Adam Kolton, 53, Dies; Led Battle to Shield Alaskan Refuge

Adam Kolton, an environmentalist and longtime defender of the Arctic Nationwide Wildlife Refuge in Alaska in opposition to oil and fuel growth, died on April 26 at a hospital in Bethesda, Md. He was 53 and lived in Bethesda.

The trigger was most cancers, his spouse, Laura, stated.

By means of his work with two Washington, D.C.-based conservation teams, the Alaska Wilderness League and the Nationwide Wildlife Federation, Mr. Kolton was on the forefront of the struggle to guard the refuge, a pristine wilderness the dimensions of South Carolina that has lengthy been prized by oil firms and Alaska lawmakers.

A part of the refuge alongside the Arctic Ocean — a coastal plain frequented by polar bears, migrating caribou and different wildlife — is believed to lie over billions of barrels of oil.

Over time, Mr. Kolton pursued his purpose with members of Congress and White Home officers of each events. In frequent visits to Alaska, he additionally labored with Native teams, together with the Gwich’in, who reside close to the refuge.

“He was the mastermind of the technique for Arctic protection for 20 years,” stated Collin O’Mara, president of the Nationwide Wildlife Federation, the place Mr. Kolton labored from 2002 to 2017. “His fingerprints had been on every part.”

The Alaska Wilderness League employed Mr. Kolton in 1997, and a number of other years later helped beat again efforts by congressional Republicans, supported by the administration of President George W. Bush, to permit exploratory drilling for oil and fuel within the coastal plain.

At one level Republicans tried to insert a drilling provision right into a finances invoice. That went nowhere as a result of some average Republicans favored preserving the refuge protected.

Mr. Kolton remained cautious, involved that Republicans would possibly attempt “sneaking” a provision into different laws, as he informed The New York Occasions. “There are sadly quite a few methods they may attempt to defy the need of the American individuals,” he stated.

Adam Michael Kolton was born on Feb. 20, 1968, in Chicago and raised in Westfield, N.J., the place his mom, Carol (Abt) Kolton, was a social employee and his father, Chet Kolton, was president of a plastics and packaging producer. Adam graduated from the College of Wisconsin, majoring in historical past and journalism.

Along with his spouse, he’s survived by his mother and father; a sister, Lisa Kolton; and two sons, Samuel and Jacob.

It was throughout a summer season in faculty that Mr. Kolton first developed a love for the outside, when he took a job as a busboy at a lodge in Yellowstone Nationwide Park. He later wrote that whereas he had disliked the work, “the reward was with the ability to take practically three days off every week to expertise this mesmerizing panorama, its wildlife, geothermal options and extra.”

His first brush with Congress, nonetheless, concerned baseball, not the atmosphere. A rabid fan of the New York Mets since boyhood, and alarmed by the excessive price of watching video games, within the early Nineteen Nineties he and a good friend shaped what he boldly described as “the most important nonprofit fan advocacy group within the nation.” (Which was correct, though it had solely 3,000 members.)

Then got here the 1994 baseball strike and a canceled season. Mr. Kolton was invited to testify at a Home listening to on revoking baseball’s longstanding exemption from antitrust legal guidelines, which he seen as a “large permission slip” to let group house owners deal with followers with disdain.

Sitting with different witnesses, together with Bud Selig, the baseball commissioner, Mr. Kolton informed the Home panel that it was irritating to consistently hear that the exemption was a matter of significance solely to house owners and gamers. “Mr. Chairman,” he intoned, with a confidence belying his younger age, “this can be a public coverage situation of overwhelming concern to the American individuals.”

Inside a number of years the Arctic refuge, and defending it, turned his obsession. In a 2001 article in The Occasions saying their marriage ceremony, Ms. Kolton described her first encounter with the person who would turn out to be her husband, at a New Yr’s Eve celebration in New York three years earlier than.

“We began speaking politics, and he gave me his finest pitch on the necessity to shield the Arctic Nationwide Wildlife Refuge,” Ms. Kolton informed The Occasions. He talked about some laws, and though she wasn’t acquainted with it, she “performed alongside as a result of I assumed he was cute.”

Mr. Kolton left the Wilderness League in 2002 for the Nationwide Wildlife Federation and finally turned its vp for nationwide advocacy. Along with the refuge, he labored on defending public lands elsewhere, on reforming the insurance policies of the Military Corps of Engineers and different points.

He returned to the Wilderness League, as govt director, in 2017 — in time to see his 2001 issues about “sneaking” a drilling provision into laws turn out to be actuality. Republicans, backed by President Donald J. Trump’s administration, included in Congress’s sweeping 2017 tax invoice language establishing a program to promote oil and fuel leases on the coastal plain. The laws handed each chambers.

Mr. Kolton knew that “the politics of the Arctic are so precarious,” stated Tom Campion, a longtime Wilderness League board member. “You’ve received to win each time. You lose as soon as and it’s over.”

Though this time it wasn’t fairly over. Ever the optimist, Mr. Kolton, together with different environmentalists, saved up the struggle. The Wilderness League was one among quite a lot of teams that sued the Trump administration, arguing that environmental critiques of the influence of a lease sale had been rushed and defective. And Mr. Kolton was instrumental in creating a brand new technique to hold drilling rigs out of the refuge, Mr. Mara stated, by pressuring banks to not lend cash to grease firms for initiatives there.

A lease sale was finally held within the waning days of the Trump White Home. However with many authorized questions concerning the course of nonetheless unresolved, and President Biden against drilling within the refuge, the realm stays off limits to the rigs for now.

Consultant Jared Huffman, a California Democrat who has led a lot of the congressional opposition to growth within the refuge, stated Mr. Kolton had “understood that defending the refuge concerned the total suite of instruments, together with public opinion and advocacy in Congress and within the courts.

“His considerate and relentless work,” he stated, “is an enormous motive why, regardless of countless stress to open up these areas to grease and fuel growth, it hasn’t occurred but.”

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