Fred Monroe remembered for his dedication to local government, advocacy for property rights
By Tim Rowland
Fred Monroe, a strong advocate for private property rights and longtime local government leader, died Friday at the age of 76. According to friends and colleagues, he was being treated for cancer.
An attorney who grew up on an island on Loon Lake in town of Chester, Monroe had an abiding love for the Adirondacks, friends said.
“Fred was a truly great man, respected by all, and an Adirondack icon to those who live in the park,” said Ron Moore, former North Hudson supervisor and current board member who worked with Monroe on the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board. “He was a mentor to many with whom he worked, a friend, a brother. He was a man who cared deeply about the Adirondacks and the people who lived here.”
Through the years, he held a number of influential positions in the park, including supervisor of the town of Chester for 24 years, chair of the Warren County Board of Supervisors and head of the Adirondack Local Government Review Board from 2005 to 2018.
He was one of the founders and former chairman of the Adirondack Fairness Coalition, formed in opposition to the recommendations in the Report of Gov. Mario Cuomo’s Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century.
He also believed that state land-use laws as applied to the park amounted to an illegal taking of private property without compensation. Jerry Delaney, who in late 2018 took over for Monroe on the Local Government Review Board and as its representative as a nonvoting APA board member, said he recalled his friend and mentor’s dilemma when he was first appointed to the agency. “He said, ‘as a lawyer I have to follow the letter of the law — but I don’t believe in the law.’”
Still, it was a highwire he was deftly able to walk. “The Local Government Review Board does not believe that the APA should be abolished,” he wrote in a 2010 op-ed. “We do believe that the APA needs to be reined in and its governing act revised.”
Monroe was instrumental in a number of initiatives that benefited all segments of the public. “Nobody is really aware of all the things Fred has been able to accomplish,” Delaney said. “He cared deeply about the Adirondacks and he cared deeply about its people.”
Despite representing private landowners through the heart of some of the most contentious times in the APA’s history, Monroe preferred meticulous research and scholarly arguments to angry confrontations and raised voices.
“He was a force on behalf of Adirondack communities and his tireless efforts to block invasives made a real difference in the Park. He will certainly be missed,” wrote current APA board chairman John Ernst in an email.
“I came to respect him, although it took a long time,” said Dave Gibson, managing partner of Adirondack Wild. Gibson said he didn’t agree with Monroe’s viewpoint or data sets, but admired his preparedness and camaraderie. “I came to enjoy going to meetings with him,” Gibson said. “He had a keen intellect and wit and he didn’t mind being seen” with an environmentalist.
And at times, Monroe and environmentalists would find themselves on the same side, said Willie Janeway, executive director of the Adirondack Council.
“Fred Monroe was a leader in the effort to keep aquatic invasive species out of Adirondack lakes, and a leading voice for park and local residents’ priorities,” Janeway said in an email. “Smart, informed and respectful, Fred focused on issues, the law, and solutions, not the spotlight. His positions on issues evolved as new information came to light, and he helped others including me and the Adirondack Council evolve and improve our positions on matters too.”
Delaney said Monroe loved the forest and enjoyed hunting and flying float planes. As a boy, he helped his father tear down a decaying hotel on the Loon Lake island and used the materials to rebuild rental cottages, according to his Foundation of Land and Liberty biography.
Monroe graduated from Siena College with a degree in physics, later becoming an Air Force officer, subsequently receiving a top secret security clearance, running a classified mission in Pago Pago, Samoa, and supporting recovery operations for the Apollo 13 and 14 moon landing mission crews.
After receiving a law degree from Syracuse he returned to the Adirondacks, often defending private landowners who he believed were being unfairly treated by the state.
“He was a man who dedicated his life to making these Adirondacks a better place to live for all,” Moore said, “and what he accomplished, his legacy, will have an everlasting effect for all who live here.”