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ADK Hero: Jeff Senterman and the Catskill Center

ADK Hero: Jeff Senterman and the Catskill Center

In a time when division and conflict seem to be the order of the day, the idea of working together for a common goal can seem, well, quaint. That’s what makes this issue’s ADK Heroes especially delightful to recognize.

Jeff Senterman is executive director of the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, which has been a critical partner with ADK in the push for Forest Preserve funding. Based in Arkville, New York,  in a position he has held for over eight years, Jeff manages a staff of nineteen full-time employees and up to twenty seasonal workers.

Founded in 1969, the Catskill Center has led the effort to protect the more than 700,000 acres of the Catskill Park and Catskill Forest Preserve, with the mission to “protect and foster the environmental, cultural and economic well-being of the Catskill Region.”

Both ADK and the Catskill Center share common values and purpose in supporting visitors and responsible recreation in the Forest Preserve. Each manages a visitor center that is often the first step toward educating visitors to their respective areas, and introducing outdoor ethics concepts such as Leave No Trace.

So given the commonalities between the two organizations, it just makes sense to work together, says Jeff. “We’re doing similar work anyway. And by working together, we get the benefit of a multiplier effect,” able to more effectively advocate with one voice.

Those results include raising the visibility of the Forest Preserves and influencing policy, leading to the last two years of significant funding in the state budget for wilderness protection and visitor safety.

That collaborative approach is something that comes naturally to Jeff. “There’s no shortage of problems,” he says, “and for me, working together on the big picture is a place I’m personally comfortable with [while promoting] the ethos of the Catskill Center as well.”

Ben Brosseau, ADK director of communications, says of Jeff, “We’re grateful for Jeff’s super collaborative approach and his tireless activism for the Forest Preserve in the legislature. Over the last two years, he has been integral to pushing forward our combined efforts to raise the visibility of the Forest Preserve in New York.”

Looking ahead to the challenges of the future for both the Catskill Center and ADK, Jeff identifies climate change as the central issue facing the Forest Preserve. In the short term, there are the damages recently seen with record flooding, directly affecting how people live and recreate in the Adirondacks and Catskills. Longer term, Jeff sees a future that is “vastly more challenging” as the Northeast area in general becomes a place of refuge for people fleeing increasingly inhospitable locales. Communities such as those on valley floors may become uninhabitable as waters rise, forcing residents to relocate. That disruption, combined with many more visitors coming to the Forest Preserve, will pose significant tests for the Catskill Center and ADK, as well as other organizations, to manage and protect “a place as truly special as the Forest Preserve.”

But with the dedication of the great minds working together and the commonality of approaches between the Catskill Center and ADK, it seems clear both are up to the task.

—Beth Rowland

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