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GLIN==> bruce kershner of buffalo, new york



Dear all,

The following message was sent to the list yesterday but does not seem to have posted, perhaps because it had attachments. Those attachments are not included on this version. Write me if you wish to receive them.

Reg Gilbert


Dear all,


Some people on this list might want to know that Bruce Kershner, a tireless advocate for New York state's special places and a former colleague here at Great Lakes United, passed away Friday.

This is not the person with a similar name connected to the International Joint Commission.

Bruce died of cancer at just 56. Attached are items about Bruce printed in the Buffalo News.

Bruce died as he lived. His obituary does double duty as an organizing tool for an ongoing campaign. Bruce had long worked to enhance the weak protection afforded what is arguably Western New York's greatest ecological treasure, a state park known as Zoar Valley. As it happens, the state approved a plan to better protect the park just days before Bruce died. However, Bruce's obituary reads, " 'But he argued this was only half of what he wanted and the fight will continue,' his son said Saturday, recalling the conversation with his father."

Bruce's obituary accurately depicts him as an indefatigable advocate for protecting special places. Perhaps it does not make as clear important aspects of Bruce's organizing approach, one more of us in the Great Lakes environmental movement might profitably adopt in some form.

First, Bruce could be called a first responder. He set himself up as a center for new information on special places and the threats to them.

For at least two decades Bruce and a band of close associates widely solicited and personally confirmed reports of unmapped old growth and ancient forest throughout Western New York. This data, extremely time consuming to amass, was the basis for numerous subsequent protection campaigns and doubtless many to come. In a similar vein, Bruce was often a high-decibel megaphone for early reports that special places might be under threat from private development or poor government management. Just a year ago Bruce managed to save some one-of-a-kind Lake Erie dunes because he sounded the alarm early and persistently.

Second, Bruce was committed to maximizing public involvement in nature and thereby in nature's protection.

Bruce unceasingly arranged and guided tours to the places he wanted protected. This was an organizing theory -- in the end only the public can protect the environment, and the public won't protect what it doesn't value -- but it was also a philosophical principle: nature should not be reserved for the environmental cognoscenti; its liberating powers should be tapped by all.

Like any good advocate, Bruce was in effect a public relations expert. One of his favorite devices in this capacity was the detection of the unique, that is, the oldest, largest, tallest, first, or "only," as in "only known example of" or "last remaining." Examples of the unique are easier to come up with than one might imagine. Many things are unique in the right frame of reference. For example, perhaps a certain place should be protected because it hosts the oldest tree in, say, the township. I may have the following story a little skewed, but once while at Great Lakes United Bruce decided we needed to have on hand a list of unique things about the Great Lakes. He ended up finding out that there is a lake on Manitoulin Island (here is where the details get dubious) in which there is a small island, which in turn has another small lake (which at that point probably is more of a pond). Anyway, according to Bruce (I think this is how it ended up), this makes Lake Huron the only major lake in the world to have an island with a lake with an island with a lake -- or something like that. And that is yet another reason why you should stop dumping toxic chemicals into the Great Lakes . . .

As these messages about our friends passing away rightly always say, Bruce will be missed. Bruce's mother, wife, brother, and two children will miss him grievously. It is hard when any person dies, but perhaps especially hard when it is a person who devoted nearly all his life to serving his community. Bruce had another thirty years of activism in him, and there is no question he would have worked them all for his special places, and for the people, living and not yet living, he thought should be able and empowered to visit them.

Reg Gilbert


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