Editorial: Guardians of the Earth
When the state purchased Chimney Rock Park last year, Gov. Mike Easley described Fred and Alice Stanback of Salisbury as the “guardian angels” whose generosity had made it possible for North Carolina to preserve this unique mountain landscape for the enjoyment of future generations.
The governor wasn’t exaggerating. Fred and Alice Stanback have made a habit ó actually, a life’s work ó of being guardian angels for the Earth, whether it’s here in Rowan County, eastward into the Uwharrie National Forest, westward toward North Carolina’s craggy peaks, along the Blue Ridge Parkway ó or in countless other places around the state. Carrying on a deep-rooted family tradition, they’ve helped to protect thousands of acres of our most treasured natural areas.
As many here can attest, they’re richly deserving of the North Carolina Award, the state’s highest accolade for civilians, which they received along with 10 other honorees Monday at a ceremony in Durham. They thus join the list of distinguished recipients who’ve been recognized for their contributions to public service, the fine arts, science or literature. It includes at least three other previous honorees with Salisbury ties: educator Elizabeth Duncan Koontz (1977), Sen. Elizabeth Dole (1991) and actor Sidney Blackmer (1972).
In addition to being generous contributors to environmental causes, the Stanbacks also are generous with their time and energy, serving on boards and councils for organizations such as the LandTrust for Central North Carolina, Catawba College, North Carolina Nature Conservancy, Southern Environmental Law Center and the Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment. In Rowan County, their lasting legacy will include the Center for the Environment at Catawba, which the Stanbacks helped establish and which exemplifies their commitment to protecting our natural resources and educating future stewards who will carry on the causes they champion.
Of course, these are only a few of the endeavors we know about. In many cases, the Stanbacks are identified only as “anonymous donor.” In fact, that’s initially how their contribution to the Chimney Rock Park purchase was described, until nosy reporters figured out their identity.
Admittedly, that didn’t require a lot of investigative legwork. Whenever you read about major conservation initiatives locally or elsewhere in North Carolina, chances are, there’s a Stanback involved. Whether it’s helping preserve Rowan County farmland, supporting greenways and nature trails or setting their sights on higher ground like the recently opened Dunn’s Mountain Nature Preserve and Park, which they also helped make possible, these guardian angels have spread their wings over a multitude of special places.
October 2030, scenario 1:You awake at home, on a cul-de-sac carved from a former farm. Maybe you’re in Stanly County,... read more