Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Monday, July 17, 2017
Deerfield Magazine - Class of 1951, Nathaniel Reed
A Conservationist's Long Road
by Lori Shine
Nathaniel Reed grew up with three brothers, and when it was time to think about their schooling, his parents dutifully toured several options. When they came to Deerfield, his mother didn’t ask then-Head master Frank Boyden about the curriculum or facilities-with four lively sons, she wanted to know the reasons a boy could get himself expelled. As Reed tells the story now, Mr. Boyden responded, "Mrs. Reed, do you have dogs in your house?"
She replied, "Yes, a great many."
He asked, "Do they occasionally make errors?" "All too often," she said.
''Well," Boyden responded, "my feeling is that boys make errors and I correct them.”
And so the family's decision was made, and their years at Deerfield began. When Nathaniel speaks of Deerfield now, his voice glows with gratitude. "My Deerfield days were among the happiest of my life," he says. The love of the outdoors he'd had since early childhood was nurtured fishing and swimming in the Deerfield River, and the school held just the right balance of discipline and wiggle room."
Dr. Boyden was simply wonderful handling this gawky fourteenyear-old who needed a great deal of sleep and food," Reed confides. "My father was concerned about my grades, but Dr. Boyden turned to him and said, 'At the moment we feed him hard, exercise him hard, and give him ample amounts of sleep. He's coming along fine.' God knows it was true!"
In his long career as an environmental activist and public servant, Reed seems to have fully absorbed those lessons of perseverance and flexibility.
Following Trinity College and three years in the Air Force Intelligence Service, working from Norway to the Middle East, Reed returned to his family's home and business on Jupiter Island in Florida. He was sufficiently free from business obligations during the summer months to travel the state, and he saw the land he loved being devastated in the name of "progress" and "development." Foreseeing ecological disaster, he "joined every environmental group known to man" and was soon speaking at meetings of the Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club, and the Audubon Society.
"Up until then," he says, "I had been on Jupiter Island only during Christmas and spring vacations, so I was unaware of what was going on in the rest of Florida during a period of extraordinary growth."
In fact, the population of the state was exploding. And in this perfect storm, Reed found his calling.
Reed's new memoir, Travels on the Green Highway: An Environmentalist's Journey (Reed Publishing Company LLC, 2016), unfolds like a play-by play account of a high-stakes baseball game in extra innings, full of unexpected strategies, long-shot plays, setbacks, and outsized personalities. 'The book records the key part of my life working on Florida's environmental problems and then going on to become Assistant Secretary of the Interior," he says. It documents a remarkable era in which "we were able to lay the groundwork of our nation's environmental foundation."
From his appointment by Florida Governor Claude Kirk to implement conservation policies across the state, to laying the groundwork for the Clean Water Act in the Department of the Interior under Nixon and Ford, to pressing for land protection in Alaska, defending redwoods in California, passing the Endangered Species Act, and nearly countless other conservation wins, Travels shows Reed's ability to marshal all comers. In the course of his years serving six Florida governors and two presidents, his reputation started to precede him-a reader gets the clear sense that once Nathaniel Reed had placed an issue in his sights, people knew he was not going away.
For example, when Reed was appointed chairman of the Commission on the Future of Florida's Environment, it required all of his energy to arrive at a recommendation and persuade deeply divided "power groups" within the commission itself, the governor, and the legislature to agree on a tax on the buying and selling of land to finance the Florida Forever program. Under Reed's guidance the commission recommended a $300 million yearly land purchasing program "to acquire the very best of what was left" in Florida. The state legislature funded the program for at least 20 years, resulting in the purchase of 2.7 million acres. When the present governor canceled the program, Reed continued undaunted. He just needed a new tactic. This time he became one of the leaders of the movement to amend Florida's constitution and provide about $800 million a year for watersheds, Everglades restoration, and key land acquisitions up and down the state. The amendment passed overwhelmingly, securing the program's continuation. "The pressures of development are so great, I look to that as one of my most important efforts," he says.
Deerfield has also been the beneficiary of Reed's ethic of service and persistence. He served as "a loving trustee," he says, during memorable times including the vote for the school to become coeducational. How can students in today's climate use that strong Deerfield foundation to make a difference in the world? "Be ready to seize an opportunity," advises Reed. As an example from his own experience, he recounts, "A small group of very dedicated trained people arrived in the Nixon administration. Perhaps unknowingly he had placed us at levels where, working with a dedicated bipartisan Congress and staff, we were able to pass the foundation of American environmental laws in less than four years." When the right partners and opportunities presented them selves to Reed, he jumped in.
Don't count him out yet, either. "I'm not in my dotters by any means," he laughs, citing a letter he wrote just the night before, pressing yet another important conservation measure. The recipient would be wise to consider with whom they're dealing. //
Monday, July 10, 2017
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