I am very, very honored to be here for this prestigious award… an award that is all the more meaningful for me coming from an organization that was founded in honor of Theodore Roosevelt, the childhood hero of mine and of course our country’s first hero of the conservation movement. I am doubly honored tonight to share the awards with two modern-day heroes in today’s conservation movement – Senator Heinrich and Senator Risch, recognized for their political leadership and continuing the environmental legacy of President Roosevelt.
You know, for me it is kind of easy to channel TR, given that I live right down the street from his long-term home, Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay on Long Island; that I, too, was a near-sighted scrawny kid who liked to run around in his backyard and shoot animals and collect them. And that TR was an inspiration for that scrawny little bookworm who liked to read his Hunting and Western travelogues, hoping one day to follow in his adventurous footsteps out in the Rockies and out in Africa.
So you can understand why this award has a special resonance for me, although in mentioning oneself alongside such an iconic American hero, you can only feel humbled.
But I think that all of you out there have a special resonance with TR, and you have an affection for him and a connection with him because he was so multi-faceted – he covered so many aspects of life. I think of any of us here tonight, especially the anglers and the hunters amongst us feel a special connection to him, a connection with his conservation ethic and his vision of protecting the wildlife and wildlife habitat in order that the generation after him could share in the rituals and joys of man’s oldest sporting pursuits.
TR’s legacy is one of great environmental success, but conservation success today requires as much, or more, commitment than in Roosevelt’s time when tens of millions of acres of wildlife habitat could be set aside with the stroke of a pen. Success today requires funding resources, it requires rigorous science, and, above all, conservation requires patience. I think we heard tonight a few examples of the patience, the long struggles that those in Congress have had in order to protect a number of land bills.
For example, I would like to bring up one conservation success that was close to my heart: The Colombine-Hondo Wilderness Act passed last year protecting 45K acres in Northern New Mexico, sponsored by Senator Heinrich and Congressman Lujan who was here earlier this evening, as well as Senator Tom Udall. The ultimate designation of this forest above the town of Taos had been in limbo for more than 30 years, but was finally decided favorably as a wilderness area on a bipartisan basis, thanks in large part to those gentlemen. Thank you especially to Senator Heinrich.
And consider the enormous success of TRCP and the Sage Grouse Country, years of coordination among federal, state and local players were required to protect the Greater Sage Grouse, and all without enforcing the Endangered Species Act. Congratulation to you, TRCP, and your partners who achieved this long fought victory.
Conservation success today looks like the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Conservation Scholarship Program, which is placing hundreds of students from diverse ethnic, cultural and economic backgrounds, particularly minorities and women, into conservation and environmental internships. Thanks for this goes to Jeff Trandahl for establishing this much-needed effort.
And conservation success today is also about tackling the issue of environmental justice. We can — we must — guarantee that all citizens have access to clean air and clean water, just as we have access to great outdoors that we have come to love. Too often we have failed to protect minority and underserved communities from the ravages of toxic industrial pollution.
In my home state of North Carolina for example, miscarriages of environmental justice are just too rampant. There are more hog farms in North Carolina than anywhere else in the country with millions and millions of gallons of toxic animal waste stored in open air pits and sprayed untreated across the landscape. Minority and poor communities suffer horrendous odors, devastating air pollution and contaminated waters. This is just simply unacceptable.
There, we are supporting Waterkeeper and other critical partners as they implement state-wide strategies to hold industries as well as relevant regulatory agencies responsible for protecting a basic human right — that of clean air and clean water.
We are not there yet. It is going to be a long road and success will be hard fought.
And, speaking of conservation successes, I would like to close with a quote about success from my favorite environmental hero, Theodore Roosevelt, who said: “It is hard on one to fail, but it is much worse never to have tried to succeed.”
All of us have a role to play in conservation success, certainly TRCP is doing its share and I appreciate that everyone in this room is contributing as well. Thank you, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partners, and thank all of you again for this humbling, but truly inspiring recognition tonight. Thank you.
– Louis Bacon, Founder and Chairman of The Moore Charitable Foundation and its affiliates