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A Message from Our Executive Director

February 28th, 2018
By Andrea Cooper

Andrea Cooper, Executive Director of Upstate Forever, makes closing remarks at the 2018 ForeverGreen Awards Luncheon in Greenville

The 2018 ForeverGreen Luncheon was a great success! About 300 people gathered to honor this year's award recipients and to learn about sustainable business practices from our keynote speaker, Cheri Chastain of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

In my closing remarks (below), I mentioned some of Upstate Forever's key successes, but also discussed a sobering truth: if we don't take immediate strategic action to protect our critical lands and water quality, our region will fall victim to rampant sprawl and loss of character. It's not too late, but we must act now to protect the Upstate we all love. —Andrea

Good afternoon, thank you all for coming and congratulations again to our award winners who are doing such fantastic work!

And thanks to you, we’ve had a great year. You allow Upstate Forever to work every day to realize our mission – to protect the critical lands, waters and the unique character of the Upstate – what we all love about living here!

You're the reason that we’ve been able to protect 22,000 acres of our most iconic lands - places like Glassy Mountain, Nine Times Forest, Stumphouse Mountain, key tracts in the Blue Ridge Escarpment and along Highway 11, important farmlands in the region – places that really define our natural heritage.

You’re the reason that we’ve been able to stop a mega-landfill in Spartanburg, a coal ash dump in Pickens, and a transmission line that would have ripped though the foothills of our mountains.

You're the reason that right now we’re able to demand the clean up of one of the largest petroleum spills in the country in Anderson County. And the list goes on... We couldn’t have done this work without you.

It feels awkward to stand here at a podium inside a hotel off the interstate and talk to you about our natural areas that are so essential to our quality of life. So, try to envision yourself at one of the places pictured on the monitors. Upstate Forever has protected all of these places and more.

These projects can sometimes take years to complete and requires patience and perseverance.

I want to thank Upstate Forever’s staff - whose efforts are often behind the scenes, our board – which is such a tremendous asset - and our members, YOU, who help make all of this possible.

Last year, I talked about how we’re experiencing unprecedented growth, which is a nice way to say we’re sprawling.

And guess what? – the pace of that growth is only accelerating. The livability and character of our region are threatened.

We are growing unsustainably. In the next 25 years, we’re projected to DOUBLE the amount of land that we have already used to date –we will pave over again the equivalent of Spartanburg County - because of sprawl! We are paving over what is one Haywood Mall every single day.

We call this “death by a thousand cuts,” because no single cut is fatal — but the cumulative effect is!

Now imagine - 25 years from now feeling the 1,000 cuts, and our region looks like Atlanta, and places similar to those in the slides are lost to subdivisions and strip malls. Imagine the traffic congestion we will be dealing with if we don’t do something different now.

This is very concerning to me and hopefully to you. I don’t want to be a complete Debbie Downer because there is good news. It’s not too late to do things differently! We can accommodate the same population growth using much less land.

Our staff is working strategically to protect the most threatened places, creating necessary partnerships and educating elected officials about how we can grow more responsibly, a way that keeps this area attractive to families, businesses, and you.

Being good stewards of our place, the Upstate, is not only the responsible thing to do - it is the right thing to do. It takes a shared vision and collective action to have success in these efforts.

And that is why I’m asking you to donate to Upstate Forever - We need to be bolder and more proactive before it's too late.

We rely on contributions to do this work. Please donate to this important effort today.

Thanks again for being here and for being an important part of our success!

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