Brian L. Houseal will be leaving his post as Executive Director of the Adirondack Council, after a decade leading the largest Adirondack-centered environmental conservation advocacy organization. Houseal is expected to be replaced at the end of October by Deputy Director Diane Fish of Lake Placid who will serve as Acting Executive Director while a new Executive Director is sought.
Reflecting on his tenure in a statement prepared for the press Houseal said, “I have had the honor of moving forward with a legacy endowed to us by some of the greatest conservationists in our country. Louis and Bob Marshall, Clarence Petty, the Council’s founders, and many other directors, staff and members over the years have all fought to uphold Article XIV – the Forever Wild Clause – of New York State’s Constitution, unique in the world as a people’s commitment to wilderness preservation. That vision and constellation of stars provides the compass bearing that guides our team every day.”
Under Houseal’s leadership the Council saw successes in long-term air and water pollution issues. Already (since the late-1990s) the organization most focused on having a presence in Washington, DC, the Adirondack Council supported enactment of the Clean Air Interstate Rule (the Cross State Pollution rule) that requires cuts from power plants in 23 states whose emissions cause acid rain and mercury pollution in Adirondack lakes and also led regular efforts to save federal money for long-term acid rain research.
The Council was also already a proponent of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Council (RGGI), instituted in 2008 and considered a significant step-forward and the first government-mandated carbon dioxide control program in the United States. But under Houseal’s leadership the Council became an active participant in RGGI by purchasing and retiring carbon allowances (12,000 tons to date).
Houseal’s personal leadership style has been praised for his focusing Council efforts on developing good relations with traditional opponents. He was, along with Lani Ulrich (then director of CAP-21, now chair of the APA) and J.R. Risley (then supervisor of the Town of Inlet), a co-founder of the Common Ground Alliance (CGA). The CGA brings community development and environmental leaders together to build and promote a common agenda for policymakers in Albany and Washington. CGA was critical in persuading the Legislature to reject then-Governor David Paterson’s plan to cut state tax payments to local communities for Forest Preserve lands .
“What makes the Adirondack Park unique as well is the character and vitality of our communities,” Houseal said. “I am proud to be a co-founder of the Common Ground Alliance, because it helped forge a role for the Council as a ‘solutions department,’ searching for ways to protect the environment while also benefiting local communities and their economies.”
Houseal and the Council also supported Constitutional Amendments sought by local governments by working with the Town of Long Lake, Hamilton County in 2007 for approval of a Constitutional Amendment aiding Raquette Lake in securing a new water supply following the failure of its water treatment plant. In 2009, Houseal helped negotiate a Constitutional Amendment for a new power supply line into Village of Tupper Lake, Franklin County from a local hydro-power project. The Council also worked to connect local communities to their wild lands by developing an eco-tourism plan for the less-visited western half of the Adirondack Park that emphasizes the 24 gateway communities surrounding the 600,000-acre Bob Marshall Wild Lands Complex.
Houseal oversaw the Council’s approach to the 700-unit Adirondack Club and Resort, the region’s largest development to date, which sought to lessen its environmental impact rather than oppose the project outright. The Council then commenced an effort to modernize DEC and Adirondack Park Agency rules and regulations. Those suggested reforms including making the APA “a one-stop-shop” for planning and development assistance and permitting, creating a dedicated planning fund for local communities, and to rearrange DEC regions into a single region for the Park, and combine the 90-plus unit management plans into fewer landscape-wide management plans that include various types of Forest Preserve (Wilderness, Wild Forest, Canoe Area, etc.).
Brian Houseal attended Colgate University, and completed graduate degrees in Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning at Syracuse University and SUNY-ESF. Earlier in his career he gained international experience in Latin America and the Caribbean. Before joining the Adirondack Council in 2002, worked spent 15 years as a Vice President of The Nature Conservancy’s International Program, where he directed the Mexico Program. Among his major achievements was designing and directing the “Parks in Peril Program,” which has successfully protected over 65 million acres of critically threatened parks and reserves throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Houseal and his wife Katherine have been seasonal visitors to the Adirondacks for over 30 years, and now live full-time in Westport.
Besides Diane Fish, key staff at the Council include Communications Director John Sheehan, Government Relations Director Scott Lorey, Conservation Director Allison Buckley, and Operations Director Elaine Burke.
Adirondack Explorer‘s Phil Brown spoke with Housel, who says he will stay in the field of conservation and plans to remain in Westport.