Letters to the editor
The theme of this letter is hope. I just returned from a trip to Antalya, Turkey. I was invited by a friend to attend the seventh Ecoregional Vision Peer Review Workshop, hosted by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and The World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF), two of the biggest conservation organizations in the world. …Teams of scientists and natural resource managers from each organization get together to learn from each others’ past and present experiences in developing an ecosystem context for conservation work in diverse environments. The process of regional conservation planning is termed as “ecoregional” planning by the Nature Conservancy and as the Biodiversity Visioning Process by the WWF. This workshop had five teams from WWF who are involved in projects right now, and several experts from both WWF and TNC. I was fascinated by the presentations about the ecology of their regions, and the challenges to conservation they each presented. Ecoregional planning is cutting edge for the conservation movement in general, and these two organizations are leading the way in developing innovative methods and approaches. Historically, WWF had been known for a focus on trying to protect specific animals, and TNC had been known for protecting land by purchasing it. So, for both of these organizations, changing their frameworks to include ecosystem scale conservation planning is a big step up. The idea behind ecoregional work is that in order to save some of the biodiversity on this planet, we must protect areas that are large enough to sustain all those different plants and animals. This is a relatively new idea. By relative, let me say that in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1990, 188 countries signed the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) which established that these governments and their peoples were committed to the conservation of biodiversity and the principles of sustainable development. However, not much has been accomplished since then, until February 2004. At the seventh meeting of the parties to the CBD, the Earth’s countries committed to creating and acting upon a Global Program of Action on Protected Areas (CBD-POA). This program includes a commitment for each country to develop and implement a comprehensive network of protected areas on land and in the oceans. One of the main parts of ecoregional planning is to identify areas of biodiversity significance, and then to create a network of protected areas to safeguard those places. This commitment is a major step towards realizing the visions created by the ecosystem conservation planning processes being developed at both TNC and WWF. Unfortunately, the United States didn’t sign the treaty. How to actually do the ecoregional planning is a daunting task. Providing technical and scientific support to the 188 governments currently responding to the CBD-POA has emerged as a top priority for TNC and WWF programs which are already actively engaged in conservation work in about 60 of these nations. One of the many important variables is the effect of people who live in the region. The five teams involved in the Antalya workshop were: The Baltic Sea, The Caucasus, West Africa Marine, The Carpathian Mountains, and Altai-Sayan. There are many very industrialized cities on the Baltic Sea, and there is very little exchange of water with the North Sea. Thus pollution from industry and run off from agriculture are concentrated in the Baltic. Over-fishing and heavy marine traffic are also key factors. Protecting the biodiversity in several marine protected areas, and bringing the fisheries back to a healthy, productive, and sustainable level are two of the key goals of international conservation partnership efforts. The other marine environment was the West Africa Marine ecosystem. Because of a deep off-shore drop-off and wind currents that generally blow surface water toward the open ocean, this area has an upwelling of deep, productive water that created one of the most productive fisheries in the world. Overfishing, run-off from cities and agriculture and the new discovery of oil offshore are the main challenges. I was encouraged by the recent announcement of a new source of funding being provided for Small Island Developing Nations to support their response to the CBD-POA and to help their efforts to build effective networks of protected areas at land and on sea. The Caucasus mountainous region essentially connects the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea. There is currently one large oil pipeline, and others are being planned to bring the vast quantities of oil from the Caspian Sea region to the Black Sea, and then eventually to the Mediterranean Sea and Europe. Finding out which areas have biodiversity significance, so that they can be included in future pipeline development planning, was one of their main issues. The Carpathian Mountains was very interesting to hear about the challenges they face dealing with governments which have just joined the European Union (EU), countries which are about to join the EU and Ukraine. The Altai-Sayan team has chosen the snow leopard as their symbol, as this animal is endangered and indigenous to their region. Each of these five teams did a 20 minute presentation on their plan, followed by a 20-minute question-and-answer session. Then the team would present their three biggest challenges, and the group at large would discuss possible solutions. What I received from attending this workshop was a huge infusion of HOPE. The WWF has about 50 independent organizations. The Nature Conservancy has a huge organization, and although they focused primarily on buying land in the U.S. for many years, they are now a global organization, as well. The dedication of the people I met was truly inspiring. Although their challenges were great, they were optimistic people with a “can do” attitude. One of the challenges that was sort of the “elephant in the living room” was funding. Every team mentioned several times that a lack of funding was hindering their work. I encourage anyone who has a favorite place they would like to see protected, or favorite type of place, a favorite animal or plant they would like to see protected, to spend a few minutes researching what they might be able to do about it. Perhaps you would like to get personally involved, or perhaps you would just like to find a group that has a similar goal and give them some much needed resources. The WWF and The Nature Conservancy would be excellent places to start. WWF.org and Nature.org are their respective Web sites. Each of us CAN make a difference. Bill Lindsay Vail Overdoing itAs a very frequent visitor to Vail I have come to love the Bavarian look of the Village. My family and I have started to stay in Vail Village more and Lionshead and East and West Vail less, actually none. This is due to how much we enjoy the layout, architecture and feel of the village. From Crossroads to Bridge Street it feels like a village, not an overdeveloped retail center that happens to be at the base of the mountain. As a business owner I understand the need to develop and change but does the village really need a 600,000-square-foot development at Crossroads? Last year a Starbucks, now a proposed Dave and Busters. What next, a Bennigans or Chili’s? I know that development is inevitable, but a 10-fold increase in space seems excessive. I do see the benefits of several of the developer’s plans: parking, open space, ice rink. But at what cost are you moving forward, or in my opinion backward?Michael JohnstonLake Geneva, Wis.Let’s help outI am not one to express my political or personal agenda, and being a business owner in this capitalist society and reaping its rewards also comes with a humanitarian duty. Our differences of Western scientific beliefs vs. religious after-life promises have driven a wedge, as we all know.I have traveled to the tsunami-devastated area, walked through their jungles, and watched my children play without prejudice, and no common language -other than childhood laughter. A society so poor has a happiness that money cannot buy, but a wave can wash away.I know that people I trusted, regardless of travel warnings, are just as common as you and I.I feel that our government can spend a little more. But it is ultimately all of our responsibility to keep world peace, all I have to give being a capitalist is money. My family has donated to the Red Cross tsunami fund. If enough “capitalist pigs” donate what WE have sold our soul for, the world will see that the average American wants peace, and affording different religions the ability to have hope for the afterlife, the dream can mend many deep ill wills.I alone cannot change politics, nor do I have the time, but I will give what I can. We can change the TIDE.I feel and write, not of guilt, but of appreciation of what my family has.Sean RichieEagleVail, Colorado
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