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
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
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
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."