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Citizen's Primer for Conservation Activism

Judith Perlman
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  • Book Info
    Citizen's Primer for Conservation Activism
    Book Description:

    Is there anything you can do when development threatens your local forest, beach, prairie, or wetland? Yes, there is. Across America, citizen activists are fighting and winning battles against unwanted development in their own communities. To help you resist the urban sprawl and absentee landowners that can wreck small towns and cities alike, this book is a practical, hands-on guide for building a grassroots campaign to defeat undesirable development.

    Written by a successful activist,Citizen's Primer for Conservation Activismtakes you through all the steps necessary to stop unplanned development in your community:

    Identifying the issues at stakeGetting involved and developing leadershipDevising a strategyHiring and working with legal counselBuilding coalitions and partnershipsInfluencing local governmentConducting a media campaignRaising moneyCountering developer tacticsManaging the whole process

    With the proven strategies in this easy-to-access book, you can quickly gear up to challenge unwanted development and preserve the character of your local community.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79767-3
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    This book is written for you . . .

    If you are frustrated at seeing unwanted development threaten your community.

    If you are sick of seeing your taxes increase to pay for all the services needed by so much ″progress.″

    If the high point of your day is seeing a great blue heron wade in a stream or a red fox cross the road.

    If you cherish a scenic view of a lake or meadow on your morning walk or evening commute.

    If you want to preserve a woodlot, creek, or wetland for your children to explore.

    If you value...

    (pp. 19-30)

    One of the operating principles of my life is that knowledge is power. You should acquire as much information as possible related to your own unique conservation battle. You may not know exactly where and how it will help you, but I guarantee itwillhelp you in countless ways:

    It will help you formulate a strategy.

    It will give you power and credibility to counteract inaccurate statements about the law, public policy, procedure, taxation, and economics.

    It will help you understand the motivations underlying the actions and positions of the other players.

    It will help you reframe the developer′s...

  6. CHAPTER TWO GET INVOLVED (One Person Can Do a Lot)
    (pp. 31-44)

    A developer in cahoots with local government may seem like insurmountable opposition. But I assure you—one person can do a lot to thwart the machine of development because we are also a society that gives rights to individuals.

    As a citizen, you have the right to the free exchange of information.

    Most public meetings have public input sessions at which you have the right to speak.

    As a resident, you may have the right to public hearings on certain matters before your government.

    As a neighboring landowner, you may have the right to be notified of proposed activities and...

    (pp. 45-54)

    One of the most important things you can do is devise a strategy. A strategy provides structure and direction as you decide how to spend your time and where to use your limited resources. A strategy will help you decide what to do and what not to do. There are many reasons that we succeeded, against all odds, in our fight for Fischer Creek, but I am convinced that one of the most important was that I devised a strategy and we stuck to it

    Saving land, creating a park, stopping development—these are all worthy goals. However, they are...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR HIRE COUNSEL (″The First Thing We Do, Let′s Kill All the Lawyers″)
    (pp. 55-68)

    Lawyers are a much-maligned group, and the above quotation—a reference to a line in Shakespeare′s Henry VI, Part 2 (Act 4, Scene 2)— testifies to this. Adorning posters, sweatshirts, buttons, and mugs, this call to action has probably increased sales of paraphernalia bearing the above quotation so much that it has kept public radio afloat.

    What people forget is the context for this quotation. In the play, plotters sought to overthrow the government and curtail the people′s civil rights. How would they accomplish this? Kill all the lawyers. Lawyers are the champions of individual rights in the face of...

    (pp. 69-85)

    Although one or a few individuals can do a lot, in most development battles you will eventually need community support. Whether your issues are political, requiring support from the electorate, or economic, requiring you to raise large amounts of money, it is likely that your land battle will grow to need and include a variety of people.

    For Fischer Creek, the fight was based largely on community values and a message to elected officials concerning the ″will of the people.″ From the start, we knew we needed, and set out to build, grassroots support.

    Point Creek was about fund-raising, and...

  10. CHAPTER SIX INFLUENCE LOCAL GOVERNMENT (Meetings, Meetings, Meetings)
    (pp. 86-102)

    The answer to that will vary, depending on where you live and what issues you are addressing. It might be city, village, town, or county— or some combination of these bodies. You need to identify and influence the governmental body that has decision-making authority for the issue at hand. Your battle may involve zoning change, variance, conditional use, site review plans, plat review, building permits, purchasing authority for parks and open space, or land-use planning. One or more bodies, such as the plan commission or the village board, may be responsible for these issues within a government unit; and there...

    (pp. 103-113)

    In many land battles, the media can be decisive in getting your message out and giving yourselves credibility. Once unleashed, however, the media can be called back only with great difficulty. And no matter what you say to the media, you cannot control what they write or display and cannot control their spin on the issues. Therefore, the media can also do your cause great harm. Before unleashing this powerful force, think carefully about the advantages and disadvantages of bringing your conflict to the public arena.

    Before embarking on a media campaign, determine whether publicity will help or hurt your...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT FUND-RAISING (Money Makes the World Go ′Round)
    (pp. 114-137)

    Standing up for what you believe can be expensive. As you engage in the process of fighting development, you are going to need money and resources. Apart from the opportunity costs of spending time on a land battle instead of on other things, you will also incur out-of-pocket expenses when investigating and organizing a land-use battle.

    From the very start, you will be paying for such things as phone calls, photocopying, printing, and faxes. You may need to hire a lawyer, either to protect your rights, delay action on the land, litigate, or negotiate purchase terms. You may decide immediately...

  13. CHAPTER NINE OPPOSING THE DEVELOPER (Bluster, Bully, and Bluff)
    (pp. 138-151)

    Friend or foe, the landowner or developer is usually a factor in land battles. In some circumstances, you may be directly battling a developer. This was the case for us with both Fischer Creek and Hika Conservancy. Developers wanted the village to pass annexation or zoning changes to facilitate development, and citizens directly opposed those changes. The battle as to who would prevail with the local government was between the citizens and the developer.

    In other circumstances, you may be negotiating with the landowner for purchase of a property. This was the case with Point Creek, where we had protracted...

  14. CHAPTER TEN MANAGING THE PROCESS (Roller-coaster Ride)
    (pp. 152-160)

    If you are contemplating a land battle, be realistic. It will be stressful. If you are already involved in a land battle, you know this to be true. You are putting yourself and your beliefs on the line. That′s hard. What is even harder is the fact that your fortunes rest largely on matters outside your personal control. To care so much but control so little—that′s stressful.

    It is also stressful to engage in activities that you do not like or do not do well. It is even more stressful when something you care passionately about rests on your...

  15. Index
    (pp. 161-167)