Activist Yvonne Taylor is the co-founder and vice president of Seneca Lake Guardian, an all-volunteer grassroots organization dedicated to protecting the Finger Lakes from environmentally destructive projects. Originally called Gas Free Seneca, the not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation was started more than 10 years ago when an oil and gas company bought an abandoned salt cavern near the lake. It intended to use the underground space to store liquified propane gas. The problem was, even the company acknowledged that the cavern may leak …
Q: Was that your first major battle?
How did it turn out?
Yvonne Taylor: It was our first major win! Since then, we’ve led and won numerous campaigns, all geared toward protecting the Finger Lakes.
People all over the world struggle to access clean, safe water for drinking, cooking, hygiene and more. It makes protecting the Finger Lakes all the more important. We’re lucky to live in such close proximity to a large freshwater source that provides drinking water to 1 million people! But climate change and many local environmental threats – destructive power plants, reckless development, decrepit infrastructure – could destroy our lakes.
Are you in the midst of a battle currently?
We will continue to fight cryptomining in the Finger Lakes and across New York, but we’re also turning our focus to the Seneca Meadows landfill, which threatens the $3 billion, 60,000-job agritourism industry in the Finger Lakes.
Is Seneca Lake Guardian affiliated with other environmental organizations?
Yes – the Waterkeeper Alliance, a global network of more than 350 Waterkeeper groups protecting more than 2.75 million square miles of rivers, lakes, and coastal waterways. It is also in coalition with many local, statewide, and national environmental organizations.
Is the cause personal for you?
I was born and raised here, and I love everything about the Finger Lakes. The people in the community, the wine, the natural beauty – everything. The Finger Lakes are in every fiber of my being.
There’s nothing I love more than Lady Seneca – swimming, kayaking, sailing, or just sitting by and looking at her. She is always beautiful but never the same. She has moods – she can be serene and peaceful, with water as calm as glass, she can dance with diamonds of sunlight, she can be a tumultuous, angry tempest.
My favorite time is near sunset, when the waters turn the color of liquid mercury with highlights of peach, yellow, or purple – the color of wild blackberries in milk – from the setting sun.