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Conservationist Tim Barnett remembered for helping preserve half a million acres in the Adirondacks

Tim Barnett on Chapel Pond.
Photo by Mark Kurtz, courtesy of the Nature Conservancy
Tim Barnett on Chapel Pond.

Timothy Barnett, a well-known conservationist in the Adirondacks, died August 29 at his home in Saratoga Springs. He was 82 years old.

Barnett was the first director of the Nature Conservancy’s Adirondack Chapter. The chapter’s current director, Peg Olsen, described Barnett as a friend, a mentor, and a tireless advocate for the park whose work ultimately helped preserve 580,000 acres in the Adirondacks.

“He changed the map in the Adirondacks," said Olsen, "and he also led the way in thinking about big landscapes— conserving large landscapes as opposed to small parcels— and how they all connected together."

According to the Adirondack Explorer, Barnett helped preserve Valcour Island and Whitney Park, as well as Lake Lila and Great Camp Santanoni.

"He was also concerned with sustainable timber harvesting and the health of our communities,” added Olsen.

Barnett grew up in the Champlain Valley. He was a marathoner and hiker until his late 50s, when a horse riding accident in 1997 left him paralyzed.

According to Olsen, Barnett never stopped thinking about new ways to preserve and protect the Adirondacks.

"Every day was a new day for Tim," said Olsen. "Even after his accident, he was completely engaged, he was completely 'glass is half-full,' he had so much energy, he was so inspiring. To me, that's a real model, a real role model for all of us.”

Barnett worked for the Nature Conservancy for 46 years, retiring just four years ago. The Nature Conservancy published an obituary today for Barnett, describing him as having "unbounded enthusiasm for the Adirondacks."

"Barnett leaves a legacy written across northern New York’s landscape," the obituary reads. "He deployed his arsenal of high spirits and good fellowship to create and lead a highly effective land conservation organization, bridge gaps between opponents, run back-to-back marathons, and, later, meet 25 years of physical paralysis with grace."

"And he attributed all his achievements to others: his Adirondack mentors, his Board of Trustees, and the people he hired, whom he considered his greatest contributions to the Adirondacks."