Sarah Hincks, a recent graduate of Antioch New England’s Environmental Advocacy and Organizing Program (EAOP), tasted victory this fall in her campaign to establish a conservation commission in Burlington, Connecticut. At a special town meeting, citizens overwhelmingly approved the commission, which will carry out a conservation and development plan, including the preservation of open space. When the entrenched first selectmen called for the vote “people literally yelled in favor,” Hincks reported.
Hincks, who has spearheaded conservation initiatives for years as a leader of the Farmington River Watershed Association, served on an ad hoc study committee that recommended the commission. Even though town officials had accepted the recommendation, they dragged their feet for five years on securing voters’ approval.
Starting with a simple letter to the editor of the local paper, Hincks and other activists worked for months to place the decision before the town’s voters, holding the selectboard’s feet to the fire. For assistance, she took the campaign to EAOP faculty member Abigail Abrash, and made it the thrust of her work in the program’s Advocacy Clinic. “Every week, I got feedback on my activities from students in my cohort and from Abi. It was extremely helpful in a real-world way,” Hincks said.
Although Hincks is quick to attribute the success to her fellow activists and supporters, Abrash says, “Sarah gets all the credit for making this victory happen. It stands as a perfect case study of what EAOP is all about.”
Hincks has lived in Burlington for nearly twenty years and has volunteered to serve on the soon-to-be-appointed commission. But the possibility of appointment was not the driving force behind her effort. “It was more important to me to get it started. I would really like to help other people, perhaps in other places, make changes where the environment wins,” she says. “Victory is delicious. I’m looking forward to another slice of it!”