Brett Baker

Pear Farmer and Fishery Biologist

As a child, I thought nothing special of living on an island in the middle of California’s San Francisco Bay-Delta—a childhood enhanced by being able to catch dinner in the slough in front of my house, picking fresh fruit and veggies from the garden and orchard in the summer, having a sky full of waterfowl in the winter, cutting wild asparagus sprouting on the levee in the spring, and viewing 365 picture-perfect sunsets a year. As I grew and traveled throughout California, the greater United States, and internationally, I found myself returning with both a deeper fondness and respect for the environment in which I grew up.

As I become increasingly aware of the interconnectedness of the land, water, and wildlife in the place I call home, I feel pubic education is perhaps the most difficult and critical aspect of ongoing implementation of the Endangered Species Act.

As a farmer, your health, the health of your crops, and your ability to continually make a full and comfortable living from the land depend upon your ability to prudently and sustainably allocate resources. Doing so is imperative to maintaining the health of the ecosystem around you. Destroy that ecosystem, and you will lose the precious resources that flow from it. In farming there is a saying that goes, “It takes multiple generations to build it, but only one to break it.” The same could be said of the environment, and the health of the species living in it.

As I become increasingly aware of the interconnectedness of the land, water, and wildlife in the place I call home, I feel pubic education is perhaps the most difficult and critical aspect of ongoing implementation of the Endangered Species Act.

My embedded beliefs, coupled with the complex and critical nature of particular environmental issues that I was aware of, are what lead me to study wildlife, fish, and conservation biology at the University of California, Davis (much to the chagrin of my father, whose conservative nature lead him to believe that a major in business or economics would lead to greater success in my life). Upon announcing my selection he remarked, “Oh no! You are going to become a tree-hugging hippie!” To which I responded, “Don’t worry Dad, I will always be a pear tree-hugger!”

My favorite response—which I often hear after an engaging discussion about the Endangered Species Act and California water—is, “So…. Are you a Republican, or a Democrat?” The issues encompassed in the Act are far too complex and important to be rendered down to talking points and used as ammunition in partisan politics. The continued preservation of our global biodiversity has to start somewhere—and sometime. I believe the time is now, and the battle begins with you and me!

From either side of the lens, the Endangered Species Act is not perfect, but we have chosen to hold ourselves to these ideals for four decades, and continuing to improve and implement this law will require engagement and interaction from all sides. I think the spirit of the law, and the need for protection of the environmental health and quality in America, are things we can all identify with and agree on.

As many of the issues surrounding the preservation of species have become turbid and entangled in larger political debate, and even as these issues are used to broaden the partisan divide, it is critical to base our discussions on facts and shared principals. Conservation and preservation of our nation’s unparalleled natural beauty, wildlife, and resources will keep our country—and the planet—healthy for coming generations to enjoy, admire, and derive benefits from. We have to protect that which makes our world so special, and laws like the Endangered Species Act ensure that protection.