by Jill U. Adams
Science, October 1, 2015
[Adams notes: This was essentially a pre-pitch to a new-to-me editor. The sketch below was enough to start a back-and-forth that led to an assignment.]
I had meant to corner you in Columbus at some point, but it never happened. Nice to see you briefly. I wanted to talk over a story idea with you.
I’ve got a Maine biologist who is testing a new way to conserve small ecosystems — features that are contained on one person’s property, such as vernal pools or bat caves. She’s working with behavioral economists to work out fair value trades and she attends town meetings (two towns in Maine) to explain her vision of a win-win strategy to conserve small wetlands and make landowners whole. To get to this point, she had to convince state and federal regulators to relax current laws to allow her method to be tested.
If successful, the new conservation model will become a viable alternative to current regulations across New England, under the authority of the Army Corps of Engineers.
Her most challenging opponent is a scattering of recalcitrant landowners in the towns who don’t even want to hear about new regulations. If you’ve ever been to a town meeting on conservation easements or open space protections, you’ll have a picture in your mind of the individuals who come to and speak up at these meetings, expounding on landowner rights and the hard life of farmers and newcomers/yuppies/cyclists who want aesthetics and frogs and don’t care a whit about people.
My scientist, Aram Calhoun, thinks she’s got an attractive option to offer them.
Does this sound like a Science story? Happy to talk it over — or to send you a fleshed out pitch.