Saco Middle School students want the Saco City Council to declare a climate emergency, and to help them conserve this 8-acre parcel along the Nonesuch River. This Saco Valley Land Trust map contains the parcel, outlined in red. The Sebago Seven student group is trying to raise $70,000 to  purchase the land. Courtesy Image/Saco Valley Land Trust

SACO — Students from the project-based learning group called Team Sebago at Saco Middle School are looking for a big, virtual turnout at the Sept. 21 meeting of the Saco City Council, for two reasons. 

They’re asking the City Council to endorse a Climate Emergency Declaration and also for support in the form of funding to help conserve eight acres in the city along the Nonesuch River. 

“We need as many students, families, and community members as possible to show up and (speak) during the public comment time about why these two projects matter,” said their teacher, Andrew Fersch. “This is how change is made, and this is how to support your classmates, your children, your school, your community, and the world.” 

The link for instructions for those interested in joining the meeting, which is set for 6:30 p.m. Sept 21, is https://www.sacomaine.org/departments/communications/watch_meetings.php).  

The Sebago Team of seven students and many more, about 50 in all, are trying to raise $70,000 to buy eight acres along the Nonesuch RiverThe students had been exploring conservation land in north Saco, walking trails like the Saco Heath, Atlantic Way and Horton Woods, and thought about how they could make an impact on the environment. They conferred with the Saco Valley Land Trust, to help find a property to conserve that might work. SVLT found an eight-acre parcel, near two other parcels already conserved. The students have undertaken several fundraising efforts — and are now looking for help from the city. 

The proposed proclamation to endorse the Climate Emergency Declaration notes that more than 1,175 local governments worldwide have already done so. The proposal notes the city has added goals and policies about sea level rise in its 2018 Comprehensive Plan update. 

The emergency declarations include several provisionsamong them those that would have the city review opportunities for greenhouse gas emission reductions and sustainability and resiliency within the city and within budgetary restrictions; investigate creation of a comprehensive training plan for city department directors about potential energy efficiency gains and how it may be administered to all city employees and volunteers; develop greenhouse gas emission reduction plans through local ordinance updates; implement a program to encourage use of non-polluting utilities like solar panels, and more. 

Student Gianna Palleschi said attending the City Council meeting (conducted online) shows people care about the initiatives. 

“This (conservation) project is incredibly important to protect and preserve wildlife and their surrounding environment. Imagine there is a creature higher than you in the food chain,” said Palleschi. “If they destroyed your home to build other things would you be pleased? Would you survive? We, as inhabitants of this globe, need to support each other’s needs to help guarantee our own survival.” 

“The natural world around us is slipping away, if we want a future where people can go outside and interact with the natural world, we need to conserve land,” said student Abigail Lizotte. “This issue is quite a pressing matter and I honestly think this is long overdue.” 

Fersch said he plans to ask the City Council to support the students’ vision. 

“… a vision of living in harmony with the natural world by taking the first step and declaring a climate emergency so that we can address this issue head on locally,” said Fersch,” (and) a vision of conserving local land so that they will always have a myriad of places to explore and enjoy in the natural world.” 

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