Tim Barnett sitting in frozen lake water.

Tim Barnett’s Legacy for Lake George

Top Photo: Tim Barnett photographed for the Adirondack Activists Project on Chapel Pond in 1992. Photo by Mark Kurtz

Timothy Barnett, whose legacy is inseparable from the LGLC, passed away on August 29, 2022 at the age of 82.

Tim was the founding director of the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (ANC), established in 1972, and provided invaluable guidance and leadership in the creation of the Lake George Land Conservancy in 1988.

Though tasked with conserving critical lands throughout the Adirondack Park, one of his earliest accomplishments with the ANC was the protection of Lake George’s Dunham’s Bay wetlands in the 1970’s. “This was way beyond anything The Nature Conservancy had worked on in the Adirondacks,” recalled environmental attorney and activist Bob Kafin, who first met Tim in 1972.

“With his wonderful people-pleasing manner and his tolerance for idiosyncratic personalities,” Bob continued, “Tim managed to bring in the ship, save those wetlands for future generations, and obtain priceless protection for the Lake.”

Tim’s efforts in Lake George continued into the 1990’s, as he helped the then-fledgling LGLC navigate huge conservation projects like the Margaret Boyd Rowan Preserve in 1990, the Racket Point Shoreline in 1993, and Northeast Shoreline in 1997.

“Those three projects alone protect more than two miles of undeveloped lake front,” said former LGLC Executive Director Mike Carr who now leads the Adirondack Land Trust. “His legacy lives on in those places and through the people he inspired.”

Even as Tim worked tirelessly to conserve significant and iconic lands throughout the Adirondack Park, he continued to stay involved with the LGLC. Tim served on the LGLC Board from 2000 to 2011, and provided guidance and inspiration to staff and fellow board members.

“Tim was the compass of the LGLC in the early days,” said LGLC Director Emeritus David Darrin, “and continued to be just that during a second term on the board. He did not accomplish all he did without nudging others to take the important first step as if it were their idea. With his impish smile, Tim shared a life lesson I have hung onto since: sometimes it’s best to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. That and his smile created so much protected lands.”

“Tim was able to provide a clarifying perspective that kept us moving forward and in the right direction,” said LGLC Director Rob Singer. “His guidance came from long experience as a conservationist but, you also understood, it came from the heart, and thereby earned its true consequence. In this and in many other ways, Tim played an essential role in turning the LGLC into the successful organization it is today.”

Former LGLC Board Member George Singer said, “Tim was someone you wanted to stay in touch with. He knew what he was doing. I respected him, a man of consequence, to be looked up to. When it came to conservation, and in particular Lake George conservation, he knew which was the right side of the tracks.”

“His passion for conservation was contagious,” expressed LGLC Advisory Board Member Judy Larter. “He was the best speaker and had the ability to inspire us. We were so fortunate to have Tim as such a confident force in the early years of the LGLC.”

The Birth of the Lake George Land Conservancy

While The Nature Conservancy focused on protecting smaller, specific habitats for at-risk species, Tim saw the need for conservation at a larger scale that would also protect farms, working forests and lake shoreline. To accomplish this, in 1988 he spearheaded the working collaboration between ANC and the Adirondack Land Trust (ALT), then led by Tom Duffus.

Around the same time, ALT conducted a survey of all the landowners inside the Lake George watershed to gauge interest and support of voluntary, private land saving efforts. The results were overwhelmingly positive.

“Once the ANC/ALT merger was final,” explained Tom Duffus, former executive director of ALT and current vice president and northeast director at The Conservation Fund, “Tim and I turned our attention back to Lake George and the Morgan property south of Clark Hollow. This difficult project highlighted the need for a Lake George-focused program of land protection. The Lake George Basin Land Conservancy, as it was originally called, was formed in 1988.”

Peg Olsen was contracted through her business, Environmental Communications Services, to help get the organization started with marketing materials and landowner outreach. Peg and Tim then led a search for our first executive director and hired Mike Carr in 1990.

“Tim saw the promise in Lake George as a unique watershed with conservation potential and dedicated people who would support land protection,” said Mike. “He taught me how to attract and retain talented staff, how to find common ground, how to find joy in the work, and I am forever grateful for both his leadership and friendship.”

“It pleases me,” said Tom, “and I know it pleased Tim as well, to see how the Lake George Land Conservancy is fulfilling its promise—an amazing suite of lands and waters protected since 1988, Land Trust Accreditation, and such support!

“Tim and I worked hand-in-hand for all the years I was with him (1986-1998) and beyond,” Tom continued, “as I continued to work in the Adirondacks with The Conservation Fund to this day. Tim showed me, and others, how effective you can be when you take the work seriously, but not yourself so much.

“I am grateful for our friendship and partnership, and the mentoring he did right up to my visit with him two weeks before his death. We are blessed to have had him hanging around all these years. And Lake George is a better place because of Tim.”

“He would tell you that he had little to do with it and that his real talent was hiring good people who were smarter than he,” said Peg, who is now the executive director of the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. “But he was our fearless leader, our inspiration, and the Energizer Bunny of conservation.”

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Our sincere thanks to the contributors of this tribute.

Tom Duffus is Vice President and Northeast Director at The Conservation Fund working in NY and beyond. He was formerly Director of Land Protection for ANC/ALT and Associate Director of Adirondack Land Trust. When together, Tom and Tim conserved over 114,000 acres in the Adirondacks from 1986-1998.

Robert J. Kafin currently serves, by appointment of the NYC Mayor, as chair of GrowNYC, the operator of 54 Greenmarkets and other environmental conservation programs in New York City. He devotes most of his time to not-for-profit civic and environmental organizations, while continuing as an optional service partner at the firm, where he remains available to advise its clients. He is the founder and a member of the firm’s Environmental Practice Group. He is also a former Chair of the Adirondack Council, and is a volunteer for the Lake George Land Conservancy.

Peg Olsen is the Adirondack Chapter Director of The Nature Conservancy. She was formerly the CCO of National Audubon Society, Deputy Director of The Nature Conservancy’s She is a current member of the LGLC Board of Directors, and has served on the Board or Advisory Board for a total of 24 years (1989-2004, 2012-present).

Board members George Singer, Rob Singer, David Darrin, and Judy Larter all served on the LGLC Board of Directors alongside Tim Barnett.

Other Tributes to Tim’s Legacy