KEENE - Sitting in the main room of the Guide's House at Adirondack Rock and River complex, before a crowd of 20 people, environmentalist Dan Plumley responded to a question about when he realized the importance of protecting wilderness.
Plumley said that shortly after college, he was standing on Haystack Mountain in the High Peaks trying to deal with the recent loss of his brother when he had an epiphany.
"I was looking at a dead red spruce across the viewshed, and I realized, here we are in the most protected landscape of New York," Plumley said to the small crowd on July 23. "I was as deep in the wilderness as I could be, yet that sanctuary where I was going for healing was under threat. That's when I knew I could not sit idly by and allow these wild lands to be degraded without fighting."
Dan Plumley talks to a crowd at a meeting to announce the formation of a new environmental group, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, at Adirondack Rock and River.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)
Since that time, Plumley has gone on to be one of the most vocal environmentalists in the Adirondack Park, working for the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks for more than a decade and then Protect the Adirondacks! for just under a year.
But now Plumley, of Keene, is partnering with Ballston Spa resident Dave Gibson, Niskayuna resident Ken Rimany and Jay resident Peter Brinkley to form a new environmental organization called "Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve."
All four men are experienced environmentalists. Gibson was executive director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks for 23 years, Plumley was its director of conservation programs, Rimany was its director of operations and Brinkley was on its board of directors. But all four were forced to reinvent themselves in recent years after monetary problems forced the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks and the Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks to merge into Protect the Adirondacks! in July 2009.
By this spring, all four men had left Protect! after the new board of directors restructured its staff, including demoting Gibson from his position as executive director.
Now, on their own, the four are hoping to create a new group based on traditional wilderness values but differing from many current environmental organizations in its structure.
They will work from their homes and hope to communicate using an interactive website that will be launched sometime in August.
"We're going to make very extensive use of the digital world," Brinkley said. "The internet is just a tremendous resource in the sense of research and also in your ability to communicate and what we're grappling with now is how to make this a two-way street with people on our website."
Adirondack Wild will also have a different membership base than most current environmentalists organizations. Instead of having thousands of members donating minimal amounts of money such as $20 to $30, Adirondack Wild will have few donors providing large sums of money. The group has already secured a six-figure dollar amount, Rimany said.
The group also intends to mostly limit its focus to Forest Preserve issues, advocating for protection of state land and for the state to buy more of it.
A big focus of Adirondack Wild will also be on introducing people to wilderness, including children, college students and minorities. One method for doing this will be a mentoring-style program that will train college students on wilderness concepts, including advocating for it.
"The goal is simple," Plumley said. "Get more young people in the Park. That's what we're going to do."
The organization also has ties to another one: Friends of the Forest Preserve, founded by Paul Schaefer. Rimany, Plumley and Gibson were all mentored by the wilderness advocate and former head of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks.
Friends of the Forest Preserve was started by Schaefer in 1945 and became defunct in 2006 when Schaefer died.
"Friends of the Forest Preserve was really necessary at the time to really crystalize people's thinking about what they had inherited in 1885," said Gibson, referring to the creation of the Forest Preserve. "It didn't try to do everything but it tried certainly to harken back to the origins of the Forest Preserve."
To those who were attending the announcement at Rock and River, including Roger Marshall, these values were right in tune to what they were thinking. Marshall himself has ties to the early years of the Forest Preserve. At the 1894 constitutional convention, his grandfather, Louis Marshall, helped secure passage of Article 14 clause, which mandates that state lands in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks "shall be forever kept as wild forest lands." In addition, Roger Marshall's father was George Marshall and his uncle was Bob Marshall, who along with their guide Herb Clark, are often regarded as the first Adirondack 46ers.
"I think it's going to be a very worthwhile endeavor and a big struggle, but I think they can pull it off," Marshall said. "They are carrying on Paul Schaefers' legacy, a person I knew, and I think their way of doing in a low-key, persuasive manner may get a lot more done than the big organizations that are very noisy about it."
Contact Mike Lynch at 891-2600 ext. 28. or firstname.lastname@example.org.