TNC spokesman brings big mountain experience
KEENE VALLEY — The Adirondack chapter of The Nature Conservancy hired a new director of communications and community engagement late last year, and with years of big mountain guiding and public relations experience, David Conlan seems like a good fit for the job. Even if he is a self-proclaimed “Jersey boy.”
Conlan may have grown up in New Jersey, but his wife is a Lake Placid native. After the pair met in California, they decided to move back east. Conlan has been in the area since 2012, and previously worked for Adworkshop in Lake Placid.
But a 1950s-style hard-drinking, chain-smoking ad man he is not. Prior to Adworkshop, Conlan was a guide for the National Outdoor Leadership School, better known as NOLS. And Conlan sees a link between his new role and that of his former job.
“I have a friend who is a pilot, so I’ve had some flights (over the High Peaks),” Conlan said. “The geography and just the remoteness of the Adirondacks is just so similar to what I recall from flying over parts of Alaska. You just see vast forests and rivers and not a lot of people. So that was one of the things I remember from when I first moved here, I was like ‘Whoa. This is a special place.'”
Conlan’s wife, Lisa, hails from Lake Placid and the pair met in California, where Conlan was a guide for NOLS. He’s summited and guided on Denali Mountain in Alaska and Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, as well as all around the U.S. and the world.
“My wife and I have always been drawn to the mountains, and mountain communities,” he said. “We love to work and play and that’s what really brought us back. We wanted to raise our children in a mountain community like the Adirondacks.
“So I’ve always had a passion for the outdoors, a passion for conservation and environmentalism.”
Conlan is still relatively new to TNC, having replaced long-time spokeswoman Connie Prickett, who left last year to take a job with Adirondack Foundation. Conlan said he’s still learning about everything that the Adirondack chapter of TNC does, though.
“I’ve come to know — and am still learning a ton — about what the organization does,” he said. “And about the incredible mission that we have as an organization.
“It’s multifaceted, not just with the mission but with the work we do here locally. We have a lot of incredible partners we work with; it blows my mind. I don’t want to speak too much in cliches, but the amount of work that gets done because of the partnerships is incredible.”
Conlan said he’s also realized that much of what the local TNC chapter does gets brought into the national and international TNC framework as well.
“A lot of what comes out of the Adirondacks, it really impacts and affects other initiatives and other programs throughout the world,” he said. “Which is pretty special. For those of us that live and work in the Adirondacks, and for those that come up and play in the Adirondacks, it’s that much more of a special place. Not just an aesthetically beautiful place; when you know that this area becomes almost a cornerstone of importance in the world, it brings a little bit heavier weight of responsibility to what we do here, and I’m happy to be part of it.”
Guiding people up some of the world’s highest peaks may not seem like it lends itself to becoming the public face of a environmental organization, but Conlan said a lot of what he did as a guide translates well into what TNC does inside the Blue Line.
“There is so much that I’ve pulled out of that experience,” he said. “A lot of the guiding I did was more high altitude climbing guiding. I think one of the biggest things I pulled out of that, aside from the technical skills, was that it’s about the people. When you’re climbing and guiding, it’s more about the people.
“So those interpersonal dynamics, you’re bringing together complete strangers and you’re assembling this team in a finite amount of time — three weeks, or a month or three days. You need to get everyone on the same page and guide them through those ups and downs and ensure that everyone can take care of themselves,” he continued. “It’s about the relationships, and it’s about working toward a common goal and finding that and ensuring that the right people are involved so you can make informed decisions.”