The Adirondack Council will present its Conservationist of the Year Award to climate change educator and activist Jen Kretser and The Wild Center’s Youth Climate Program during the Council’s Forever Wild Day celebration on July 9 at Paul Smith’s College, near Saranac Lake.
“Jen Kretser, the Youth Climate Program and The Wild Center are doing a fantastic job of educating our youth about the dangers of global climate change and what they can do to curb its impacts and prepare for the changes we can no longer prevent,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway. “As Director of Climate Initiatives for The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, Jen manages the center’s climate change engagement programs, including the now-famous global Youth Climate Summits and broader Youth Climate Program.”
“Not only was Jen’s program praised by the Obama White House’s Office of Science and Technology, she also led The Wild Center Youth Delegation and the US Action for Climate Empowerment Delegation at the United Nations Global Climate Conference (COP26) in Glasgow last November,” said Sarah Collum Hatfield, Chair of the Adirondack Council’s Board of Directors. “Science, education and leadership are the keys to climate solutions that provide our children a better future. Jen is inspiring a new generation to take on all three challenges.”
“The mission of The Wild Center is to ignite an enduring passion for the Adirondacks where people and nature can thrive together and offer an example for the world,” said Wild Center Executive Director Stephanie Ratcliffe. “From our base near the center of the Adirondack Park in Tupper Lake, Jen Kretser leads a team that engages with and empowers youth around the world to take action on Climate Change, and we are very proud of all she is accomplishing.”
At The Wild Center, Kretser has also provided interpretive programs for visitors to the Center, as well as green building education and design. As a senior staff member at The Wild Center, Jen also works on diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion initiatives including a long-standing partnership with members of the Haudenosaunee community at Akwesasne.
Jen is a member of the coordinating team of the U.S. Action for Climate Empowerment – working to build a network of climate change education, public engagement and training across the country. In addition, she is a founding member of the NY Climate Resilience and Education Task Force which elevates climate change education and action in NY Public Schools and the national Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network Board. She also serves on the Adirondack Diversity Initiative core team and the Adirondack Mountain Club board of directors.
Prior to her work with The Wild Center, Kretser served as Director of Education for the Adirondack Mountain Club for 7 years. She focused on educating for responsible recreation, stewardship, and interpretive planning.
In prior positions, she was a teacher and program developer for the Cincinnati Zoo, the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, the Jane Goodall Institute, the Adirondack Park Visitor’s Interpretive Center, and Zoo New England in Boston.
Originally from Saranac Lake, Kretser is active in the regional arts community – having served on the founding board of BluSeed Studios; coordinated community artists events and showing her own work (printmaking and mixed media) both regionally and in Mexico.
Through her interest in international work, Kretser has participated in multiple professional exchanges to Finland to help create the first Finland Youth Climate Summit, the first Youth Climate Summit in Sri Lanka in January 2017, and the first Youth Climate Summit in Germany in November 2018. She has also worked in the Altai Region of Siberia to work with park officials on creating education programs for their National Park system and on an artist exchange to Mazatlan, Mexico.
For her work in the Adirondacks, Jen was the 2006 recipient of the ADK Education Award, 2007 EPA Region 2 Environmental Educator Award, APA Appreciation Award, 2015 U.S. EPA Environmental Champion Award, 2018 Spirit of John Brown Freedom Award, and the 2019 Antioch Alumni Award.
Jen is a member of numerous professional organizations including: Association of Science Technology Centers, American Association of Museums, National Association of Interpretation, North American Association of Environmental Education, and is a Climate Reality Leader. She has traveled extensively in Central America, Sri Lanka, Australia, Siberia, Finland, New Zealand, Nepal and India – exploring parks and meeting people. Jen is a graduate from Cornell University in Wildlife Ecology & Antioch University in M.S. Environmental Science & Education.
When not working, Jen can be found outside hiking, paddling, Nordic skiing and picking blueberries with her family and friends.
Jen Kretser is also carrying on a tradition of environmental service in her own family. Her father Walter served for many years as director of the Adirondack Lakes Survey Corp., which conducts research on the impacts of acid rain and air pollution.
Other Conservationist of the Year Award winners include: NY Governors Mario M. Cuomo and George E. Pataki; NYS Attorney General Dennis Vacco; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson; NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation Commissioners John P. Cahill, Erin Crotty and Joseph Martens; Senator Carl Marcellino; Assemblymen Richard Brodsky and Maurice Hinchey; Adirondack Park Agency Executive Director Robert Glennon; New York Times editor John Oakes; Adirondack environmental activists Timothy Barnett, Frances Beinecke, Peter Borrelli, Michael Carr, George Davis, Christopher “Kim” Elliman, John and Margot Ernst, Barbara L. Glaser, Harold Jerry, Bill McKibben, Chris Navitsky, David L. Newhouse, Peter Paine, Clarence Petty and Paul Schaefer.
Created in 1892, the Adirondack Park is one of the oldest and largest protected landscapes in the United States. It is a six-million-acre (9,300-square-mile) blend of public and private lands protecting the largest temperate deciduous forest in the world. Within this single mountainous park are 11,000 lakes and ponds, and roughly 30,000 miles of rivers, brooks and streams that provide water to most of New York State.
It is the largest park of any kind in the contiguous United States. It is larger than the combined areas of Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier and Grand Canyon National Parks.
New York’s Constitution requires that the Park’s 2.7 million acres of public Forest Preserve be kept wild forever. Private lands consist of commercial timberlands, large estates, resorts, outdoor recreation venues, private homes and 130 small communities, only nine of which are large enough to be incorporated as villages. Its year-round population is 130,000 but nearly twice as many live here during the summer. More than 12.4 million people visit annually.
Established in 1975, the Adirondack Council is a privately funded not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park. It is the largest environmental organization whose sole focus is the Adirondacks.
The Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action. It envisions a Park with clean water and clean air, core wilderness areas, farms and working forests, and vibrant, diverse, welcoming, safe communities. Adirondack Council advocates live in all 50 United States.
Photo at top: Jen Kretser, Director of Climate Initiatives for The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. Photo provided by John F. Sheehan, Adirondack Council Director of Communications.