A decade ago, Ohio faced a pivotal decision that would affect both the health and financial well-being of future generations. Economics juxtaposed by the environment, or so our counterparts positioned it. At the time, I was working for a statewide non-profit focused on promoting economically and environmentally sustainable energy policies and practices. Roughly 90% of Ohio’s electricity was being generated by coal-fired power plants. The Ohio Senate was debating a new Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that would diversify our electrical generation portfolio through an investment in renewables. Very few thought we’d be successful in passing a state RPS. But our adversaries forgot one extremely important fact that has changed the course of history over and over again: the power of people and OUR collective voice.
From CEOs to NGOs, we championed voices across the state to testify or write letters to their congressional reps. In the end, the issue was no longer an ‘environmental movement’ led by tree-huggers. It was the voices of CEOs and other community leaders that articulated the positive economic, social, and environmental benefits of an RPS, which was ultimately passed in the spring of 2008. At this point, you might be asking yourself why I’ve shared this historical story.
As I mentioned in my February message, the federal budget for the National Estuarine Research Reserve System that supports Rookery Bay and 28 other reserves around the country was zeroed out in February. For Rookery Bay Research Reserve, that goose egg accounts for ~40% of their budget. Nationally, that amounts to a federal request of $27 million dollars distributed among the 29 Reserves.
Our Reserve serves as a wildlife nursery and critical habitat to many plants and animals. But, this isn’t just an environmental issue. Our Reserve is a recreational mecca that generates significant eco-tourism dollars for the region. If that isn’t enough, the Reserve’s 110,000 acres, which make up 40% of Collier County’s coastline, protect our shoreline, act as a water/air filter and help reduce the impact of storm surge, just to name a few benefits.
Remember, your voice not only helps Rookery Bay, but 28 other incredible Reserves around the country (see map). Wherever you call home, we can’t do it without you. Let Congress and the Administration know that there is a lot of love for estuaries - let our leaders know that protecting estuaries means protecting our future.
And so, on the eve of the Friends’ signature fundraiser, I am asking for your additional support by voicing your love for YOUR backyard, YOUR treasure...Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve! #iheartestuaries
Athan Barkoukis, Executive Director
Friends of Rookery Bay