POTSDAM, N.Y. (WWTI) — The Town of Potsdam is taking environmental action to a new level.
In early November the Potsdam Town Council unanimously passed a resolution granting the portion of the Raquette River that runs through the town a set of “natural rights.”
The resolution gives the Raquette River certain legally enforceable rights, allows Potsdam residents to legally enforce those rights and states that the Potsdam Town Council will “work towards health connectivity between the River and the land within its Watershed.”
Council Member Lynn Hall helped write and introduce the resolution to the Town Council and said this will help give the River a “voice” moving forward.
“It gives us ground, right, to stand,” Hall said. “And for anyone to come together. We have the laws in the books, so we have that grounding.”
This is a part of a worldwide movement known as the Nature Rights Movement, helping communities represent natural elements such as rivers, lakes and wetlands in legal battles.
Locally, the movement is being led through the North Country Rights of Nature Collective, a group of advocates of all ages.
Tzintzun Iguar-Izzo and Blake Lavia stand at the front of the movement. They hosted a Nature Rights Symposium last spring.
“This is really a movement that starts from the ground up,” Iguar-Izzo explained. “To grant these beautiful living beings around us standings in court. Rights of personhoods and that gives further protection.”
In these instances, if a natural body is damaged entities are held accountable and responsible for remediation and restoration.
The movement is based on cases that made history, such as in Pennsylvania, Orange County, Florida and Minnesota, but also practices from indigenous cultures.
“Everything is alive as much as we are,” Lavia added. “And since we have rights, since corporations have rights, why shouldn’t all these other natural beings have rights.”
In Potsdam, now that the Resolution has passed,, the Town is examining its codes, specifically to see where it can improve waste disposal and junkyards.
The North Country Rights of Nature Collective hopes these ideas will “flow” into other communities and protect local waterbodies for generations to come.
“I want the people here now to have a future for generations and not see this place be devastated by industries that will just come and just say ‘oh this water is ours,'” Lavia urged.
“Rivers, you know, they don’t stop at the town limits,” Hall added. “So we’re all connected by Rivers which is an interesting phenomenon of this movement.”
The full Potsdam Town resolution can be read below: