Friends have been asking me to flesh out the top ten steps for saving the place you love that we have listed on the front of our website. I hope you find these suggestions of value and please add any comments to make them stronger.
There are, of course, many ways people go about the challenge of saving a place that they love. There is no right way. But if you are just getting started or have come up to a road block, these steps may be of value to you:
Step # 1. Realizing that Action is Necessary – This is the first big step because most people do not realize that the place they love to visit is threatened and needs their support. These threats may be as simple as poor funding for maintenance. A friends group could be formed to address this type of threat. Most places are threatened by larger challenges such as flooding, fire, infestation, encroachment, and overuse, and these will take a greater effort. The key point here is that no places is safe from the impacts of our growing population and its demands for continued development and utilization of our finite natural resources.
Step # 2. Understanding the Major Threats – The biggest threats may not be obvious. It might be acid rain from coal fired power plants and internal combustion engines. It might be upstream development affecting the flow of water. It might be the overuse by activities that cannot be handled by the natural systems. It is very important to identify the challenges and focus on solutions that will reduce those problems.
Step # 3. Identifying the Players – Some of the interested parties may be obvious but knowing all the players who have a stake in what happens to a special place will be very important. Is someone in charge of your special place? Often there are multiple responsible parties and they all don’t work well together. Who are the adjacent landowners and businesses? Are there other parties involved as concessionaires or as users of the natural resources on the site? How about all the constituencies that use the site: walkers, bikers, runners, riders, campers, sportsmen, daytrippers, scientists, artists, and picnickers? Who funds the site at the moment? Are there non-profits dedicated to preserving the area? Who are the local, county, state, and federal agencies involved with the site?
Step # 4. Understanding all the Perspectives – This can be very challenging dependent on the breadth of players involved with the site. You can hope that they all will agree with you, but often there are conflicting opinions on how the site should be managed. Some people might want to leave the site as natural and wild as possible where others might want it all as accessible as possible.
Step # 5. Creating a Campaign – What most preserved places need is a long term game plan that will work with all the groups and provide the direction, regulation, and resources for maintaining the site. This will take a well thought out plan that includes most, if not all, of the players. It may require a lead person or organization. It may require the formation of a non-profit dedicated to your goal. If these are already in place, it may require greater funding and support of the existing groups.
Step # 6. Selecting the Goal – Sometimes the selection of goals for preserving a site is the most challenging step because the range of players and the needs of our changing society make it hard to reach an agreement for action. But it is important to set annual, five year, and long term goals for most projects. The short term goal may just be creating a governance model for the site. A longer term goal is to establish the ongoing funding for maintenance or expansion of the site.
Step # 7. Building the Coalition – Your coalition may not involve all the players. Some may not agree with your goals; however the more that do, the more success you will achieve. Try to get dedicated individuals, non-profits, businesses, government agencies, and politicians into the coalition. As it turns out, you may not have the time or be the best person to run the coalition. It does not matter. Find someone with those skills. You may want to remain on the advisory board or head a committee. But be sure to find a strong leader to achieve the goal. Don’t let personalities hold back the campaign.
Step # 8. Selecting the Tactics – The tactics often define the campaign. Make sure they are concrete and achievable. Communications are also key. Their impacts may not be as easily tracked, but they can be a tremendous help in achieving your goals.
Step # 9. Perseverance – Sometimes just identifying the problem will be enough. The responsible parties may respond quickly. More often, the challenge is complex, so you will have to stay on top of it for months or years. This is often the nature of preserving the places we love. It is a lifelong commitment. Most of the great national parks we have saved required decades of efforts by our ancestors. It is up to us to preserve their legacy and our own.
Step # 10. Helping Others – As you learn more about your special place, share your knowledge with others. We all need each other’s support. That is why I set up this page. Please contribute your experience to it. You will find that if you help others, they will help you.