By NRCM Board President Kate Rush and founding NRCM Board member Bill Townsend
One afternoon this summer, I had coffee with Bill Townsend, a founding Board member of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Serving as the second President of the Board, Bill has served as a board member or advisor for NRCM since 1960, when he joined the fledgling organization.
As Bill and I sat around his dining room table, at his beautiful farm in Canaan, Maine, I asked him about how NRCM began in 1959.
Bill told me: “When NRCM began, Maine was an environmental train wreck: water pollution, uncontrolled pesticides, and dams on major rivers that degraded our fisheries were the norm. NRCM took them all on. Maine’s waters and woodlands are healthier today because of NRCM.”
Bill told me how a group of people had the vision and audacity to create NRCM 57 years ago, and I believe it all came back to tradition. At the core of NRCM back then and now is a tradition of fierce action to protect the nature of Maine – from pollution, sprawling development, and short-sighted decisions that might degrade this place that we cherish and want to leave for our children and grandchildren.
It has taken tremendous leadership and courage to stand up for Maine. Bill said: “We’ve been blessed with visionary officers from the beginning. I rotated off the board after 50 years of service, and wonderful leaders, like you, Kate, have been carrying the torch ever since.”
Throughout my tenure, I am proud that NRCM has not been afraid of change; in fact, we have thrived on it, just as Bill and his colleagues did. We relentlessly seek opportunities for progress on our environmental goals, by bringing people together who are driven by a common love of Maine. We all own a piece of this tradition. Every time we act; every time we email or call our representatives; every time we donate; every time we show up and participate, we build on this tradition. The tradition of NRCM is all of us.
Today, NRCM is revered as one of the largest and most effective state-based advocacy groups in the country. I am honored to have led the NRCM board for the last three years. Now I’m excited to see how NRCM builds on our tradition through the years ahead as we continue to work for land conservation, wildlife habitat protection, clean energy and climate change mitigation, healthy waters, and sustainable communities. You name the challenge, and NRCM members will be there, building on our long, proud tradition.
As Bill said: “For the next 50 years I foresee NRCM continuing its current efforts, taking on complex and contentious issues. No one can foretell what they will be, but it’s a sure bet that they will come and NRCM will be here to address them.” May it always be so.