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ON THE SCENE: Two local environmentalists honored

October 18, 2019
By NAJ WIKOFF , Lake Placid News

Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve honored two outstanding advocates for protecting and strengthening the resilience of our natural environment and the critters that live in it: Kelley Tucker, executive director of the Ausable River Association, and Dan Plumley, the founding director of the Totem Adirondack Consulting Group.

On Saturday, Oct. 12, at its annual meeting held at the Keene Valley Congregational Church, Tucker received Adirondack Wild's Wild Stewardship Award for her and the association's outstanding stewardship of the Ausable River, its tributaries, floodplains and adjoining natural and human infrastructure in towns bordering the rivers.

Plumley received the highest honor, the Paul Schaefer Wilderness Award, for his more than 30 years of effective advocacy for the Park's wild woods and waters, including the Adirondack Forest Preserve, during his time as a full-time resident in the High Peaks region, the former conservation director at the Adirondack Council and the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, and as a founding partner with Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve. The award is named for one of Dan's mentors, Paul Schaefer (1908-1996), the foremost 20th century Adirondack wilderness coalition leader who led the successful effort to prohibit the construction of the Gooley Dam on the Upper Hudson River that would have flooded the Hudson River Gorge and drown the Hamlet of Newcomb in 50 feet of water.

Article Photos

Kelley Tucker and Dave Gibson
(Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

Dave Gibson, the managing partner of Adirondack Wild, extolled Tucker for her and the association's efforts the protect the entire Ausable River watershed that he described as one of the most magnificent in the world that included such majestic basins as Lake Placid lake. Gibson noted that the hundreds of cars lined along the road into Keene, underscoring how attractive the Ausable watershed is to visitors. He described the horrific destruction caused by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 in part because of the hundreds of culverts not designed to accommodate a "one in 500-year flood," a problem that Tucker is working hard to rectify.

At the time of the flood, Tucker was on the board of the association. Soon after that, she stepped in as director, focusing efforts into building community resiliency through educating people how best to reestablish and protect a river's resiliency. As part of that effort, Tucker has worked to reduce the level of salt in the watershed that poses a threat to Mirror Lake in particular, as well as to the quality of well water for those who live along roadways. Prior to taking the reins at the association, Tucker developed and led regional, national and international efforts to protect birds, and other wildlife, and the ecosystems that support them as director of the pesticides and birds campaigns for the American Bird Conservancy and then as the vice president of Conservation for the International Crane Foundation.

"The thing that constantly weaves through my work is the very basicness of water and not just water, but fresh water, which is one percent of the water on Earth," said Tucker. "That one percent supports so much life, but even in our own backyard, it's hard to give it space and value we know it needs because we must use it. We must drink it. We must grow our food with it. We ship our goods on it. It's essential to every form of life, but it's under assault by our very nature. The good news is that there are so many things here that we can test, model and then move out to other places where water is just as valuable. The thing about rivers is that if you give them a chance to roam, they'll heal themselves. The problem is where the reality of our world collides with them."

Plumley first arrived in the High Peaks at age 12 with a Boy Scout troop planning to climb Big Slide. He was so impressed with Keene and the surrounding wilderness, he then set his sights on one day settling here and making it his home. Following a stint as a DEC forest ranger on Lake George and lobbying Congress for laws to protect clean air and water through the Adirondack Acid Raid Defense Fund, Plumley was hired by George Davis to help the Adirondack Council with its efforts to that end. Plumley worked at the Council for six years, and while there, he joined the board of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks.

Gibson shared how both Paul Shaefer and George Davis mentored, befriended and trusted Plumley to take on advocacy tasks of critical importance in protecting the Park's natural resources. He highlighted Plumley's work in D.C. and over his 33 years of making a case for science-based land use planning to the Adirondack Park Agency. He spoke of Dan's work in Russia, his ongoing efforts to mentor young people fanning their passion for environmental advocacy and protection, and for his hospitality, the array of people he's welcomed to his home.

"One of the things Paul Schaefer admired about Dan was not just his love of the wilderness, but that he made connections with others who understand that protecting the wilderness is central to the survival of many people around this world," said Gibson. "Paul had that same attitude. Dan made this community and the wilderness his home, and he gets other people comfortable in that environment. That's the way Paul Schaefer did it too, so his award is a natural."

Plumley was very humbled to receive the award and devoted most of his time thanking others for their contributions to protecting the environment, starting with Schaefer and Davis, and moving on to Clarence Petty, Assemblyman Englebright, Bob Glennon, Anne LaBastille, Peter Paine, and many others. His message was that any achievements he may have accomplished were made possible through collaborating and working with others, and what he learned from them along the way.

"Dan is the kind of person that it would be wonderful if all those who cared about the Park could act and behave the way he does in such a wholehearted and supportive way," said Liz Thorndike, a former APA commissioner.

"It's important to recognize the contributions by Plumley and Tucker because leadership matters," said Assemblyman Steve Englebright, the Assembly's Environmental Conservation chairman. "When you have people like them in leadership positions who share their values, it's a positive infection that spreads and gives all of us a stronger sense of place and identity."

"I think it's great that Tucker and Plumley were recognized," said Bill Farber, president of the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages. "As you could see and tell from both of them when they stood up and spoke, it's not what they worked at; it's their life's passion. They are both passionate about this place in so many ways."

"We talk about the Forest Preserve as a place, we don't talk about it enough as people," said former APA Chairman Ross Whaley. "It's people that make a place, so I think it's important to recognize them."



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