A look inside environmental advocacy
Review: “Inside the Green Lobby” by Bernard C. Melewski
Lobbying isn’t for everyone. It takes long hours, patience, skill at cajoling and horse-trading, willingness to buttonhole busy legislators and to accept victory humbly and defeat graciously. It demands the ability to roll with the punches, be in for the long haul and see beyond the immediate. In short, it’s messy.
That’s a principal take-away from a recent book whose locus is the Adirondacks: “Inside the Green Lobby,” by Bernard C. Melewski (pronounced Muh-LESS-key). The volume’s subtitle, “The fight to save the Adirondack Park,” reveals both its focus and its slant.
Melewski, who had previously worked in environmental law, was a professional lobbyist for the Adirondack Council from the early 1990s to 2005. Early on, he read a purloined copy of the soon-to-be-released report from a state commission on the future of the Adirondacks that had been appointed by Governor Mario Cuomo. Melewski realized it was a political non-starter. “What can we do instead?” he wondered. It went from there.
The book’s structure may seem odd at first — two very lengthy chapters bracketing nine shorter ones, a couple only four pages long. But the chapters’ lengths mimic the time Melewski devoted to the issues that are their topics: “The Land Campaign” (a blow-by-blow, tell-all account of his deftly, if not without repeated frustrations, managing the fallout and rebound from the Cuomo’s commission’s doomed report, complete with revelations that have never before been made public); and “The Air Campaign” (acid rain). In between, we learn about prisons in the park, dams, moose restoration and more. We also learn that almost nothing concerning the Adirondacks is not contentious. Together, this book and Brad Edmondson’s “A Wild Idea,” reviewed by Rich Frost in the June 23, 2021 Adirondack Daily Enterprise and which focuses on the fraught creation of the Adirondack Park Agency in a preceding period, offer an intimate and comprehensive exploration of the most crucial developments of the last 60-plus years in the region.
During his tenure, Melewski interacted, usually directly, with a gallery of heavyweights in New York and even national policy-making, or at least influencing: state Senator Ronald B. Stafford, who represented much of the population of the Adirondack Park and whose antipathy to land use planning and all it stood for was less virulent than he led his base to believe; U.S. Senators Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Alphonse D’Amato and Chuck Schumer; both Presidents Bush (Melewski’s description of Bush II’s Keystone-Cops-like Earth Day photo op near Whiteface is the most humorous interlude of the few in the book); George Pataki; Al Gore; federal EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman; fabulously wealthy heiress and prickly holder of thousands of acres of coveted Adirondack backcounty Marylou Whitney.
It’s unfortunate that so many publishers have cut ties with their editors and proofreaders. This book is scarred by numerous typographical errors they would have caught. That’s not on the author; it’s on the publisher. We should expect better from one as prestigious as the State University of New York Press.
Melewski concludes with a chapter on “The Art of Lobbying.” In it he gives a master class in the profession, offering such pearls as “Know your issue [,] not just why you support it but why others may not.” One can imagine him, today an environmental attorney, organic farmer and winery owner, sitting back, comfortable in the knowledge that he has helped us understand why things are as they are in the Adirondacks.