By Danielle Beurteaux
In 1998, Marco Birch was looking at property on eastern Long Island, where he had spent summers as a boy. He was shocked by how much had changed. Farms he remembered had disappeared, and development had changed the landscape.
Marco Birch and Bob DeLuca: It’s about making minor adjustments across the board
Birch, 40, is a partner and senior portfolio manager with the $15 billion hedge fund Moore Capital Management. He bought four parcels of land in 1999 on Shelter Island, which is nestled between Long Island’s North and South Forks. He built a house on one and gave the construction easement for the adjoining three parcels to a local land conservation group, the Peconic Land Trust. This marked the beginning of his environmental education—and a realization that small actions can add up to big changes when it comes to the environment. “People make unconscious decisions that extend to their hedgerow, but in the end it’s going to transform the way they live,” Birch says.
Birch then met Bob DeLuca, president of the Group for the East End, through a mutual friend and Group for the East End board member. The Group for the East End aims to protect the environment of the far reaches of Long Island through advocacy and educational work, including programs for schoolkids and community nature walks. The Group was founded in 1972 as Group for America’s South Fork and changed its name in 2007 as its scope and the area’s development and environmental challenges increased.
In 2005, Birch helped DeLuca finance and organize the Shelter Island Conservation Agenda, a study that addresses issues including the island’s development, water use and quality, waste disposal, tick-borne Lyme disease and locals’ concerns about the environment. Birch joined the Group’s board in 2006 and serves on the finance and executive committees.
Birch admires the Group’s practical stance on environmentalism, a balance between listening to the concerns of local residents and towns and protecting the flora and fauna. “You can’t stop development,” he says. “Reverse what you can, but for those things you can’t—whether it’s development practices or waste practices or pollution—it’s about making minor adjustments across the board so that the water is still drinkable and the shellfisheries still exist and continue to thrive.”
DeLuca credits Birch with helping the Group expand its network by attracting a younger generation of supporters, helping with strategic planning and being personally generous with his support.
“He understands the community he lives in, and he understands the tools that are needed to advance the cause of conservation,” says DeLuca.
For Birch, the Group for the East End is about helping people understand that the natural beauty of eastern Long Island can’t be taken for granted. “It’s getting people to realize that the things they appreciate most about Long Island are, in many cases, in a fragile balance,” says Birch. “There’s not a lot they need to do to in order to preserve them, but there are small things that, if everyone did them, would make a big difference for posterity.”