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Actions speak louder than words

In my last column, “On Water,” I wrote about the organizations that serve as water guardians and advocates. Environmental institutions may have a great mission statement or structure, but they still need grass-roots’ support and boots on the ground. It always comes down to individuals and “What can I do? How can I help?”

The notion of getting personally involved gained some real momentum with the advent of Earth Day almost 50 years ago. That is when many of us heard the slogan “Think globally—Act locally” for the first time. We are fortunate that we have national organizations and local chapters that offer us the opportunity to get our hands dirty and actually do something tangible.

Several years ago, our region was impacted by flooding events. River courses were diverted by flood waters, causing both physical damage and siltation. Fortunately there are hydrologists, fisheries people and engineers who are expert in stream rehabilitation and improvement. They went to work.

One notable example was the installation of root-ball structures at Tomannex State Park on the East Branch of the Delaware. A second major project was the restoration of the stream bank and the casting pond at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum (CFFCM) on the Willowemoc River. Again, root-ball structures were used and the river course was restored. 

Much of the work was done with heavy equipment, as huge root balls and rock slabs cannot be set in place by hand. Finishing the project however, required the planting of trees and vegetation to stabilize the bank. The plantings came from the “Trees for Tribs” program of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation Saratoga Tree Nursery. This part of the project takes hand labor and that comes from the work of volunteers. 

The call recently went out from Tracy Brown, Trout Unlimited (TU) Northeastern restoration coordinator, to supplement the plantings that were done last spring and to replace those that did not survive. Not a small task. When volunteer workers showed up on a recent Saturday, what was remarkable was the diversity of those who appeared with work gloves on and shovels ready. What struck me was the fact that six different TU chapters were represented as well as CFFCM. There were male and female volunteers in about equal numbers, and the ages were from nine to octogenarians and every decade in between. It was a very neat cross-section of caring environmentalists. There is hope.

Everyone can help, everyone can be involved. When the many hands set about the task of moving the plants, digging the holes, planting them, watering them and mulching them, the job took only a few hours. What satisfaction was shown on the faces of each and every worker when the job was done! Maybe conservationist Teddy Roosevelt said it best: “It is the doer of deeds who actually counts in the battle for life, not the one who looks on and says how the fight ought to be fought.” There are lots of opportunities to help and everyone can play a part. Whose rivers are these anyway? They are ours, of course. 


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