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Timothy Barnett, first director of The Nature Conservancy's ADK Chapter, remembered

A river in New York's Adirondack Park
WAMC/Pat Bradley
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A river in New York's Adirondack Park

Timothy Barnett, a well-known conservationist in the Adirondacks, died at his home in Saratoga Springs Monday. He was 82.

Barnett grew up in the Champlain Valley town of Westport. He left for college, served overseas in the army and moved out west before making his way back to the Adirondacks in his early 30s. That’s when he became the first director of the Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack Chapter.

Over his decades long career, Barnett is credited with helping preserve 580,000 acres of land in the Adirondacks. Peg Olsen is now the Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack Director. She says Barnett was a friend, a mentor and a tireless advocate for the park.

“He changed the map in the Adirondacks and he also led the way in thinking about big landscapes, conserving large landscapes as opposed to small parcels and how they all connected together,” Olsen said. “He was also concerned with sustainable timber harvesting and the health of our communities.”

Olsen says Barnett was able to get so much done over his 46 years at the Nature Conservancy because of how he approached the work. She says he was patient and persistent with folks about selling their land to the state or adding conservation easements to their properties.

“He really listened to landowners to understand what would it make to work for them,” Olsen said. “So he gained the trust of a lot of people and he always was very humble. He always said that he really wasn’t the sharpest tool in the toolshed that it was the fact that he hired really smart people which was his success. We all know that’s not quite true.”

Barnett was a marathoner and avid hiker until his late 50s, when a horse riding accident left him paralyzed.

Olsen says Barnett never stopped thinking about new ways to preserve and protect the park, even after his injury.

“Every day was a new day for Tim,” she said. “Even after his accident, he was completely engaged, he was completely “glass is half-full”, he had so much energy, he was so inspiring. And to me, that’s a real role model.”

The Nature Conservancy published an obituary for Barnett on Monday. It describes a man who dedicated his life and career to park, an advocate who had quote "unbounded enthusiasm for the Adirondacks."

Emily Russell
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