Michael Washburn, the former executive director of the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks (RCPA), plans to take a high-level job with the Wilderness Society in Washington, D.C.
As the senior director of eastern forests, Washburn will oversee the society’s conservation efforts throughout the East, from Alabama to Maine. Among other things, the organization seeks greater protection for national forests, parks, and wildlife refuges. It also works with private owners to conserve land.
“I’m pretty jazzed about it,” Washburn told the Explorer. “This is bigger than anything I’ve been able to do before.”
Washburn, who grew up just south of the Adirondack Park, took over RCPA’s helm about eighteen months ago, replacing Peter Bauer, who now works at the Fund for Lake George.
The RCPA board has voted to merge with the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks. “We thought we’d stay a lot longer,” Washburn said, “but the economy threw everybody a curveball, and the organizations responded to that effectively.”
The memberships of both organizations are to vote on the merger this Saturday. The new group would be called Protect the Adirondacks.
“I fully expect that’s going to pass,” Washburn said, “and I think this is a great step forward for both. Together they can create a stronger and bigger organization.”
Washburn, who is thirty-nine, has a doctorate in forest policy from Penn State University. He also earned master’s and bachelor’s degrees from the New York State College of Environmental Science and Forestry. He will move to the Washington area with his wife, Natanya, and their two children.
The primary founder of the Wilderness Society was Bob Marshall, whose family had a camp on Lower Saranac Lake. Marshall fell in love with wilderness during his boyhood hikes in the Adirondacks and went on to become one of the nation’s leading advocates for conservation. Marshall died in 1939.