Sierra Club Saddened by the Passing of Tom Gilmore, Environmental Champion
Tom Gilmore, former New Jersey Audubon President and CEO, has passed away. Tom worked tirelessly to help pass landmark conservation laws, preserve thousands of acres of open space, and bring people closer to nature. During his 30-year tenure with NJ Audubon, he started the battle to save the Highlands, save horseshoe crabs, red knots, and so much more. Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, released the following statement:
“Our hearts go out to Tom Gilmore’s family and our condolences to all the people who loved him and worked with him. Tom was a true leader and champion in the New Jersey environmental movement. Under Tom, NJ Audubon worked closely with other grassroots organizations. They were closely aligned with the Sierra Club on major issues, especially the Highlands and dealing with sprawl and overdevelopment. Their key push for Highlands protections was to safeguard deep forest canopy cover in order to protect neotropical songbirds and prevent invasive species. It was a very different NJ Audubon back then.
“It was Tom Gilmore who started the movement to protect the Highlands in the mid-‘80s. He was part of the original Skylands Task Force under Governor Kean and helped get the Forest Service to do a Highlands Study in the early ‘90s that led to the strong protection of forests in the Highlands Act. Tom founded the original Highlands Coalition, which I was part of. He worked tirelessly to save horseshoe crabs and red knots, protect the Delaware Bayshore and Newark Watershed, and much more.
“One of the things I admired most about Tom was that he was very principled. He believed that if a group had a position that was weaker than another group, they should do nothing to undermine the stronger position. Being careful not to undercut stronger environmental progress was a key belief of his. Tom tried to push the envelope. He stood up to people and even environmental groups who tried to give green cover to certain political leaders.
“Tom was on the Highlands Task Force and was one of the main people supporting the Fast Track Bill. Instead of going to the bill signing, he came to our protest and spoke against the bill signing. The Fast Track Bill would have weakened environmental protections and pushed through environmental permits almost automatically. Because he spoke at the protest, Governor McGreevey didn’t make him Chair of the Highlands Council. Tom did that because he was a great man and a person of integrity.
“I knew Tom for close to 35 years. He mentored me and helped me get involved in the environmental movement. I was named the NJAS Conservationist of the Year by him in 1994. When the Weis Ecology Center was going to close, he stepped in and helped to keep it open. He gave the community back the pool, which is now the Highlands Natural Pool. Now the original families, including my family, have the original Camp Midvale back. I looked up to him. He was a true environmental champion. When you go through the Highlands, you can see Tom’s hard work. When you see red knots along the Delaware Bayshore, you can see Tom’s legacy. We will cherish his life’s work and continue to protect it.”