By Ashleigh Swan
A petition to protect Indiana wetlands started by a Carmel fifth-grade student has gathered more than 18,000 signatures.
Leo Berry, 11, said he started the petition against Senate Bill 389 so he could raise awareness of the issue and provide a way for other people to help keep the wetlands protected. He believes that the more the petition is shared and signed, the more it signifies that Indiana Wetland protection is important to Hoosiers.
“Wetlands are important in any state or country, but to Indiana, they are vital to our survival,” said Berry, who is being home-schooled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic but plans to attend Creekside Middle School in the fall.
The bill, if passed, would repeal state-regulated wetland laws and would also repeal a law that requires a permit for activity in state-regulated wetlands.
Berry has also been in contact with state representatives and has personally been thanked by the national nonprofit group Ducks Unlimited for his efforts.
“I think it is important to protect the environment because it helps us live as humans. It is our home. Air quality and land and ecosystem are vital to our survival and our future,” he said.
Berry also is the founder of the nonprofit group Helping Ninjas, which has a mission to educate and provide opportunities for kids to help the planet.
“Youth should learn about these issues and speak about them because it is our future and everyone’s voice matters,” Berry said.
Helping Ninjas and Berry want to bring more attention to wetland restoration and are planning to create a petition to send to decision makers at the federal level. They also are looking into getting more federal funds to restore Indiana wetlands.
Berry hopes his efforts will encourage more youth to join him in speaking out on important issues.
Berry’s advice to other youth is, “Don’t be sacred and get inspired.”
“Youth can make a difference and change the world,” he said.
View and sign the petition at change.org/SaveIndianaWetlands.