As Georgia’s population continues to grow, state leaders in environmental stewardship and economic development need to collaborate with one another to ensure that the natural resources of Georgia are utilized wisely for the betterment of future generations. That was the message of Bart Gobeil, the new president of the Georgia Conservancy.
Gobeil told Rome Seven Hills Rotary Club members that Georgia’s population is expected to grow by as much as 4 million over the next two decades and the environmental group will work hard to live up to its slogan, “A Georgia where people and the environment thrive.”
Gobeil, whose professional background includes stints as the chief operating officer of the State of Georgia from 2011 to 2015 where he had oversight over more than 60 different agencies and authorities, and senior executive director of economic development for the Georgia Ports Authority from 2015 to 2019, said the Georgia Conservancy understands that Georgia needs to attract new jobs, and since that is going to happen, it must work together with developers to minimize the impact of that growth on the environment.
“People need jobs and people need the environment,” Gobeil said.
One of the efforts led by the Georgia Conservancy involved passage of the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act. The law takes a portion of an existing sales tax on outdoor-related purchases and set it aside for the acquisition of land of regional impact to help preserve those areas for future generations. Gobeil said it will ultimately protect both water and land masses and provide additional venues for outdoor recreation.
The Georgia Conservancy is also known across the state for the organization of field trips into natural areas across the state. One of those trips was a canoe trip on the Etowah River earlier this year. Gobeil said the trips are a way to get Georgians engaged with the environment. “Get people to see why the environment is important in their community, their way of life and why it’s important,” Gobeil said. “It’s a low-cost entry point for people who typically won’t come into nature.”
Gobeil asked the community leaders to imagine what the addition of another four million people in Georgia would look like.
“They are attracted to Georgia for its recreation, for its jobs ... and we want to preserve that for future generations of Georgians.”