NRCM’s Former Executive Director has led battles for clean water, clean air, and the health of Maine’s people, wildlife, and natural areas for 27 years
Boston, MA – Today, at historic Faneuil Hall in Boston, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is honoring the lifetime achievements of a champion for the protection of Maine’s air, land, and waters: Brownie Carson, executive director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) for the past 27 years. The EPA’s Lifetime Achievement Award is reserved for individuals who have demonstrated a sustained commitment to environmental issues over a career or a lifetime.
In addition, on Saturday, May 14, Brownie will receive the “Distinguished Achievement Award” from the University of Southern Maine (USM) during its 2011 Commencement.
Carson’s passion for conservation and the environment has made him one of the most respected voices on environmental policy, as he led the Natural Resources Council of Maine and helped build the organization into one of the nation’s most effective state-based environmental advocacy groups.
“Brownie Carson has inspired a generation of Mainers who appreciate and actively participate in protecting Maine’s extraordinary natural heritage,” says NRCM executive director Lisa Pohlmann. “Everyone who loves the nature of Maine owes Brownie a debt of gratitude.”
“Brownie has been extremely effective because he speaks from his heart with a passion that connects him with people who want to protect the environment that makes Maine so loved,” says Bill Houston, president of NRCM’s board of directors. “We are grateful for his powerful leadership.”
“I am honored to receive this award, and accept it with deep gratitude to all the staff, board, and members who worked exceptionally hard to make possible NRCM’s achievements over the years,” says Carson.
Widely considered one of Maine’s most well respected voices on environmental policy, Carson joined the NRCM staff as a lawyer in 1983, and was promoted to the position of executive director in 1984. Carson helped build the organization into the largest, most effective nonprofit advocacy organization working to protect Maine’s environment, wildlife, and people, and one of the most effective state-based environmental advocacy groups in the nation. Under his guidance, NRCM has succeeded in inspiring and mobilizing Maine citizens to make their voices heard on issues, decisions about which will determine the future of the Maine they love.
Under Carson’s leadership, NRCM has won some of the most significant victories for the protection of Maine’s waters, air, forests, and wildlife for future generations, including many of the state’s first-in-the-nation environmental laws. These laws include the expansion of Maine’s Bottle Bill to include non-carbonated and alcoholic beverages, and a law requiring electronics manufacturers, rather than tax payers, to collect and safely recycle toxics-laden computer monitors and television sets. Now, other states are following Maine’s lead. In 1999, a 10-year campaign culminated in removal of the Edwards Dam from the Kennebec River, a victory secured by a coalition led by NRCM.
In 1984, in his first major campaign after taking the helm at NRCM, Carson rallied the people of Maine to defeat the Big A dam that would have destroyed the West Branch of the Penobscot River, famous for its stunning beauty, world-class white-water rafting, and prized salmon fishing. The battle ended successfully in 1986 with defeat of the proposed dam.
Carson is a strong leader in calling for protection of Maine’s North Woods: the largest remaining forest east of the Mississippi River. When the Greenville-Moosehead Lake region was targeted by Seattle-based Plum Creek Real Estate Investment Trust for massive development, under Brownie’s leadership NRCM was the first conservation organization to voice opposition to Plum Creek’s plan.
Another great victory for the people of Maine came in 1993, when Carson and his staff worked with local groups to fend off construction of a coal-fired power plant proposed for Bucksport, which would have caused serious air pollution problems for Waldo and Hancock counties, including Acadia National Park.
In 1999, Maine made national and international headlines when the 160-year-old Edwards Dam in Augusta was removed to restore a free-flowing Kennebec River. Its removal marked the first time the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled that the ecological value of a free-flowing river was greater than the economic value of a dam, and ordered a dam removed. This followed 10 years of hard work and determination by Carson and others at NRCM, working with the kind of strong and diverse coalition Carson has become known for building. As a result, alewives, sturgeon, and other sea-run fish, along with Osprey, Bald Eagles, and other wildlife, now flourish in an additional 17 miles of free-flowing river and beyond.
Carson, of Brunswick, a native of Lexington, Virginia, has lived in Maine since 1965 and spent many boyhood summers camping in Maine’s North Woods, canoeing the West Branch, and boating the coast with his family. He is a 1972 graduate of Bowdoin College and 1977 graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. During time away from Bowdoin in the late 1960s, he served as an infantry platoon commander in the Marine Corps in Vietnam. Before his move to NRCM, he spent six years at Pine Tree Legal Assistance, which provides legal services to low-income Maine families.
Formed in 1959 by a handful of citizens committed to protecting the Allagash, NRCM quickly began to provide a strong voice for Maine’s environmental community in policy debates. Prior to Carson’s arrival, the group had already seen passage of major legislation, including the well known “billboard law” and the original “bottle bill,” both put in place to protect Maine’s scenic roads. Before the Carson years, and especially under his leadership, NRCM became an effective advocate for land protection, including the Land for Maine’s Future program, so that generations to come have access to the forests, lakes, seashore, and rivers that are essential to Maine’s identity and hold the key to the state’s economic future.
Carson’s previous awards include the 2005 Down East Magazine Environmental Award, the 2005 Common Good Award from Bowdoin College, and the National Wildlife Federation’s Special Achievement Award. In addition, under his leadership, NRCM has earned dozens more awards, including the 2008 Cooperative Conservation Award from the U.S. Department of the Interior and the 2007 Climate Protection Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
For over 30 years, EPA New England has honored those who have made outstanding contributions on behalf of our region’s environment. EPA’s Environmental Merit Award program has recognized teachers, citizen activists, business leaders, scientists, public officials, and others who exemplify true leadership in protecting public health and New England’s environment, and provide hope and inspiration for the future.