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Adirondack Wild presents Wilderness and Wild Stewardship Awards

Efforts to strengthen wilderness and wildland protection are recognized

From left, Kelley Tucker is congratulated by Adirondack Wild's David Gibson and other honoree Dan Plumley. (Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

KEENE VALLEY — Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve has honored two Essex County residents for their many achievements in strengthening wilderness and wildland protection, environmental stewardship and ecological resilience.

The awards to Dan Plumley of Keene and Kelley Tucker of Jay were presented at Adirondack Wild’s annual meeting on Saturday, Oct. 12 at the Keene Valley Congregational Church.

Tucker, executive director of the AuSable River Association, was presented with the 2019 Wild Stewardship Award for her and her organization’s outstanding stewardship of the AuSable River, its tributaries, floodplains and adjoining natural and human infrastructure in towns and villages bordering the rivers.

The award notes her and her team’s “successful projects to re-connect the AuSable River and its tributaries with their floodplains and restore these arteries of the Adirondack Park. Thanks to you and your team, the AuSable River Association has made the river’s human and natural infrastructure more functional and more resilient. By restoring health to this flowing system and reducing flood risk, you’ve helped people, fish, and wildlife living near its banks. Thanks to the work of AsRA, countless residents and visitors celebrate the magnificent Ausable, from its headwaters in the High Peaks to our great Lake Champlain.”

In her acceptance remarks, Tucker stressed how rare and vulnerable freshwater is around the world and that we should never take the region’s freshwater for granted. The AuSable, its tributaries and floodplains are highly dynamic, energetic systems and living in balance with them is a very difficult but rewarding challenge, she said.

Dan Plumley, right, is joined by Adirondack Wild’s Ken Rimany. (Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

She offered much praise for her talented staff and dedicated board members, both devoted to public education and involvement in improving the health of the river and water quality throughout the watershed. She mentioned ongoing challenges from road salt contamination and from sediment running off the land into the rivers and streams, smothering invertebrate life key to fish populations and damaging the river’s economic as well as ecological value.

Plumley was presented with Adirondack Wild’s highest honor, the Paul Schaefer Wilderness Award, for his effective advocacy for the Adirondack Park’s wild lands since the mid 1980’s. The award reads: “Thirty-five years ago Paul Schaefer recruited you to join him in the front ranks of wilderness champions …Your advocacy for the highest standards of wild land protection resonates as a full-time resident of the High Peaks region. Your efforts over the years have contributed to the addition of some 200,000 acres of Adirondack Forest Preserve, 800,000 acres of conservation easement, designation of the Adirondack Park as an International Biosphere Reserve, federal legislation to end the scourge of acid rain, exchange programs between the Adirondack Park and other protected areas around the world, and mentoring of youth as links in a strong chain of caring Park advocates.”

Since 1987, Dan has worked for the Adirondack Council and Ecologically Sustainable Development in Elizabethtown, the Totem Peoples’ Preservation Project, the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, Protect the Adirondacks, and as a founding partner of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve. Today, he is founder and director of TOTEM Adirondack Consulting Group, on the web at www.totemgroup.us.

In his acceptance remarks, Plumley recognized the great importance of Adirondack teachers and mentors in his life, including Paul Schaefer and George Davis. He also recognized Elizabeth Thorndike who was in the audience. He said Liz Thorndike’s educational efforts to broaden public and policy awareness of acid rain’s damaging impacts were highly influential to Plumley’s advocacy in the Park and in Washington, D.C. where he was named to the Acid Rain Advisory Committee by then U.S. Congressman Sherwood Boehlert. Plumley’s work as well as Thorndike’s contributed to implementation of the 1990 Acid Rain provisions of the federal Clean Air Act, which has led to dramatic chemical improvement in Adirondack lakes and streams.

The Paul Schaefer Wilderness Award is named for foremost 20th century wilderness champion and Adirondack coalition leader Paul Schaefer (1908-1996). He successfully campaigned to preserve many Adirondack rivers, including the South Branch of the Moose and the Upper Hudson Rivers, from being dammed for water storage and release projects. Schaefer founded Friends of the Forest Preserve in 1945.