The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number

The vast possibilities of our great future will become realities only if we make ourselves responsible for that future.

Gifford Pinchot

I spent the second weekend in December at the place I revere most: Beaver Run Hunting and Fishing Club in Porter Township, Pa.

It was full of friends and family, my favorite stone fireplace and 875-plus acres of conserved forest in the Pocono Mountains. We hiked in the chilly gray weather, enjoying the camaraderie of catching up with longtime friends. We laughed at old memories, reflected on 2018 and shared our goals for the New Year.

I’ve been making trips to the Beaver Run Hunting and Fishing Club since I was 9 months old. More than three decades later, it is still my favorite place on Earth. Having moved around a lot as a child, Beaver Run was the one place that was always the same every time I returned. I could expect to fish, boat, swim and hike in the summer, and ice fish and participate in snowball fights in the cold months.

In 2008, the club worked in partnership with Delaware Highlands Conservancy to put the nearly 900 acres of property that I love so dearly in a conservation easement. The club now has money to continue to invest in the management of its property for the long haul. The 70-acre lake, trout pond and miles of the Bushkill Stream that runs through the property are all used by fisher-folk and hunters of all ages.

As I sat by the warm fire in the lodge, discussing the club’s history and brainstorming New Year’s resolutions for 2019, my mind couldn’t help but wander to Gifford Pinchot. Truly a leader of his times, Pinchot is my answer to every “who do you admire most?” icebreaker I’ve ever participated in.

Nearly 75 years after his death, Pinchot is still known as one of the most influential voices of the U.S. conservation movement. He established the modern definition of conservation as the “wise use” of our natural resources.

After forming the basic concept of conservation, Pinchot became President Teddy Roosevelt’s right-hand man in the conservation of more than 230 million acres of public land during Roosevelt’s term. Pinchot was appointed the first practicing forester, served as the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service, and was governor of Pennsylvania from 1923–1927 and 1931–1935.

Out of Pinchot’s many impressive achievements, the thing that makes me feel the most connected to him is that invented his resource management ethos on a piece of property that means the world to me—Pinchot was a member of Beaver Run in the early 1900s.

So as I sat in the common area of the Club, where Pinchot once sat as he discussed his philosophy of conservation, I had one foot rooted in the past. My thoughts began to drift to 2019 and the work ahead of us. . . . It has been a rainy year around the Chesapeake, with many places breaking annual rainfall records. The weather has been hard on our rivers and streams, and in turn, our beloved Chesapeake Bay. With more pulses of stormwater entering the watershed, it will likely impact the work done in the name of restoration.

There is a lot we don’t know about how these climatic changes will affect our work over the long run, but we do know one thing—it will change it. We could let this frustrate us and throw up our hands and say “enough.” But the truth is, we need Pinchot’s words now more than ever.

His concept was simple: Conservation is the application of common sense to the common problems for the common good. He believed in the power of the many, not the few.

I’ve carried that ethos forward in my own career, as I’ve moved from working as an environmental scientist, to an environmental planner and now an executive director of a regional nonprofit organization, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.

The work that we do at the Alliance embodies Pinchot’s ethos as well. We believe in a two-part theory of change, built first on convening voices to identify problems, and second by deploying resources to solve those problems. We believe in the power of partnerships across a diverse range of voices that the Chesapeake Bay watershed is made of. It is my belief that pioneers, like Pinchot, would still remind us today that this has always been the recipe for success over time.

As 2019 approaches, it is imperative that we continue to work together across many landscapes and sectors, finding the areas of commonalities that unite us, not separate us. In a future impacted by a warming climate and rising waters, we must manage and restore our waters and forests for the purpose of sustaining more than 18 million people in the Chesapeake watershed.

To quote Pinchot, we must “aim for the greatest good for the greatest number for the longest time.” Let’s start 2019 strong and focused forward for a clean and healthy Chesapeake Bay watershed!

Kate Fritz is the executive director of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. Her views do not necessarily reflect those of the Bay Journal.

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