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Friday, July 20, 2012

How Do You Hug a Stream?

Welcome to the first installment on my new blog, Streamhugger, which deals with my thoughts and observations about grassroots conservation efforts.  Perhaps you're raising an eyebrow and wondering, "Streamhugger?"  Sure, why not?  The term "Treehugger" has been worn out ( and has a somewhat negative connotation for the topics that I plan to write about) and is more likely to make a web surfer roll their eyes than pause to read a blog by that name.  Streamhugger, on the other hand, seems a bit abstract and thus might catch a web surfer's curiosity.  And, arguably, water resources are crucial to nearly any conservation program.  So, yes, I embrace water resources, therefore I am a Streamhugger.

The other name that I was considering for this blog was "Fear and Loathing in Grassroots Conservation."  But I didn't want potential readers coming to the blog expecting tales of mescaline-fueled clandestine dam removals or importing bog turtles to a pipeline construction site to get the project shut down.  No, I expect this blog to be more tame than any blog whose name conjures thoughts of Hunter S. Thompson.  Hopefully, it will be somewhat entertaining.  Maybe something like if Aldo Leopold had tried to write for Rolling Stone.  But only time will tell.

Let me tell you about the contents I think you will find on Streamhugger when you come back to scan my posts in the coming weeks, months, and, hopefully, years.  This blog is about community conservation efforts -- grassroots stuff -- from my perspective as a volunteer in my municipality's Environmental Advisory Council and in my fledgling local watershed association.  I also bring my perspective as a hydrogeologist and Licensed Professional Geologist, with over 15 years working as an environmental consultant.  But despite my day job, this is not a scientific or technical blog.  This is a blog written for the layperson who wants to hear about how other groups of lay people have pooled their talents, intellects, and, sometimes, muscles to preserve, protect, and, sometimes, rebuild the natural world among which they live.

It's my belief that, for laypeople to do effective grassroots conservation work, laypeople must be willing to educate themselves on the topics that matter.  Therefore, rather than having to dumb down my writing to the 8th grade level at which most newspapers are written, I'll aim for a high school senior level or maybe a college freshman level.  I'll try to educate you, as needed, to something beyond the level of the average person who doesn't know or even care to know a state-designated High-Quality Coldwater Fishery from a drainage ditch; or can't tell a labyrinthian, automobile-dependent, high-density residential development from a walkable, mixed-use development.

As implied by the subtitle of my blog, The Political Economy of Conservation, grassroots conservation work can get very political.  And there is always a juggling act to try to line up the economic resources needed to fund conservation projects.  There are lots of local, county, and state politics at work when trying to pull together a conservation project.  Most local and county politics affecting grassroots conservation seem to me to be power struggles among local bureaucrats rather than clashes of true partisan politics.  Partisan politics don't seem to become prominent until you get to the state level.  Regardless, I don't plan on getting partisan here on this blog.  This blog is about accomplishing work that anyone, regardless of party affiliation, should be able to appreciate.  Having said that, I reserve the right to ridicule anyone posting comments that are more rude than constructive.  

Although I'll be writing from my own experiences in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, I hope many of the topics that I expect to write about will resonate with folks from different parts of the United States who are facing or thinking about tackling similar debates or projects.  So please check back on Streamhugger from time to time and see what's up in my neck of the woods.  And I hope you'll feel compelled to leave a comment about what I've written.  Whether your comment is pro, con, or a little of both, I look forward to a chance to learn from my readers as much as I hope that my readers pick up something useful from me.


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