Monday, November 25, 2013

Sally Jewell urges public, private, political support for conservation

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell hiked Boneyard Beach —the eroded northern end of this island where dead trees poke out of the sand — and called it a great example of climate change and erosion at work. “It changes your perspective on man’s relationship with nature,” she said Wednesday. “We should be paying attention to what we’re seeing on the ground. We should be listening to the science. ... We need to adapt to the changes and understand what we can do to mitigate them.” Jewell said she would like every school child to see this picturesque spot in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge because it illustrates how nature changes and how futile it is to try to fight that. “It’s clear that Mother Nature wins every time,” she said.  The hike capped a full day for Jewell, who paid her first visit to South Carolina since becoming the nation’s 51st Secretary of the Interior in April.  She began with an early morning flight over the refuge’s 22 miles of coastline, then met with about 50 representatives of businesses, nonprofits and government agencies to talk about conservation, and ended with a tour of this pristine barrier island reachable only by boat. And she carried many messages, from the reality of climate change to importance of public-private collaboration to promote conservation, particularly of longleaf pine, to the urgency that Congress end the sequester and support the nation’s Land and Water Conservation Fund. Jewell did not need to step foot on an eroded beach to understand how rising sea levels and erosion have affected the state. As she inspected the coastline from the air, she said she saw a lot of beach homes and other buildings vulnerable in the next storm. “You’ve already seen a one-foot increase in sea level rise in this community over the last 100 years,” she said. “A lot of development is vulnerable.
I did encourage the community to think about that and to make sure you’re working alongside developers to develop in a smart way that takes into account the risks of sea level rise.” She noted swamps and wetlands are very useful in protecting communities from storms and talked briefly about how federally underwritten flood insurance has made coastal development more economically viable. After her airplane tour, Jewell spent more than an hour at the Sewee Visitors Center listening to a variety of people involved in government and conservation, from Conway to Darien, Ga. She said she came to this part of the state because of its track record of collaboration — between government and business on all levels — to promote conservation. With gridlock in Washington and future federal funding of conservation in doubt, Jewell said such collaboration will continue to be important — and that the federal government must do its share, specifically by funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund...more


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