million by 2040 and the metro region will be home to more than 8 million people. This growth has consequences for our natural resources for which we must prepare. To quote John Sawhill, former President of The Nature Conservancy, “A society is defined not only by what it creates but by what it refuses to destroy.”
Conservation isn’t only for conservation’s sake. It has economic, social and health benefits. Clean air and water don’t happen by accident. It is the complex web of nature that creates it. Take the Savannah River Clean Water Fund, a partner project of The Nature Conservancy. Conserving land upstream saves the utilities, taxpayers and rate payers time and money downstream with cleaner water from the start.
Next time you are walking on a Georgia beach, pick up a horseshoe crab and marvel how because of this ancient creature we have blood thinner medication.
Because conservation and the resulting biodiversity matters. Financially. Socially. Ecologically. We are all stronger because of it.
This fall as Georgians we have a unique opportunity to vote for conservation that benefits us all by voting yes for the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act. This act will ensure guaranteed funding for critically important conservation work across our state, now and into the future.
If you can’t wait until November, and want to act right now for conservation, you can donate to the Gopher Tortoise Conservation Initiative (GTCI). A coalition of conservation groups, private landowners, foundations and government agencies, GTCI is working to protect a minimum of 65 viable gopher tortoise populations and approximately 100,000 acres of habitat required to sustain them by 2020. Reaching the goal is estimated to cost $150 million.
Why the gopher tortoise? Because of this keystone species, more than 350 other species, including indigo snakes, striped newts, Eastern diamond-backed rattlesnakes, Florida pine snakes and gopher frogs thrive in the longleaf wiregrass ecosystem, an ecosystem that used to stretch from Virginia to Texas and is now only 4 percent of its original habitat. Preventing the gopher tortoise from being listed will mean avoiding potentially high costs to Georgia’s people, businesses and ecology.
How will GTCI reach its goal? Coalition members are actively helping protect and manage gopher tortoise habitat and raising much-needed funds to support the endeavor – and the support from foundations and conservation-minded people has been inspiring. If you want to help protect the gopher tortoise, contact The Nature Conservancy or one of the other primary GTCI partners – The Conservation Fund, the Georgia Conservancy or The Orianne Society.
Will you join me in supporting these vital efforts and leave your legacy through conservation today? Through June 30, your support can go twice as far due to the Bobolink Foundation which will match donations to The Nature Conservancy in Georgia, up to a total of $1.5 million.
Nancy Clair Laird McInaney resides in Decatur with her husband Steven and children, Will and Nicholas. A passionate conservationist, Nancy Clair serves on The Nature Conservancy in Georgia’s board of trustees, following in the tradition of her father, Cody Laird, Jr.