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Go Back: Home > Earth Island Journal > Issues > Summer 2005 > Everyone Has a Story

Everyone Has a Story

Everyone’s got a story

Sue Reid

As New England emerged from yet another series of winter storms in February, the US Department of Homeland Security was quite possibly the last thing on Sue Reid’s mind.

Though she’d labored for months to get the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act passed in the Massachusetts Legislature, only to see the Coast Guard and Homeland Security subsequently take the state to court over it, Reid was preoccupied with far more immediate matters. A novice sheepherder, she found herself committed to a week-long crash course in delivering newborn lambs, and building them makeshift accommodation while simultaneously — and single-handedly — digging out from under a mountain of freshly fallen snow. Seventeen new lambs were born that week at the farm she was caretaking.

This is the versatile capability that Reid offers Earth Island as she replaces Board President Bob Wilkinson.

Sue Reid
Sue Reid

“(Bob) has a wealth of wisdom and knowledge … (and) I don’t think he’s been thanked enough,” Reid says of her predecessor. “I hope to continue to work hand-in-hand with him to move (EII) forward.”

Reid first joined the EII team in the summer of 1993. It was her second year of law school and she decided to come to the Bay Area and volunteer with Sam LaBudde’s Endangered Species Project, working to pressure Taiwan’s government to take action against illegal trade in endangered species. Numerous investigations revealed that Taiwan’s claims to embrace and enforce international endangered species laws were unsubstantiated at best. Reid helped petition the US trade representative to sanction Taiwan based on the Pelly Amendment.

After finishing law school in 1995, she began volunteering with EII’s annual fundraiser, “Party for the Planet.”

“I just got hooked on the work,” she says of her return to EII. “It was fantastic, it was fun (and) I became so, so impressed with the desire and passion of those within the organization.”

Two years later, Reid joined EII’s Development Committee and, in 1998, moved on to the Board of Directors. Returning to Massachusetts, she began working for the Coalition for Buzzards Bay — a community-based conservation and education organization. Despite the distance, her passion and commitment to EII grew.

“Here’s a board member who lives in Massachusetts and yet is one of the most active board members we have,” says EII Executive Director John Knox.

In April 2003, calamity besieged her hometown of Mattapoisett, Massachusetts when the single-hulled Bouchard No. 120 — a 28-year-old oil-freighting barge — spewed 98,000 gallons of Number Six fuel into Buzzards Bay. As the fuel spread across the bay, Reid saw the beaches and tide pools of her childhood choked under a dark petroleum veil.

Coalition for Buzzards Bay members were on the front line of the cleanup and played a key role in identifying new oil landings and implementing clean-up measures in the volatile first days after the spill. The coalition was the only citizen group involved in the initial response to the spill. As clean-up crews scrubbed oil-soaked beaches, members of the coalition were a constant on-site presence, ensuring that full attention was paid to the details.

Following the Bouchard No. 120 disaster, Reid drafted what became the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act, a Massachusetts state law that encourages the use of double-hulled barges, requires stricter pilotage requirements in Buzzards Bay, and implements a per-barrel fee that would raise funds for first response. After its passage, the legislation came under fire from the Coast Guard for its implementation of stricter vessel-safety measures — a regulatory realm reserved for the federal government — and is currently being challenged by the Department of Homeland Security.

“I went to law school because I wanted to equip myself with the tools to promote environmental conservation,” she says. And that is exactly what she has been doing for the past 12 years. As board president, she aspires to emulate the leadership of David Brower, an “incomparable iconic leader in the environmental movement,” and develop a legacy to inspire people in his memory.

“I have an awful lot of optimism for this organization,” she says, “and I could never let it go.”

   

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