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Footsteps on the land PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 04 October 2017 16:25

“Andy was Riveredge, and Riveredge was Andy.”
    That sentence is from the front-page Ozaukee Press obituary for Andy Larsen. The remarkable thing about the words is that they were said by so many people that the quote was attributed to “friends and co-workers.”
    From the earliest days of Riveredge, the nature preserve that embraces 379 acres of land in the Town of Saukville, Andy Larsen was its abiding spirit—working in the field, teaching, leading, inspiring.
    With its array of hills, valleys, forests, ponds, prairies, plants, creatures and river banks, Riveredge is a showcase for the glories of nature. But is also, thanks to Mr. Larsen’s efforts and example, an important influence in support of the moral imperative for humans to be good stewards of the planet’s irreplaceable land.
    The legacy of Mr. Larsen, who died Sept. 22 at the age of 78, is not just Riveredge; it is also the defenders of the environment he inspired. Anyone who visits Riveredge and strikes up a conversation with folks there is likely to hear stories of how the teachings of Andy Larsen, often absorbed when they were children, motivated them to be advocates for conservation.
    It seems wrong to say that defenders of Earth like these one-time Riveredge kids are needed today more than ever, but it is true. For after years of progress, some elected leaders seem intent on taking the country backwards in environmental protection.
    This is evident on a national scale in the dismantling of Environmental Protection Agency regulations promised and being carried out by President Trump and in the plans to sell public wilderness areas that are so valuable as assets of nature that they have been designated national monuments.
    A similar disdain for government’s role in environmental protection is at work in Wisconsin, which, ironically, is considered by many to be the cradle of the conservation movement. Here, amid an ongoing effort to weaken air, water and land-use restrictions on industry, the Walker administration has offered to waive or relax environmental regulations as an incentive to lure a Taiwanese company’s massive manufacturing operation to the state.
    The rationale for this environmental backsliding is invariably that a prosperous economy is dependent on capitalism unfettered by the inconvenience of abiding by rules protecting natural resources.
    It is a false notion that has been disproven time and again, most dramatically by California, which has the country’s most stringent environmental regulations and, according to a U.S. News ranking, the most friendly-to-business environment of any state.    
    Yet Americans are told it is necessary to allow pollution of air and water by coal in order to save miners’ jobs and Wisconsinites are told that it is OK to let wetlands be destroyed in building the Foxcon plant that will sprawl over hundreds of acres of land in southeastern Wisconsin because it will be the biggest economic development project in the state’s history.
    This goes on in spite of that fact that a majority of the public, according to numerous polls, supports regulations to protect the environment and efforts to preserve land in its natural state. Simply put, people understand that when natural areas are built on, paved over or plowed, they are lost forever.
    Andy Larsen engendered that understanding as part of his life’s work encouraging people to experience the majesty of nature. It is fortunate for us that he inspired so many to follow the footsteps he imprinted on the land.

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