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Protect the Adirondacks hopes to sell the Schaefer home in Niskayuna (Photo:  Adirondack Research Library)
Protect the Adirondacks hopes to sell the Schaefer home in Niskayuna (Photo: Adirondack Research Library)

Protect the Adirondacks reorganizes again, will sell historic property

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One of the North Country's most prominent environmental groups has reorganized again and has new leadership.

CEO Peter Borelli has stepped aside and Protect the Adirondacks is now led three volunteer co-chairs.

The group is now working to stabilize its finances, in part by selling a landmark building located in Niskayuna that houses the Adirondack Research Library.

The library is one of the premier collections of writing about the Park and its environmental history. Brian Mann has details.

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Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

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Last June, environmental activist and author Peter Borrelli from Northville took over as head of Protect the Adirondacks, a group formed in 2009 by the merger of two prominent green groups, the Residents Committee and the Association.

"So we have to come out of this doing new things in different ways and doing some old things but hopefully in effective ways and be able to live within our means," he argued.

 Borrelli came on after Protect let go two other prominent activists, Dave Gibson and Dan Plumley, who have since formed a new environmental organization of their own.

Now Borelli too has stepped aside and while he still volunteers for Protect, he says he hasn’t led the organization since the fall.

Protect is now led by three volunteer co-chairs, including Lorraine Duvall from Keene.

"We have no executive directors," she confirmed.  "The board is running the organization."

 Protect does still have a tiny paid staff that handles a lake testing program and a forest stewardship certification project.

 But as the group works to stabilize its finances negotiations are now underway to sell the building that houses the Adirondack Research Library.  Located in Niskayuna, the building was once owned by environmentalist Paul Schaefer.

"The building would be sold to Union College," said Duvall. 

"But the Adirondack Research Library would still be owned by Protect.  But they’re working on an agreement now of what that means.  Union College would have full use of the library, but it would still be owned by Protect." 

Another setback suffered by Protect last year was that one of its board members, boatbuilder Peter Hornbeck, failed to win confirmation to the Adirondack Park Agency commission. 

But  Duvall says Protect is still relevant, with a growing number of volunteers are working to help the organization pursue various projects.

"In terms of how much we can affect the direction of the Park, we’re still working at that," she acknowledged.

"But I see it as a more of a grassroots orientation.  There are people in the Park and outside the Park who really believe that they can affect the direction themselves personally working within an organization."

 Protect is trying to stay relevant by narrowing its focus, forming a new Legal Defense Fund in large part to oppose construction of the Adirondack Club and Resort in Tupper Lake. 

 John Caffry an attorney from Queensbury volunteers as co-chair of Protect’s conservation advocacy committee.

 "More than ever we’re convinced that this [resort] is not a financially viable project and what’s going to happen is that Mr. Foxman is going to cut and run," Caffry said. "If he ever gets the permits he’s going to cut and run."

 But Protect's leaders are still struggling to prove that their organization is financially viable over the long haul. 

After repeated changes and reorganizations, it’s still unclear what final shape the group will take.

"The plan is that we will not continue to be as much volunteer as we are now," Duvall said.  "There will be paid staff and their will be leaders.  We’re not looking at this as a permanent thing."

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