by Harden Fowler
The mission statement for Monmouth County Audubon Society reads, in part: "Our mission is to promote the awareness, appreciation and conservation of natural resources through activism and educational outreach." Conservation, or "the controlled use and systemic protection of natural resources," is something that all MCAS members should share as an achievable goal.
In the most densely populated state, development is inevitable, and environmentally friendly changes often are not the primary concern of developers. Even if all of your concerns aren't addressed favorably, compromise is often necessary and should not be considered a defeat for conservation. A good compromise is something that both sides can live with. If you feel that an area needs protection or that the proposed change in usage is not in the best interest of conservation, contact the people that will control the change. It's also very important that you make your concerns known early in the planning process. Too many times, concerned citizens make contact with the governing body at the last minute. By that time, development plans are about to be finalized, and a major change would be extremely hard to implement.
However, before you make contact, check with other groups that may share your concerns, gather your facts, and think of a possible alternative to the problem. When you contact the decision-makers with a phone call, e-mail or letter, make it as factual and brief as possible. A positive, knowledgeable and to-the-point call or letter will receive a more favorable response than nonfactual rambling. On the local level, your municipal or county planning board, environmental commission or the Monmouth Conservation Foundation are logical contacts. If it is a statewide problem, the New Jersey Audubon Society monitors legislation and joins with other groups to protect our natural habitats. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, NJ Fish and Wildlife, Garden State EnvironNet, NY/NJ Baykeeper, The Nature Conservancy or the NJ chapter of the Sierra Club are also valuable resources. If you would like to contact your legislators, the NJ Legislature can give you the status of bills and lists your legislators by the zip codes that they represent. With a little time, research and effort, we can all have positive input into the changes that affect the environment around us and make conservation a reality.