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For Immediate Release, January 2, 2008

Contacts:

Mollie Matteson, Center for Biological Diversity, (802) 434-2388, mmatteson@biologicaldiversity.org
Jim Northup, Forest Watch, (802) 453-4063, jnorthup@forestwatch.org

Vermont-based Forest Watch Joins Center for Biological Diversity to
Advocate for Northeast Public Lands and Species
 

RICHMOND, Vt.— National nonprofit the Center for Biological Diversity and Forest Watch, a group based in Richmond, Vermont, today announced their union to enhance the protection and restoration of the Northeast’s public lands, wildlife habitat, and imperiled species.

Forest Watch, which was founded in 1994 as a watchdog of the Green Mountain National Forest, will henceforth be known as the Northeast office of the Center for Biological Diversity. The Northeast office will focus on federal forest lands and wilderness, and will advocate for greater protection of national wildlife refuges, state lands, and other critical wildlife habitats, as well as stronger conservation measures for the region’s declining plant and animal species.

“As a whole, the northeast United States is one of the most densely populated regions on Earth, and yet we have here one of the best opportunities to figure out how humans can live respectfully and harmoniously alongside nature and thriving wild places,” said Mollie Matteson, former deputy director of Forest Watch and now the Center’s Northeast public lands advocate. “The story of this region is one of ecological upheaval and loss, followed by the dramatic recovery of much of our forests and native wildlife since the early 20th century. The first half of that story is playing out all over the world today, and we can show that it is possible to turn those losses around — to restore wild nature, not just destroy it.

“However,” continued Matteson, “our gains have only been partial. With the ongoing threats of air and water pollution, development and habitat fragmentation, invasive species, and of course the looming specter of climate change, we are likely to fall far short of realizing this region’s potential to return to ecological health. In fact, without dramatic, pro-active efforts, we are going to see our ecosystems unraveling and the increasing loss of species — both those already rare and species we now take for granted.”

The Center for Biological Diversity was founded in 1989 by a group of biologists in the American Southwest concerned about the impacts of Forest Service logging on old growth-dependent wildlife. The Center, now with a membership of more than 40,000 nationwide, has gone on to advocate for endangered species and habitats throughout the West, across the country, and even throughout the world. The addition of the new Vermont office, represents the realization of a long-standing aspiration of the Center’s founders — particularly current policy director Peter Galvin, who still has strong connections to that part of the world.

“The Center has wanted to open up an office in the Northeast for many years,” said Galvin, who grew up in Massachusetts, attended Norwich University, and co-founded the Center. “But we didn’t have the right set of circumstances until now. When Forest Watch approached us last summer with an offer to pass along their organizational resources in exchange for carrying on the good work they’ve been doing for the last decade, it seemed like a win-win strategy for both groups.”

At the top of the Center’s list of priorities for the next couple of years is the future management of Vermont’s Nulhegan Basin, a division of the Northeast Kingdom’s Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, which is currently developing its first-ever comprehensive conservation plan. The Center also intends to focus on environmentally damaging off-road motorized recreation on Northeast public lands, the protection of national forest roadless areas, and more effective conservation measures for imperiled plant and animal species.

Former Forest Watch executive director Jim Northup said: “Forest Watch led the way on wilderness, reforming Forest Service land management, and challenging the invasion of destructive and illegal all-terrain vehicles on our public lands. It was good work, and also grueling at times. I’m looking forward to being part of a positive, collaborative vision for ecological restoration in this region, and the Center will certainly help to implement that vision.”


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