Our Maine Man: Brownie Carson - A Force For Nature

Posted Wednesday, May 25, 2011 in Features

Our Maine Man: Brownie Carson - A Force For Nature

by David Treadwell

BRUNSWICK -- On May 11, Brownie Carson, who served as Executive Director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at historic Faneuil Hall in Boston. Brownie retired from the NRCM in January after serving as its visionary leader for 27 years, but his passion remains fierce for the causes he holds dear. Rest assured: Brownie Carson is not going away.

Why did you decide to retire?

At the time of his retirement in January, Brownie said, “My decision did not come easily, because I love this work and the people who are so much a part of it. But I have decided to spend more time outdoors, hiking the mountains, paddling rivers, cycling back roads, sailing the coast, and exploring the back country and parks of this beautiful state.”

Spend a few minutes with Brownie today, and you'll find a man much more concerned about the environmental rollback efforts proposed by Governor LePage and his allies in the Legislature than about where he's going to take his next bike ride.

What do you think of the current legislative climate in Maine relative to the environment?

“There's lots of pressure being brought to bear by Governor LePage and the Tea Party to undo the progress made over the last 50 years. They're sending the message that to improve the business climate you have to do away with environmental standards, but that's just not true!  They view the EPA and the DEP as unnecessary and burdensome. Do we want to return to the days when companies dumped their waste in the rivers and let others worry about cleaning it up? The current regime is more threatening to the environmental health of Maine than any one I've seen in the last 30 years.”

Do Mainers really care about the environment or is it all about jobs?

“Absolutely! And it's not just the 12,000 people who support the Natural Resources Council of Maine or the thousands more concerned citizens who work on behalf of the Maine Audubon or the Maine Coast Heritage Trust or other fine organizations around the state.  Most of the state's responsible business leaders - including small business owners-understand that we must protect and preserve the character of Maine. If we lose our environmental health, we lose what makes Maine Maine as an appealing place to live, to visit and, yes, to do business.”

What are the biggest roadblocks to preserving responsible environmental regulations?


“The national trade associations! They fly New York lawyers and Washington lobbyists into Augusta on their private planes,  make their 'case' for doing away with environmental regulations and fly out, leaving nothing behind but hot air. They're not concerned about our air and our water and our parks; they're just concerned about the next quarter's stock evaluation.”

At this point in our conversation, Brownie stopped, smiled and said, 'See, you've gotten me going!'”

And then he went on… “Do you remember how the American auto industry fought emission standards because they were too expensive? And look at what happened to that industry! That's a lesson in history that we shouldn't forget.”

What are you proudest about as a leading voice of the environmental movement in Maine?


Brownie deflects any focus on his achievements, preferring to applaud the efforts of the people at NRCM and around Maine who have worked to preserve the environmental health and the essential character of Maine. “It's amazing what so many concerned citizens are doing. They'll drive down to Augusta from northern Maine to speak at a legislative hearing or they'll take time out of their lives to attend a Tuesday night meeting in Harpswell or Bowdoinham or wherever. This is what participatory democracy is all about. We have a wonderful environmental community in Maine; it's like an extended family with shared values.”

What are your plans for the future?


Brownie expressed the desire to get outside and do more exercise. And he enjoys spending time with his only grandchild, two-year-old Kinsey. Talking about Kinsey, though, got Brownie Carson right back on the subject of the environment. “It's sounds corny, but we have to preserve places like Acadia and Moosehead Lake and the Casco Bay for children like Kinsey. We have to retain the character of Maine.”

No, Brownie Carson is not going away any time soon. He will stay involved in the causes that help preserve the environment and character of Maine. And those who were inspired by his values and views will continue to do the same.  Not a bad legacy. Not bad at all.

For further information on the past achievements, current efforts and future plans of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, go to www.nrcm.org.

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