AUGUSTA, Maine — The longtime head of Maine’s largest environmental advocacy organization is stepping down after 26 years on the job.
Everett “Brownie” Carson announced Thursday that he will leave the Natural Resources Council of Maine later this year. He joined NRCM in 1983 and became its executive director the next year.
Carson, 62, has been a prominent voice on environmental issues and an advocate for Maine’s North Woods, its rivers, renewable energy and laws that protect the public from toxic substances. Under Carson’s leadership, NRCM has grown to about 12,000 members.
“Maine has consistently moved forward in protecting our landscape, our rivers,” he said. “No matter what the national political tone or dynamic has been, [people in Maine] have seen the value of and importance of taking care of the natural resources that are so much a part of Maine.”
George Smith, the longtime executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, occasionally found himself on opposite sides of issues from NRCM, perhaps most notably the recent, intense debate over Plum Creek’s development plan for the Moosehead Lake region.
NRCM decried the plan as too much sprawling development in too many sensitive areas while SAM supported the plan, claiming it provides economic development and jobs to the region while preserving recreational access to hundreds of thousands of acres of working forest.
But Smith, who recently announced he is stepping down after 17 years as the public face of SAM, said the instances where the two organizations clashed were “fairly rare” because each focused most of its energies on separate issues.
But there were also plenty of times when NRCM and SAM worked together, such as on improving water quality or stream habitat.
Asked whether he and Carson will go fishing together, Smith laughed and said that’s a possibility.
“Brownie has done a tremendous job for his organization and has helped turn it into one of the state’s largest environmental organizations,” Smith said.
Bill Townsend, a former NRCM board member who is himself regarded as one of the deans of Maine’s modern environmental movement, described Carson as a people person who knew how to hire — and retain — strong employees and had good relations with board members. Townsend said Carson also was always willing to fundraise, which he described as a critically important responsibility not always enjoyable for some leaders.
“He has done wonderful things,” said Townsend, who joined NRCM in 1960, the year after its founding. “He has built an organization over the last 26 years that is in good organizational health, in good fiscal health and has done a lot of good for the Maine environment. … He has had a great sense of where Maine should be heading on the environmental front.”
Townsend said it would be important for NRCM to take its time finding a successor to Carson, one who understands the issues but also the politics and the people of Maine. Carson said he would stay on the job until a replacement is found.
Carson said he plans to spend more time outdoors and with his family, while remaining active on environmental issues in Maine and nationwide.