With a 197-86 town meeting vote last week following an August public hearing where more than 20 spoke, Ridgefielders made it clear they want aquifer protection responsibilities in the hands of the new independent Inland Wetlands Board.

But it’s not a question of bureaucratic jurisdiction that drew the crowd. What people are passionate about is protecting aquifers as resources that will provide tomorrow’s drinking water. And, they’re also passionate about protecting the environment — all of it, not just aquifers in Ridgefield but wetlands and woodlands across Connecticut, Long Island Sound, and resources all across the country and around the world. They want to protect Appalachia from strip mining, reduce overuse of fertilizers on midwestern farm fields, preserve the Rockies’ splendor, save the California coastline, and stop the burning of the rain forest in Brazil.

After the public hearing where people spoke up to better protect aquifers, the selectmen had a discussion on a topic very relevant to that end: reducing the use of winter road salt. Leaders of the highway department said simply dropping road salt use would compromise safety, and planning and zoning officials volunteered to lead a study on the issue — and how communities across the nation handle it — as part of a committee with representation from the highway department and Board of Selectmen, as well.

Good. Studying road salt use is a start. And this won’t be one of those committees formed to study a problem — with the real purpose of ending discussion on the issue.

Ridgefield’s leaders are taking on the road salt question because they understand the problems are real and affect future drinking water.

They’ll stick with it because they care — and so do all those voters with a passion for protecting the environment.