Clarence Petty (1905-2009) grew up in the Adirondacks and eventually had a career with the state conservation department. His biography by Chris Angus, The Extraordinary Adirondack Journey of Clarence Petty. (Syracuse University Press, 2002) is still available. After a few years with the new APA, upon retirement in 1974 Clarence became one of the great citizen advocates for conservation. I first met him in 1987 in the board room of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, where his voice stilled the room. He never dominated a meeting, but when he did speak his voice carried to good effect. He declared his point of view firmly, born of his life’s experience, with a chuckle or two to lighten the atmosphere and to illustrate his point.
Clarence’s core message cut through the many emergencies we were addressing at any given time to remind us that the surest way to protect Adirondack land was to acquire it as Forest Preserve or as conservation easements, and to follow up those actions with more DEC real property staff and forest rangers to ensure that the state could compete for the real estate, as part of the statewide open space plan, and also be a good steward of that land over the long term. “We’ve got to get busy protecting more of the Adirondacks” was his frequent take-away message, followed quickly by “and we’ve got to take care of the Forest Rangers,” points well taken and easily remembered between meetings.