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Inside NRDC
Photo of John H. Adams

The Changing of the Guard

On January 1, 2006, I will step down from my position as president of this extraordinary organization. I have been planning this moment for several years, so you can be sure it will be a happy one for me. After 35 years at the helm, I could leave no greater legacy than to have helped groom our next president, Frances Beinecke.

NRDC is my life's work. I helped build it from the ground up, starting in 1970. Back then there were only a handful of us, nobody was paid, and we had to salvage old desks to furnish our tiny office. Much has changed since -- and much has remained the same. Our commitment to the protection of our environment and human health has never wavered. And I still have the same desk. But our group of friends and supporters has grown bigger and more effective than we ever dreamed.

We have achieved incredible things against all odds. NRDC was instrumental in removing lead from gasoline and forging international treaties to protect the ozone layer and ban nuclear testing. Two years ago, our legal team stopped the U.S. Navy from establishing a global low-frequency sonar system that would have threatened the well-being of whales and other marine mammals. In every instance we defied the skeptics. We did so by staying true to our values and maintaining our resolve. As we look to the future, we need a leader who will carry on that tradition; we need a leader with exceptional character and determination. In Frances Beinecke we have one.

I will be passing the torch to Frances with great confidence. She grew up here at NRDC. Fresh out of graduate school with a master's degree in environmental studies, she immediately, and effectively, threw herself into protecting our coastal areas from onshore development and the impacts of offshore oil and gas extraction. She left for a few years to serve as chair of the board at the Wilderness Society, but we lured her back in 1990, and in 1998, she took on the role of executive director. Since then, the organization's budget has doubled and we have amassed a team of more than one million members and online activists. On her watch the BioGems campaign, Capitol Hill advocacy, and media outreach have become some of our most effective tools.

I have been asked to continue my work at NRDC as an adviser to Frances and the board, focusing my energy on global warming and on land issues such as ending the clearcutting of the great hardwood forests of the Southeast and protecting the Catskill region of New York, where I grew up. I also plan to work hard to raise the capital reserves we need to sustain our efforts in these challenging times. To do so, we need to expand into uncharted territory. We need to find common ground and forge friendships with new allies -- sportsmen, ranchers, religious leaders, and others. We need to transform the marketplace to reward energy efficiency and sustainable innovation. And with the help of our members, we must unleash the power of citizen action to make real progress on these critical issues -- global warming, above all.

With these tasks before us, I am honored to be a part of ushering in a talented, younger leader while we are at our strongest. I look forward to this new phase of commitment to NRDC and to working with the legions of dedicated members who share our vision of a healthy, sustainable future.

John H. Adams

Also Inside NRDC

Photo: Peter Ross

OnEarth. Summer 2005
Copyright 2005 by the Natural Resources Defense Council