After 25+ years, Brownie Carson wants to take a hike
Everett “Brownie” Carson, head of the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), is stepping down after more than two and a half decades as executive director of one of the most effective state-based environmental advocacy groups in the country.
“My decision did not come easily, because I love this work and the people who are so much a part of it,” says Carson. “But I have decided to spend more time outdoors, hiking the mountains, paddling rivers, cycling back roads, sailing the coast, and exploring the back country and parks of this beautiful state.”>/p>
“Brownie has been extremely effective at what he does because his feelings are genuine,” says Bill Houston, president of NRCM’s board of directors. “He speaks from his heart with a passion that connects him with people who share his values in protecting the environment that makes Maine so loved…. we are grateful to have had his powerful leadership for so long.”>/p>
In his first major campaign after taking the helm at NRCM in 1984, Carson helped in the effort to stop the proposed Big A dam on the West Branch of the Penobscot River, famous for its beauty, world-class white-water rafting and salmon fishing. In 1993, NRCM worked to fend off construction of a coal-fired power plant proposed for Bucksport, because the plant would have generated 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. The removal followed 10 years of work by NRCM and other groups.
During Carson’s tenure, NRCM helped get many first-in-the-nation laws passed, including the expansion of Maine’s Bottle Bill to include noncarbonated and alcoholic beverages, and a series of laws that require manufacturers, rather than taxpayers, to collect and safely recycle products that contain harmful chemicals. Other states have since followed Maine’s lead. NRCM has also worked to improve water quality by suing corporate polluters along the coast.
Carson 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 people committed to protecting the Allagash, NRCM assumed a role of representing 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 will 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 has received many awards. In 2005, he received Bowdoin’s Common Good Award, which honors Bowdoin alumni who have “demonstrated an extraordinary, profound and sustained commitment to the common good, in the interest and for the benefit of society.” That same year, he received Down East magazine’s Environmental Award and the National Wildlife Federation’s National Conservation Achievement Award for exemplary leadership in protecting wildlife and natural resources. 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.
NRCM’s board has appointed a committee to conduct a nationwide search for a new executive director for NRCM. Carson plans to continue until his successor is on board.