Katahdin Woods and
Waters National Monument
Instructor: Ken Olson
Thursday • 9/17/20 • 11:00 AM-12:30 PM
Class size 5-24 students
24 seats remaining
Learn about Maine’s new, battled-over National Monument which, like Baxter Park and Acadia, sprang full-blown from private philanthropy, a term meaning “love of humankind in general.”Classroom
Ken Olsen retired in 2006 from a three-decade conservation career that included twenty years as chief executive of three nonprofit corporations, running black budgets every year.
His fulltime charitable work began in 1971 when, at 25, he became the youngest person ever to direct the Appalachian Mountain Club’s combined Hut System, Pinkham Notch Camp, Saco River campgrounds and, temporarily, its trail crew.
Ken later became publisher and editor-in-chief of AMC books, maps, and magazines, including Appalachia. His own books include New England’s White Mountains: At Home in the Wild, co-authored by Brooks Atkinson, edited by David Brower, plus two collaborations with photographer Tom Blagden, Jr., about Acadia National Park. Ken’s opinion pieces have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, L.A. Times and elsewhere.
His first CEO assignment was as Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy of Connecticut (1980-1986), where his colleagues conferred on him a Juris Doctor Ersatz degree for practicing real estate law without a license.* He served as President of American Rivers, the nation’s principal river conservation organization and became Director of Special Projects at The Conservation Fund, in Arlington, Virginia, headed by former Nature Conservancy President Pat Noonan.
In 1995, Olson was named President and CEO of Friends of Acadia, Bar Harbor, Maine, which raises philanthropic dollars for the namesake park. Volunteers and he led a $13-million campaign that established the first privately endowed trail system in national park history. The $5-million lead gift was the largest to a Maine conservation organization. Maine Coast Heritage Trust declared Ken’s head a legally “protected property” and placed an easement on it, permanently conserving him in his “forever wild condition.”*
Organizations he led earned recognitions including The Nature Conservancy Best Chapter Award, Eastern Region, and Maine Transit Association’s first Friends of Transit Award, for “energetic and imaginative support” of the propane bus system that began serving Acadia in 1999 and garnered EPA’s Clean Air Excellence Award. Earlier, EPA gave Ken its highest grassroots honor, the Environmental Merit Award, for helping Congress establish Connecticut’s McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, first on the northeast coast in a decade.
In 2006, National Park Service Director Fran Mainella honored Ken with a Certificate of Appreciation for “exceptional leadership of Friends of Acadia [and] many significant achievements in the field of conservation [that] have greatly benefited the… Park Service and Acadia National Park.” He was named an Honorary Park Ranger by Acadia National Park, received a Resolution by Acclamation from the congressionally established Acadia Commission, and was given a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
Ken holds a graduate degree from Yale in natural resources management and, in 2005, was awarded an honorary degree from College of the Atlantic for “outstanding contributions to human ecology.”
Ken Olsen retired in 2006 from a 3-decade conservation career that included 20 years as chief executive of 3 nonprofit corporations: The Nature Conservancy of Connecticut, American Rivers, and Friends of Acadia.
After college at Yale, Ken’s first charitable work began in 1971 at age 25 when he became the youngest person ever to direct the Appalachian Mountain Club’s combined Hut System, Pinkham Notch Camp, Saco River campgrounds. He was publisher and editor-in-chief of many AMC books, maps, magazines (including Appalachia), and published many of his own books and articles. Ken has been recognized for many environmental contributions from the Maine Transit propane bus system to the EPA’s Clean Air Excellence Award to establishing Connecticut’s McKinney National Wildlife Refuge. In 2005, Ken was awarded an honorary degree from College of the Atlantic for “outstanding contributions to human ecology.” In 2006, Ken was honored for exceptional leadership of Friends of Acadia and named an Honorary Park Ranger and given a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
Ken Olson, retired President and CEO of Friends of Acadia (Bar Harbor), was Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy of Connecticut, President of American Rivers (Washington, DC), Director of Special Projects at The Conservation Fund (Arlington, VA) and, early in his career, head of the Appalachian Mountain Club Hut System in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. In 2005 he received Lifetime Achievement Award from the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Ken holds degrees from the University of Maine and Yale and in 2006 was awarded an honorary degree from College of the Atlantic for “outstanding contributions to human ecology.” He lives in Bass Harbor.