The Scars of Top Marks

Yeah, I get that the top-of-page story on today’s Rhode Island section is more of a departing profile than report on the state’s conservation efforts — even if the title is “Federal conservationist gives Rhode Island Top Marks” — but a word about the costs of some of what Roylene Rides at the Door applauds in Rhode Island would have been justified:

Now, as she prepares to move on to another post, as conservationist in Washington state, Rides at the Door, 39, says she has been pleasantly surprised by Rhode Island and its people. She says Rhode Island is a national leader in land conservation and in supporting local farming.
She was amazed to see 450 people at a Save the Bay meeting. Back in Montana, she said, an environmental group would be lucky to attract 30 people.
Last summer at the dedication of a new fish ladder at the Rising Sun Mill in Providence, which her federal agency helped pay for, more than 100 people, including much of the state’s congressional delegation, were in attendance. She says she has not seen such political and popular support for conservation in many other states.
A few weeks ago, in the face of staggering state deficits and a recession, Rhode Islanders voted overwhelmingly for a $2.5-million bond issue to preserve open space and farms.
“It’s a bad economic year, with high unemployment, yet everyone is willing to tax themselves for conservation. I think Rhode Island could teach a lot of other places how to do it,” said Rides at the Door.

Religious fanatic that I am, I treasure the many reminders of God’s creation that one may find throughout Rhode Island (including, incidentally, as it is expressed in human history). On Saturday, we took our children for the annual trip down Main Street into the country to cut down our Christmas tree, and the contrast of the rows of trees to the temporarily forested parking lots of my Northern New Jersey childhood is clear.
That said, the fact that they approved the bond issue that Rides at the Door lauds is proof enough that Rhode Islanders need to hear about the costs of going too far. The state is suffocating, and we’re breaking out the public credit card to charge some open space. The government structure is strangling the private sector, and we’re making it even harder to lower the taxes that are driving out thousands of productive citizens every year.
Young adults are having to look elsewhere for homes, if they wish to fly from the nest at an appropriate age, because the scarcity of suitable residences has driven prices beyond their reach, even as the market deflates. The young and the working do not want “affordable housing,” they want housing that’s affordable, and if Rhode Island’s efforts against sprawl push them (their productivity, and their tax and retail dollars) out of state, that’s where they’ll go.
Conservation is an important goal, but it doesn’t so outweigh human suffering that we should allow ourselves to forget the latter when patting ourselves on the back for the former.

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