Everett “Brownie” Carson will leave his longtime post as head of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, one of the state’s largest and oldest environmental groups.

Carson, 62, said he will step down from his job as executive director to spend more time with his family and explore the state’s natural places. He will remain on the job until a search committee names a replacement, which is expected to take six to seven months.

His decision surprised many in the environmental community, where he is considered a legendary advocate for protecting the state’s rivers, lakes, forests, wildlife and coastline.

“He is Mr. NRCM,” said Ted Koffman, executive director of Maine Audubon.

Carson joined the council as a lawyer in 1983 and was named head of the organization a year later. Over the next 26 years, the organization’s staff grew from seven to 23 and its membership grew from several thousand to more than 12,000.

During Carson’s tenure, the council helped defeat the Big A dam on the West Branch of the Penobscot River, blocked construction of a coal-fired power plant in Bucksport, and led the effort to remove the Edwards Dam from the Kennebec River.

Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, said he and Carson often were on opposite sides of issues, such as the Plum Creek development in the Moosehead Lake region. But, he said, he always admired Carson’s passion, commitment and ability to separate the professional from the personal.

He said he considers Carson a good friend.

“Frankly, there were times I wanted to wring his neck. But you know what? He would call and we would have discussions and be just open about our positions. You have to respect that,” Connors said.

Connors, a former commissioner of Maine’s Department of Transportation, said a classic example of their differences was the widening of the Maine Turnpike, which Connors supported and Carson heartily opposed. The issue went before Maine voters twice in the 1990s.

“The first time, he prevailed,” Connors said. “The second one, I am pleased to say, he did not.”

Clinton “Bill” Townsend, a lawyer in Skowhegan, former council board member and longtime environmental leader, said Carson made sure that the Natural Resources Council, founded in 1959, took on difficult issues and kept up the pressure.

“He has had an enormous impact,” Townsend said.

Carson, who lives in Brunswick, grew up in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley but spent his summers in Maine’s north woods and on the coast. He was a Marine infantry platoon leader in the Vietnam War. He graduated from Bowdoin College in 1972 and the University of Maine School of Law in 1977.

He explained his decision to leave his job by quoting the writer E.B. White, a longtime council member.

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day,” he said.

Carson said he may be choosing to savor the world for a bit, but he is far from giving up on trying to save it. He said he intends to remain very involved with the council, but in a different capacity.

He said the state has important environmental challenges, such as developing new energy sources and protecting the north woods from development, which he will continue to address.

Koffman said he is certain that Carson will remain a strong environmental advocate for Maine.

“He is an Eveready bunny,” he said. “He can’t help but get engaged.”

 

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

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