Catskill Mountainkeeper Launches with a Mission

Catskill Mountainkeeper launches with a mission:
Build active network of citizens speaking out for the Catskills way of life

Group seeks to unite residents from all parts of the Catskills to protect
open space and promote smart growth in the region’s villages, mountains and valleys

    Monticello (May 10, 2007) – Catskill Mountainkeeper, a grassroots group intended to unite the entire region’s residents in the battle to preserve the quality of life here, announced it is open for business today at a news conference in front of the Sullivan County Government Center.
    “Residents of the Catskills are as diverse as in any place on earth, but one thing everyone can unite on is that this is a special region that needs its people speaking up so that its tremendous cultural and natural resources stay intact,” said Joe Martens, the group’s chairman. “Catskill Mountainkeeper will build an active network of citizens to make that happen.”
    Martens also is the president of the Open Space Institute, one of several groups sponsoring Catskill Mountainkeeper.
    The group’s key priority is to push for a comprehensive, regional vision that takes into account new thinking about smart growth and wise use of the area’s natural resources, Martens said. Working with other established groups, Catskill Mountainkeeper then will organize citizens across the region’s counties to contribute their ideas for the region’s future as part of that process.
    At the news conference, members held poster-board cutouts of the region’s six counties (Delaware, Greene, Otsego, Schoharie, Sullivan, Ulster, plus a portion of Albany County, which is geographically in the Catskills), bringing them together in a symbolic illustration of the regional unity that the group plans to foster.
    The group offers free membership in keeping with its goal of having a broad spectrum of citizen involvement.
    “With a combination of the web and plain old shoe-leather organizing, our goal is to bring together people who have never talked with each other and have them join in the fight to preserve the Catskill way of life,” said Ramsay Adams, the executive director of the new group.
    On its website,, the group will post updates on regional development news, operate on-line discussion boards and provide campaign-organizing advice and tools. 
    “We all know there’s a great deal of development pressure on the Catskills, but we also know there are good and bad options under review this very moment,” said Tom Alworth, another Catskill Mountainkeeper board member and the executive director of the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, another sponsoring organization. 
    “When it’s out-of-scale, non-sustainable proposals like the massive casinos proposed for Sullivan County, Catskill Mountainkeeper can help get the word out – and make sure that those who want clear air, open space and a great quality of life win the day for our region,” Alworth added.
    “I live here, I work here, and I love living and working here, and I want the Catskills always to be a place I am proud to live in,” said Wes Gillingham, Catskill Mountainkeeper’s program director and also the co-owner of the Wild Roots Farm in Sullivan County.
    “The last thing my neighbors and I want to do is fight traffic, see the countryside taken over by haphazard development or breathe polluted air – so that’s why I decided to take on this job,” said Gillingham, “Our vision of the Catskills is for economic success by focusing on the industries that we do best, like the resurgence of farming, tourism based on the enjoyment of our natural beauty and vibrant downtowns.”
    Another Catskills farmer, Amy Kenyon, said she is looking to Catskill Mountainkeeper to provide farmers and other local residents with the tools to get their voice heard.    
    Kenyon also is president of Farm Catskills, a Delaware County-based group intended to strengthen farming in the region. “If our rural character is to survive, we need a good regional vision that protects our region’s wonderful vistas, open spaces and farmland – the things that make us different,” said Kenyon.   
     Patrick H. Dollard, the chief executive officer of The Center for Discovery – Sullivan County’s largest employer – also endorsed Catskill Mountainkeeper.   
    The group will open an office in Youngsville, Sullivan County, this June. Other major sponsoring organizations are the Natural Resources Defense Council and Audubon New York.

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