Barnstable man has dedicated his life to preserving the unique nature of Cape Cod
By Don Lewis
For nearly half a century Lee Davis of Barnstable has fought to preserve the fragile natural resources of coastal Massachusetts and to enhance the quality of land, water and wildlife throughout the state. In Yarmouth Port this week, Davis was honored by colleagues, partners, friends and family for creating a healthier, more productive, more livable and more natural environment for the next generation of Bay Staters.
Davis has dedicated his life to the goal of preserving the unique natural character of Cape Cod and the Commonwealth in roles as diverse as WHOI researcher, public school educator, community leader, Cape Cod Natural History Museum director, chairman of the State Conservation Commission and a dozen other key leadership positions. Davis has served forty years as elected supervisor of the Cape Cod Conservation District and more than two decades as its chairman.
Lee Davis understands the rich natural resources with which Cape Cod has been blessed. He has spearheaded the most important habitat restoration initiative in decades on Cape Cod. Under his steady leadership, the Cape Cod Water Resources Restoration Project was successfully launched as a long-term, $30 million dollar conservation program. Davis brought together multiple federal and state agencies, all 15 Cape Cod towns and the county, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and numerous environmental organizations, all united in a campaign to re-open critical fish runs, to restore dying salt marsh ecosystems, and to recapture the Cape’s pristine water quality. The first $5M phase of this project, stimulated by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, is well underway with completion set for December 2011.
Honoring Davis’ decades of dedicated service, State Conservationist Christine Clarke with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, conveyed a congratulatory letter penned in Washington by NRCS Chief Dave White. Clarke also presented Davis with the Ceremonial Project Agreement signed by all partners at Scudder Lane Landing in Barnstable on September 20th to kick off the Cape Cod Water Resources Restoration Project. At that event, U.S. Congressman William Delahunt recognized the power of local leadership in advancing this project. Delahunt stressed, “Here on the Cape, our economy IS the environment. It is such a special place; 97% of aquaculture in Massachusetts is here on the Cape. [And] it is money well spent because YOU made those decisions. YOU told us what to do."
Summarizing a letter from the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Districts, Executive Director Don Lewis told Davis, "Your legacy will endure as long as herring spawn in our creeks, as long as stripers school in our estuaries, as long as our tidal flats yield the purest seafood in the world, as long as our bogs flow red each fall with luscious cranberries … and as long as our salt marshes cleanse our watersheds and protect our uplands. So long as we continue to savor the uniqueness of Cape Cod and coastal Massachusetts, your legacy will endure."
Davis is widely recognized as a powerful champion for community driven, grassroots stewardship as embodied in conservation districts. These districts were established throughout the United States in response to the unprecedented ecological disaster of the Dust Bowl. They serve as local catalysts to engage federal and state agencies to preserve the nation’s natural resources. District supervisors are community leaders who use local knowledge to identify key natural resources, prioritize critical conservation needs, and bring together federal, state and local resources to address conservation challenges. There are nearly 3,000 conservation districts across the nation led by locally elected supervisors who labor tirelessly if anonymously to improve the environment of communities from Cape Cod to Kodiak, Alaska. Massachusetts has 14 conservation districts stretching from Nantucket to the Berkshires with over 100 volunteer supervisors and staff who contribute more than 11,000 hours of pro bono service to state residents and communities each year.
Beyond celebrating past glories, landholders of Cape Cod re-elected Lee Davis to serve for another three years as district supervisor, so that he can continue his mission to deliver a Cape Cod future as naturally rich and ecologically diverse as its past.