This commentary was written by Richard Delaney, Paul Niedzwiecki, Wendy Northcross, Mark Robinson, Dan Wolf and Virginia Valiela.

The Association to Preserve Cape Cod turns 50 this year. While some Cape Codders may be unaware of its efforts, everyone who lives, visits or works here has benefited from APCC — our regional advocate for the Cape’s environment and quality of life. APCC has helped restore natural resources in every town, procured better environmental policy at the county, state and federal levels, and brought in millions of dollars to improve, protect and preserve the Cape. It’s hard to imagine what our beloved Cape Cod would be like today without APCC. After 50 years, it’s time to show our appreciation.

Founded in 1968 by a group of concerned citizens to oppose an Army Corps of Engineers’ proposal to turn Nauset Marsh into a deep-water port, APCC emerged at the dawning of the nation’s environmental movement — the same awakening of environmental concern that produced Earth Day, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.

From its grass-roots beginnings to the present, APCC’s landmark achievements have resulted in cleaner drinking water, preserved open spaces and restored natural habitats on Cape Cod. Its efforts have fostered a greater awareness of the Cape’s natural environment and its integral relationship to our economy, our health and our everyday lives.

For example, APCC played a leading role in the designation of Cape Cod as a sole-source aquifer, protection of 15,000 acres of the Upper Cape as a water supply area, adoption of the Ocean Sanctuaries Act, designation of Cape waters as a No Discharge Area for boat sewage, creation of the Cape Cod Commission and passage of the Cape Cod Land Bank — the predecessor of the Community Preservation Act.

APCC is Cape Cod’s ever-vigilant caretaker, ready to call out environmental threats to our communities. It is also an important educator, training citizen scientists in environmental monitoring, helping the public connect with and understand the Cape’s environment and organizing volunteer initiatives such as the Cape’s springtime herring counting program.

APCC works in every Cape town, and at every level, from helping to organize neighborhood volunteer groups to providing towns with technical assistance on natural resource improvement projects. It has worked closely with elected officials and policymakers from our region and beyond, forged effective partnerships with the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce and local business leaders, and collaborated closely with fellow environmental organizations such as the Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts and the Center for Coastal Studies.

Looking forward, significant environmental challenges still face Cape Cod: addressing our wastewater concerns, increasing resiliency in the face of climate change, planning for future growth while protecting and restoring our natural resources, and other critical issues. Most recently, we again face the prospect of offshore drilling in the Atlantic — a threat APCC stood up to once before in the 1970s.

APCC is focused on regional challenges. For instance, just this past year it has taken on the role of lead advocate for the Cape Cod Water Protection Trust, which has the potential to help fund water quality improvement projects that will clean nutrient pollution out of our bays and ponds, restore health to marine environments and protect our aquifer.

The reality is, Cape Cod continues to need APCC. Its founders’ vision for a regional environmental advocate wise to science, politics and regulatory framework and adept at building effective partnerships is just as important today as it was 50 years ago.

The good news is that APCC is still here. We need to make sure it stays here and stays strong. When Cape Cod’s environment is compromised, our economy and our quality of life lose out as a result. As individuals who cherish Cape Cod, we believe it is in our mutual interests to stand firm on the gains we have achieved in the past 50 years and to continue to build on them for the future. One important step all citizens of the Cape can take to help is to join APCC. Let’s add our voices to strengthen the organization that represents us all.

— Richard Delaney is president and CEO of the Center for Coastal Studies; Paul Niedzwiecki is former executive director of the Cape Cod Commission; Wendy Northcross is CEO of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce; Mark Robinson is executive director of the Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts; Dan Wolf is founder and CEO of Cape Air and former state senator for the Cape & Islands District; and Virginia Valiela was a member of the Falmouth Board of Selectmen for 26 years.