Pathologist wins national award

Dr. Ward Stone, New York state’s high-profile wildlife pathologist and a longtime environmental crus

Dr. Ward Stone, New York state’s high-profile wildlife pathologist and a longtime environmental crusader, has received national recognition from the Sierra Club, a leading environmental advocacy group.

The club has named Stone the 2009 winner of its Distinguished Service Award, and has invited him to an awards ceremony in September in San Francisco, where the Sierra Club headquarters is located.

“I’ve gotten a lot of awards over the years, but I think this is the first that is national,” Stone said Monday from his laboratory in Delmar. “I’m really thankful to the Sierra Club.”

Stone, 70, has been the state’s wildlife pathologist for 40 years, involved for decades in investigations that have tracked the impact of human-produced toxins on wildlife and humans, and studying such recent phenomena as bird flu, West Nile disease, and the mysterious disease that has been killing bats.

He has also recently studied the lead content of imported toys and other products, and has taken on others in his own department — the state Department of Environmental Conservation — at times.

“I’ve fought a lot of battles,” Stone said.

“When you get an award like this, that just makes you enthusiastic to do some more,” Stone said. “This encourages me.”

He’s currently fighting the planned expansion of the Albany city landfill in the Pine Bush, even though DEC last week issued a permit for the controversial project.

“Right now, the issue that has been energized is solid waste,” said Stone, who believes that incinerators should be reconsidered for waste that can’t be recycled or reused.

Now that a permit has been issued, the Albany Pine Bush Commission — charged with protecting the environmentally delicate habitat — will be working with the city of Albany on the landfill plan, but even so, its executive director offered praise for Stone.

“This is our wildlife pathologist and this is national recognition,” said Chris Hawver. “He’s done a lot of good work on basic issues of pollutants and the environment.”

Stone appears weekly on a WAMC radio program, “In Our Backyard,” answering questions about the environment.

The Sierra Club cites the radio show as well as the many speeches on environmental issues he has given, including two at the United Nations.

“Dr. Stone’s dedication to wildlife and the environment is evidenced by his reputation as a leading advocate and activist for many important environmental issues throughout his career,” the Sierra Club nomination states. “This commitment, coupled with his willingness to push forward against conflicting corporate and government interests, has garnered him the support and admiration of many of the media, community organizations, and the general public.”

The Sierra Club was founded in 1892 by the noted conservationist and wilderness advocate John Muir. It currently has about 700,000 members, making it one of the nation’s largest environmental advocacy organizations.

Stone said he was thankful to the organization and recalled that it backed him in the 1980s when he was fighting with other DEC officials over whether he had jurisdiction to conduct studies of mercury in the St. Lawrence River.

“It was the Sierra Club that gave me tremendous backing, and I never forgot that,” Stone said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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