Friday, June 25, 2010

America's Inner Coast Summit - It's Time to Follow a New Map

On June 22-24, America's Inner Coast Summit was held in Saint Louis, Missouri.  The Summit brought together over 100 representatives from NGOs, Federal agencies, states, tribes, private landowners, industry, academia and communities to discuss the future ecological sustainability of the Mississippi River watershed (the Summit web site is here).  The Summit was sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, The Nature Conservancy, Monsanto, Gulf Engineers and Consultants, Sand County Foundation, and the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center. The proceedings built upon the findings of a May 2009 action document developed by the Midwest Natural Resources Group: an ‘Opportunity for Action’ letter that was signed by the 14 Federal agencies that make up the group.  The Summit also grew out of the recommendations from an August 2009 Visions of a Sustainable River Conference hosted by the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center.  Both that letter and conference recognized the importance of the Mississippi River and its entire watershed, and represented calls to action for sustainable conservation and recovery efforts.

Summit speakers included representatives of academia, Federal agencies, the NGO community, and associations.  I had the privilege of presenting a plenary session talk at the Summit on its first full day, entitled "Of Maps and Men - 17th Century Mapmaking and 21st Century Sustainability.” A transcript of the talk can be viewed on-line here, including portions that could not be included in the actual presentation because of last-minute Summit schedule and time changes.  

My presentation in a nutshell:  the Mississippi River basin natural, cultural, social, political, business and intitutional landscapes are severely fragmented.  And equally fragmented attempts at conservation and restoration are following an outdated map that will prove to be fruitless, based upon a review of results of other landscape-scale conservation efforts nationwide.  The Mississippi system issues we face are multi-jurisdictional, multifaceted, intergenerational and interconnected, and none will be adequately solved, let alone understood, if our way of thinking, planning and doing does not also become multi-jurisdictional, multifaceted, intergenerational and interconnected.   At the Summit I proposed a new, inclusive, integrated map toward sustainability; envisioning a revitalized, healthy river system that lies at the very center of a community and economic renaissance where all activities occur in such a fashion as to protect and restore the environmental richness and enhance the quality of life of all who live and work here.  It’s a vision that values, conserves and revitalizes both the economy and nature; a vision built upon a philosophy of “Conservation through Cooperation.”

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