by Susan Sharon
Maine Public news story
One of the giants in Maine’s conservation movement has died. Clinton “Bill” Townsend, an attorney, river advocate, environmental watchdog and lifelong fishermen, passed away at his home in Canaan this week at the age of 89.
Bill Townsend was one of the earliest members of the Natural Resources Council of Maine in 1960 and later served as president of the organization and as a board member of the group for nearly three decades. Townsend also served on the boards of many other conservation groups. In between, he worked on state boards and commissions including the Land for Maine’s Future program and the Land Use Regulation Commission.
Townsend moved to Maine in the late 1950s at a time when Maine’s rivers were heavily polluted. Landis Hudson, executive director of Maine Rivers, says improving water quality became his calling — one of many.
Townsend helped lead the effort to create the Allagash Wilderness Waterway and fought dams on the Big Amberjackmockamus Falls and on the lower Penobscot River. He also worked for removal of the Edwards Dam on the Kennebec River, on river reclassification and for restoration of native sea-run fish.
Townsend was a beloved figure in Maine’s environmental community because of his vision and drive, and also, says Hudson, because of a particular skill.
“He just was great at bringing people together to work on very, very difficult and long projects and initiatives,” she says.
Townsend was a mentor to many people, including independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine. In a written statement, King called him “a man of enormous intellect and even greater character who fought tirelessly to deliver justice for people across Maine and who worked unceasingly to preserve and protect Maine lands and resources for the enjoyment of future generations.”