1. Dick Lahn, who died November 22 at the age of 76, was really smart. Way back in 1967, at a League of Conservation Voters’ lecture, he saw the light: “I was working as a mathematician for NASA, and suddenly I knew that protecting our environment was what I really wanted to do.”
2. When Dick Lahn put his mind to a problem he always found the solution. He always made it fun and shared the credit with others.
3. Dick spent half a century trying to clean up the Chesapeake region, working with environmental groups large and small. Many of the river-protector groups like the South River Federation and Severn River Association owe a debt of gratitude to Dick Lahn for his help and guidance.
4. As a Sierra Club volunteer in 1972, Dick Lahn found himself leading the charge against the Liquefied Natural Gas Dock at Cove Point in Calvert County. The Sierra Club subsequently negotiated a long list of protections for the land, surrounding neighborhoods and the environment as conditions for importing tanker-loads of gas. Four decades later, that settlement is still affecting how the owner, Dominion Cove Point, can do business.
5. After the U.S. House of Representatives voted to raise the permissible dose of radiation a person could safely be exposed to, Dick fought back. Without previous lobbying experience, he single-handedly garnered the help of Sens. Gary Hart and Ted Kennedy, and within six months they had defeated the legislation in the Senate.
6. Dick left NASA for a six-year tour on Capitol Hill, working as a lobbyist for the Sierra Club, helping to ensure that the landmark Clean Water Act of 1972 did what it was supposed to do. Clean water was Dick’s baby.
7. Dick thought globally, but his efforts were primarily local, and he mentored countless environmental groups like Annapolis Green and the West/Rhode Riverkeeper, ensuring that there would be future generations of champions to protect the natural world around us.
8. Dick loved the water but he realized “you can’t protect the water if you don’t protect the land.” So he worked tirelessly with land trusts, like the Scenic Rivers Land Trust, and state and county governments to preserve our fragile forests and wetlands.
9. Dick retired from the federal government in 2000 and dedicated his remaining years mostly to stormwater issues and another clever idea, the Annapolis Sustainable Business Alliance, a buy-local initiative. He was a strong promoter of locally grown food and farmers markets.
10. Dick’s legacy will be his String of Pearls visionary land-saving plan. Essentially, the idea was to string together environmentally significant lands — the pearls — to create a network of permanently preserved properties throughout the Chesapeake watershed. This effort has preserved almost 60 parcels, totaling more than 18,000 acres for us all.
Dick will be remembered and celebrated 4:30-7:30pm Sunday, December 9, in a memorial service at Annapolis Maritime Museum.