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The Planet
First Comes Conservation, Then Comes Marriage

By Jenny Coyle

It's not like he spurned his bride-to-be for an alligator or anything. But in December, Jonathan Ullman did postpone his wedding so he could be 100 percent involved in a fight to protect the Everglades. Actually, 150 percent might be more accurate.

He and his fiance Blanca Mesa, also a community activist, were set to be married on Dec. 2. They set that date over the summer. But come October, they postponed it.

"We knew the Homestead airport decision was expected soon," said Ullman, the Sierra Club's Miami-based field representative. "We knew we needed all hands on deck, including ours.

"I thought maybe we should have contacted all our guests with a pre-recorded message from Carl Pope," he joked. "Or launch a Sierra Club phone bank to do it." But they called their friends and family one by one on the telephone, sometimes leaving messages on voice mail.

Some called them back alarmed and asked what was wrong. " 'We've gotta save the planet,' we told them. 'That's number one. We've gotta save the Everglades, and then we can enjoy a life of bliss.' "

On Jan. 16, after six years of fighting by Club members in south Florida, the Clinton administration rejected a plan to build a commercial airport next to Everglades and Biscayne national parks. (See Everglades Airport Plan Scrapped)

Ullman and Mesa have scheduled a spring wedding.

We're not asking activists to take such dramatic steps. But in the current political landscape, protecting the Everglades and other threatened wildlands will require some above-and-beyond-the-call efforts. That's what it took to save millions of acres of wild Alaska several decades ago (see Alaska: Keeping it Wild, Then and Now). That's what it will take to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from President Bush's oil industry buddies.

What can you do? Share your copy of The Planet. Hand them out at a meeting. Take a bunch of people with you to a rally. Invite five people to a letter-writing party. Sign up for the e-mail alert list at

And if you're planning a wedding soon, consider the Everglades for a honeymoon. You'll have Jonathan Ullman and thousands of others to thank for the peace and quiet.

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