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February 2014
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A Word from the New President

By Andy Henderson

Just last April, I was honored to join the board of directors of Friends of Ballona Wetlands. Now, I am additionally honored to serve as the fifth president of the Friends. I will start by explaining both how I got here and what I hope to accomplish this year working with the board, staff, members and fellow stakeholders.

For me, this seems like déjà vu. Three decades ago, I was once the president of a land preservation organization. Specifically, in 1983, when I was only 26, I helped to found the Society for Masonboro Island. Masonboro Island is a nine-mile-long barrier island – the largest undeveloped island on the southeast coast of North Carolina. In 1985, I was elected president of the Society; and I served as such until 1987, when I went off to law school. The state of North Carolina ultimately acquired all of Masonboro Island, bit by bit, and eventually using eminent domain laws, for protection as an estuarine sanctuary. It is now a tremendous public asset — forever free from the development threat that had spurred us to act.

When I was president of the Society for Masonboro Island in the 1980’s, I was at the same time helping to develop another island, Bald Head Island, located two islands south of Masonboro. Some people would ask me how I could be both a developer and a conservationist, or vice versa. My response was that reasonable development and reasonable environmentalism belong together. They should both be undertaken; and they should both be done sensitively and well. I still carry that opinion in my professional work.

I also have a long history specifically with the Friends. I was outside legal counsel to the Friends from 1994 to 2002, when I worked with Carlyle Hall, Jr. – the attorney who had represented the Friends since the early 1980s. As counsel to the Friends, I attended all of their board meetings and litigated on their behalf in both state and federal court. It was during this time that the freshwater marsh at Ballona was approved and upheld through prolonged litigation. I am happy to have played a part in advancing for the Friends their constructive criticism and their successful support for that restoration project.

Now, the Friends are – at last – facing the pendency of a full-blown salt marsh restoration. The Friends are therefore preparing to do what they have done well for 36 years. The Friends will meet the restoration proposals with a focus on the wetlands themselves and with constructive criticism and sound advice based on science and facts. We will seek the best possible wetlands restoration – given the challenging site constraints, the practical realities, and the need for a proper degree of ongoing public access and enjoyment, consistent with the potentially achievable biological values.

Fortunately, the Friends enjoy an excellent staff, a board comprised of experienced and informed directors – many of them experts, the best advisors and consultants, and the trust and cooperation of other knowledgeable stakeholders. I look forward to working with them all this year as we await, prepare for, and field and respond to the alternative restoration proposals. I ask for all of the members’ support and enthusiasm for our collective work; and I trust that we will use these assets wisely.