Saratoga Springs

Conservationist of the Year: Saratoga Springs resident Barbara Linell Glaser

Saratoga Springs resident Barbara Glaser, 71, recently named by the  Adirondack Council as Conservationist of the Year, is pictured at her home on Friday.
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Saratoga Springs resident Barbara Glaser, 71, recently named by the  Adirondack Council as Conservationist of the Year, is pictured at her home on Friday.

Longtime Saratoga Springs resident Barbara Linell Glaser has dedicated her life to three major causes: environmental conservation, historic preservation, and the expansion of palliative care. 

Glaser was recognized last week for her work in the area of environmental conservation when she was named the Adirondack Conservationist of the Year by the Adirondack Council. 

The Council Board and Staff come together each year to select a recipient who has had the greatest positive impact on the Adirondacks, according to John Sheehan, director of communications at the Adirondack Council.

“Barbara is extremely well-informed about environmental issues, tries to take a leadership role in solving the ones she sees as within her grasp, and has done a lot to help build the capacity of organizations in the Adirondacks,” said Sheehan. 

Glaser got her start in environmental advocacy in her mid-20s, when she moved from Minnesota to the Adirondacks to run a small conference center with her first husband. This led to them acquiring Sagamore – the old Vanderbilt estate – which they rescued and transformed into the Great Camp Sagamore. As she rose to prominence for restoring Sagamore, and turning it into an important cultural center, Glaser was asked to join the board of the Adirondack Council. 

“I grew up in Minnesota and grew up going to the North Shore of Lake Superior, going fishing with my dad, canoeing in the Boundary Waters, so I always loved the land,” Glaser said during a recent interview.

During her 25 years on the Board, and three years as chair of the Adirondack Council (1989-1991), Glaser raised awareness about air pollution and acid rain, which eventually led to the approval of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. She fought off efforts by local groups protesting zoning and environmental regulations, and expanded membership in the Council from a few thousand to over 10,000, spread across the Northeast. 

Arguably the biggest legacy Glaser left on the Council, though, was her creation of the Clarence Petty Internship Program, in honor of her close friend and fellow conservationist Clarence Petty. Glaser learned that the work of preserving the Adirondacks would take more than one generation, and she wanted to provide young professionals with the opportunity to have real experiences in environmental advocacy and protection. 

“I thought this could be my unique contribution to the field. To do what I could to create opportunities to provide those internship experiences,” she said. 

Over 70 young conservationists have gone through the paid Clarence Petty Internship Program since its founding in 2002. Glaser also established an internship program with Clarence Petty at the Nature Conservancy, and a program with Clarence’s son, Ed Petty, at the Adirondack Land Trust. 

In addition to her impact on the Adirondack Park, Glaser has had a lasting influence in Saratoga County. She helped found the regional land trust Saratoga PLAN in 2003, which aims to preserve the “rural character, natural habitats, and scenic beauty of the Saratoga County region.”

“Barbara Glaser exemplifies the spirit of conservation, of the Earth, of community-building, of giving, caring, and sharing. She is a brilliant strategist who not only personally persists for the long haul to make this world a better place, but who sets the stage for sustainability by fostering leadership within the next generations of conservationists,” said Maria Trabka, the executive director of Saratoga PLAN. 

Glaser was also a founding member of the Pitney Meadows Community Farm, which was created in 2016, and has grown 20,000 pounds of food for local pantries, food kitchens, and shelters. 

“Barbara Glaser played a crucial role for the Pitney Meadows Community Farm to be conserved and continues to inspire others to celebrate, appreciate, and protect our open space,” said Lynn Trizna, executive director of Pitney Meadows. 

Looking back on her years of work for the conservation of both the Adirondack Park and Saratoga County, Glaser said she has learned the importance of involving all generations in environmental advocacy.

“I want [the next generation] to have experiences in nature over time with people who care, so that they have a deep understanding of and appreciation for the natural world, and will help do what needs to be done to make sure we have a living planet,” she said. 

Glaser will be presented with the Conservationist of the Year Award on July 9 at the virtual Adirondack Council membership meeting.

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