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Town makes unprecedented decision to appoint legal guardians for nature: 'We're working within the confines of the ... legal systems'

"It's absolutely a long game, but there are a lot of people who think this way."

"It's absolutely a long game, but there are a lot of people who think this way."

Photo Credit: iStock

Boulder Creek in Nederland, Colorado, is now receiving more protection for its natural ecosystem, with two legal guardians set to take care of the area.

It marks the first time humans have been appointed guardians of nature within the United States, with this legal definition typically used to look after children, incapacitated adults, or struggling businesses, as Inside Climate News pointed out.

The guardians will prepare annual reports about the ecosystem's health, with focus areas including water quality, wetlands protection, and ensuring the survival of wildlife habitats.

Alan Apt and Rich Orman will be responsible for the care of the section of Boulder Creek, which has received a non-binding declaration that its watershed is a "living" entity and that it has "fundamental and inalienable rights," according to Inside Climate News.

The area is home to black bears and bobcats, and the abundance of giant pine trees also provides a welcoming habitat for other creatures.

"We're working within the confines of the Colorado and U.S. legal systems, and nibbling away at them," said Gary Wockner, founder of Save the World's Rivers and an advocate for the area. He was referring to using legal processes to enforce the protection of natural areas from agricultural damage and other issues. 

"It's absolutely a long game, but there are a lot of people who think this way."

Similar efforts have been made elsewhere, with communities in Florida and Ohio passing rights of nature laws. However, they have seen pushback from agricultural businesses, and this still leaves these areas prone to harm.

Farming is one of the key drivers of natural destruction, with trees felled for grazing land and water sources polluted from agricultural run-off. That's not to mention the planet-warming gases produced by livestock bred for food

That's why some industries are so alarmed by such protection laws, policies, and initiatives, as they will restrict development opportunities.

But the enforcement of local guardians is a new tactic that could help provide increased protection of natural areas that are vital for animal survival and clean water supply. 

"We chose to take a soft approach aimed at winning peoples' hearts and minds," Wockner added

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