In Case You Missed It:
Township Board of Commissioners Seeks to Save an Old Growth Forest Using the Power of PA’s Green Amendment
For decades the crowded communities of Delaware County, PA have enjoyed the forest and hiking trails that pass through Don Guanella Woods in Marple Township, PA. This 178-acre forest – a unique, old growth beech forest located in the headwaters of Darby Creek with the Whetstone tributary flowing through it, is owned by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The Archdiocese has been scheming to sell off the forest for years while the surrounding community and conservation groups continue to call for this magical remaining forest to be preserved and protected as a natural forested county park instead of another residential or commercial development in an already crowded area that suffers from flooding and stormwater runoff.
Various community and watershed groups – known as the Whetstone Coalition – have organized to hire scientists and legal counsel to provide expert reviews of a developer’s plans to cut down the forest to build a residential development, and these experts shared their reviews with the township. As a result, in December, the Marple Township Board of Commissioners voted 7-0 to deny the developer’s application due to various deficiencies and gaps in the applications, invoking the charge and spirit of PA’s Environmental Rights Amendment.
Mr. Molinaro, Marple County Commissioner, invoked Pennsylvania’s Environmental Rights Amendment or Green Amendment, citing his (and the township’s) fiduciary duty to protect their constituents’ rights to unspoiled natural resources. Mr. Molinaro pointed to the potential substantial loss of wildlife and stream habitat, threats to wetlands and downstream residents from inadequate stormwater plans, pages of deficiencies listed by state agencies and the Delaware County Conservation District, disruption of soils, wetland degradation from lack of groundwater recharge, the loss of a huge swath of tree canopy cover (coupled with a woefully inadequate and nonconforming tree replacement proposal), stream degradation, and much more. By arguing so forcefully against an application which would clear cut a huge swath of the last large stand of woods in eastern Delaware County, he was certainly honoring the spirit of the township’s comprehensive plan mandate. Mr. Molinaro looked to the future as all good elected officials do. He said, “when people look back years from now, they’ll say that this board stood up”. No residents want this. This development, he said, would be a huge win for the developer but a tragic loss for the community. He said not one constituent told him developing Don Guanella’s forest was a good thing. Instead many expressed their strong opposition to it.
The Whetstone Coalition remains poised to respond to the Archdiocese and its developers next moves, which could include an appeal. The day after this unanimous decision, the developer also submitted a Phase 2 plan to cut another section of this old forest for another set of residential homes, so the work will continue. The Whetstone Coalition is determined to continue its work to save the forest. Read more about this precedent setting case here!
On January 4, Senator Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, Senator Bill Soules, and Representative Joanne Ferrary pre-filed a Joint Resolution to amend the New Mexico Constitution in order to add enforceable environmental rights. Senator Mimi Stewart, Senator Harold Pope, Jr, Representative Tara Luján and Representative Andrea Romero are signing on as co-sponsors in support. The Joint Resolution proposes a Green Amendment that will amend the state constitution’s Bill of Rights to recognize and protect the rights of all of the people of New Mexico “to a clean and healthy environment, including pure water, clean air, healthy ecosystems, and a stable climate, and to the preservation of the natural, cultural, scenic and healthful qualities of the environment”; to ensure these rights are protected for present and future generations; and to designate all the state’s government officials as trustees of the natural resources of the state constitutionally obligated to “conserve, protect, and maintain” them. If passed, the amendment would include repeal of the language currently found in Article XX Section 21 which environmental leaders believe has failed to provide the enforceable environmental protections its original supporters had intended. Read what NM environmental leaders and community members have to say here.
News from Across the Green Amendment Movement
- Intersectional Environmentalist has published Founder Maya van Rossum’s letter, calling for environmental and racial justice and offering a tangible pathway to change. Intersectional Environmentalist is a platform for resources, information and action steps to support intersectional environmentalism and dismantle systems of oppression in the environmental movement, led by environmental activists and sustainability advocates.
- In early December, the Montana state Supreme Court ruled against a proposed gold mine project at the gateway to Yellowstone National park, an iconic site known and treasured by the people of Montana and beyond. Montana is one of only two states that have a Green Amendment, and it was the state’s Green Amendment that provided the compelling rationale for the court’s decision. Read more about this Green Amendment victory here.
- We kicked off our end of year fundraising with a virtual art gallery and party with Art4erth.com to give our dedicated members a meaningful way to support environmental rights.The event prompted over $1,000 from both online donations and the live auction of the late Joseph Crilley’s paintings, kindly donated by Suzanne and Pamela Crilley. In our total end of year fundraising, we raised over $4,000 including a generous match donation from an anonymous supporter. We are so grateful for all of you who were able to give and make our work possible.
- Your Dollars at Work: Funds from our Art4erth.com event and our end of year campaign support ongoing projects such as critical updates to our website to provide state specific hubs of valuable online resources for communities and leaders. By the end of December, we launched a new website for New Mexico, and we are in the process of making similar upgrades for additional states that have active movements. Stay tuned – your state could be next!
- Socially Responsible Agriculture Project’s virtual summit on Agriculture, Engagement & Solutions featured Maya van Rossum for a session on the Green Amendment where she discussed why the rights to clean air and water matter. Watch the full recording here.