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Isolationism at the UDC

August 23, 2012

At the last meeting of the Upper Delaware Council (UDC), several town representatives evinced fear at the idea of the council joining the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed (CDRW) (see “UDC not a joiner—for now” in the August 16 issue). The isolationism favored by these parties is ironic, given that rivers in general are a symbol of interconnectedness—and that the designated river corridor administered by the UDC is, in fact, ruled by a complex system of institutional interrelationships of varying geographic scope. Indeed, it could be argued that this type of collaboration is what the UDC is all about.

One argument voiced against joining the CDRW was that the UDC should concentrate just on the river corridor itself, not on the basin as a whole. But, as argued in our editorial “Living downstream,” the quality of a river is largely dependent on the quality of its tributaries—which is to say it is conditional upon the policies affecting all the land it drains, a territory that extends far beyond the river corridor itself. The Delaware, its fisheries, and the tourism and second-home market dependent on it, could, in principle, be destroyed by the wrong set of land-use and water protection policies in this wider region. If the UDC saw such policies being put in place, should it really be content to huddle inside its statutory boundaries insisting on its own helplessness?

Another argument put forward was an apparent reluctance to be associated with “environmentalists” and their agendas. Well, here’s the “agenda” of the Wild and Scenic River Act that designates the river corridor:

“…that certain rivers of the Nation which, with their immediate environments, possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural, or other similar values, shall be preserved in free-flowing condition, and that they and their immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.”

Like it or not, that’s principally an environmental agenda. If the UDC is not willing to adhere to an environmental agenda, then it is not doing its job as required by law.