CEI Joins Center for Private Conservation, Heritage Foundation to Celebrate ‘Private Conservation Day’

Video of the event is available online.

Contact: Judy Kent 202-331-2266

On April 14, 2003, the nation’s top land management steward, overseeing 192 million acres of national forests and rangelands, Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman, commemorated the efforts of private conservationists during this year’s Private Conservation Day. The Secretary told the attendees: “We have a great tradition of private land conservation in this country…a tradition of voluntary, incentive-based conservation…and a tradition based on local leadership and local decision-making…all of which is embodied in people like Sam Sebastiani.” The event was sponsored by the Center for Private Conservation and is traditionally held on Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, one of this country’s first known private conservationists.

The event culminated with Secretary Veneman and CPC Executive Director, Robert J. Smith presenting this year’s “Private Conservationist of the Year” award to Sam and Vicki Sebastiani, proprietors of Viansa Winery in Sonoma, CA. Despite years of bureaucratic setbacks, the Sebastianis created over 90 acres of wetlands, marshes, and nesting islands for waterfowl, shorebirds and wading birds. Sam Sebastiani told the audience after accepting the award: “Winemaking is my religion, but the environment is my cathedral.”  Like Sam, Vicki Sebastiani expressed heartfelt feelings about their private conservation efforts. “We are deeply honored to receive this award for our efforts on behalf of migratory waterfowl. It has been very gratifying to share nature’s wonders with the thousands of visitors to Viansa,” she said. 

CPC’s event included comments by the Honorable Lynn Scarlett, Assistant Secretary of Interior for Policy, Management, and Budget, who said that in the past the nation has turned its attention to Washington to lead the way to environmental progress. However, she stated, “Unnoticed and unheralded in the last three decades has been the phenomenal and unappreciated efforts of this nation of private stewards—those like the Sebastianis.” Other speakers included George Dunlop, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Works, who noted the dogged determination of the Sebastianis. “Sam Sebastiani’s commendable efforts, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to create superb wildlife habitat on his winery lands, entangled him and his neighbors in a bureaucratic nightmare.  This should be a lesson that we need to encourage and reward our nation’s private conservationists, rather than discourage and penalize them,” he said.

The panel of invited guest speakers also included Becky Norton Dunlop, Vice President of External Relations at The Heritage Foundation and former Secretary of Natural Resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia, who told the attendees: “America has a unique tradition of private conservation and private stewardship carried out by private landowners and private associations.  This ensures that we protect individual liberty and our environment.  We need to cherish—and strengthen—the institution of private property.” Comments also came from David Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, who praised the contribution of private conservationists: “We cannot hope to conserve this nation’s spectacular wildlife heritage for future generations without the help and cooperation of private property owners such as the Sebastianis; they are the ones most closely tied to the land.”

The event was co-sponsored by by CEI and other organizations, including The Heritage Foundation, the National Wilderness Institute, American Legislative Exchange Council, American Forest Foundation, Fisheries Institute, National Center for Public Policy Research,  Forest Stewardship Council, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Federation of Independent Business, Frontiers of Freedom Institute, Forest Landowners Association, and others.

The Center for Private Conservation researches, documents, and promotes the public benefits of private conservation and stewardship in the United States and throughout the world. www.privateconservation.org