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Saturday, May 1, 2021: Clean Water and Access to Nature Is an Environmental Justice Issue

I had a wonderful conversation yesterday with Margaret Frisbie, Executive Director of Friends of the Chicago River. Margaret told me that there are beavers all over the place on the Chicago, Calumet, and Des Plaines Rivers. She reports that the City of Chicago and other local government agencies have wrapped tons of trees and that there are a number of natural areas where the beavers are doing fine. We talked about how important it is for us to get the word out and educate the public about how progressive policies toward beavers will allow us to act locally to address the climate change crisis. By choosing to coexist with beavers, our municipalities, cities, and the state can choose to have create ecosystems that will benefit everyone. We talked about how one seemingly little change in our policies toward how we coexist with wildlife can have wide ranging impacts.

One thing Margaret said really resonated with me. She pointed out that the choice to nurture a healthy ecosystem is an environmental justice issue. Research proves that there are public health benefits to having access to natural areas. People who spent at least 120 minutes per week outside enjoying nature have better health outcomes than those who don't have access to natural settings. While I have been thinking about environmental issues, wetlands, climate change, and ecosystems for the past few weeks as I've been researching beavers, I hadn't made the connection between beavers and environmental justice.

Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. While we here in Glenview are fortunate to have access to "nature" through our forest preserves and parks, there are lots of people not too many miles away from us who are not as fortunate. By raising awareness of the incredible abilities of beavers, and by changing the culture of trapping and killing "nuisance" beavers in the State of Illinois, we will be improving water quality and thus moving toward environmental justice and environmental health.

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