Gift of Art Glowka Papers Expands Archives & Special Collections' Environmental History Holdings

POUGHKEEPSIE (April 15, 2014) – The Marist Archives & Special Collections recently received the personal papers of Art Glowka, a founding member of the Hudson River Fisherman’s Association. The collection, a gift of the Glowka family, provides a deeper look at the vital role HRFA, which later became Riverkeeper, played in the development of the modern environmental movement here in the Hudson River Valley.

“The Art Glowka Papers offer researchers a remarkable opportunity to see the profound impact one individual had on the modern environmental movement,” said John Ansley, head of archives and special collections in the James A. Cannavino Library. “Art Glowka was a founding member of the Hudson River Fisherman's Association, which played a pivotal role in the landmark law case known as the Scenic Hudson Decision. As a citizen-scientist he made significant discoveries to help improve the water quality on the Long Island sound. We are delighted to have the Glowka Papers at Marist, the collection will greatly increase our knowledge of environmental history in New York.”

Art Glowka

The gift was made on the first anniversary of Glowka’s death in March 2013, and it makes for a substantial contribution to the College’s award-winning Environmental History Collections, which include the Scenic Hudson Collection related to the seminal Storm King case and the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc. Collection, among many others. The Glowka Papers will be available to researchers by the end of the year in the Marist College Archives and Special Collections. Portions of the collection will be digitized for ease of access.

“The significance of my father’s papers is more than simply historical,” said Lyle Glowka. “He was working right up until his death, and the processes on Western Long Island Sound in which he was in engaged continue. His papers, particularly his correspondence with public agencies, offer the environmental community a unique window into his thinking and a rich intellectual resource that can be used to restore the biological integrity of Western Long Island Sound.”  

Art Glowka and the birth of the Hudson River Fisherman's Association

Born in 1931, Art Glowka was a U.S. naval aviator, captain for Eastern Airlines, commercial diver, outdoor writer, avid fisherman, and a passionate, outspoken citizen scientist and environmental advocate for the biological integrity of the Hudson River and Long Island Sound for over 50 years.

He wrote countless articles for outdoor magazines and newspapers on the fish of Westchester, Connecticut, and New York City. In the early 1960s, Glowka began to unite with local sportsmen to combat threats to the Hudson’s fish populations. They started to advocate against the fish kills of the new Indian Point Nuclear Facility, the proposed Storm King Mountain pumped storage facility, and the indiscriminate dumping of waste by municipalities and industry.

Glowka PapersBy early 1966, Glowka and seven others formed the Hudson River Fisherman’s Association (HRFA). They resurrected the Federal Refuse Act of 1899 and introduced the special, Hudson River style, roll-up-your-sleeves brand of aggressive environmentalism that was later emulated all over the nation, winning a series of legal victories that formed the basis for the modern U.S. environmental movement.

The HRFA evolved into Riverkeeper in 1986, with Glowka as a founding director. He advised the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and served between 1976-1989 as a member of the New York State Advisory Committee on Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) for the Upper Hudson River.

In the 1970s Glowka began to turn his attention to Western Long Island Sound. He chaired the Oceanic Society’s Long Island Sound Task Force, and later became a founding director of its successor, Save the Sound. He lent his energy to those setting-up Soundkeeper and Soundwaters. For over 15 years until his death he was Chairman of the Stamford Shellfish Commission.

By the mid-1980s, stricter water pollution control measures on sewage treatment plants were enacted to limit nitrogen and improve water quality to rectify low oxygen levels (hypoxia) in the Western Long Island Sound. However, despite these measures Glowka began to see the Sound’s fish populations tapering off. In 1992 he began to compile detailed observations from fishermen of what they were catching to document the downward trend. Always a voracious reader of scientific papers and government reports, Glowka questioned water quality management concepts and models and challenged the policies upon which they were based. Through research and clever fieldwork for example he re-created a 1906 study and showed that improvements in East River treatment plants had no impact on water quality in the Western Long Island Sound despite the billions invested by New York City to reduce hypoxia.

Originally an advocate for stricter controls of sewage flows into the Sound, he came to the startling conclusion that the Sound’s biota was starving as the management measures for treatment plants enacted by federal, state and local authorities deprived the system of nitrogen further damaging the Sound’s already altered ecology. Glowka proposed that a sole management goal of chemically clean water for estuaries such as Long Island Sound contradicted the Clean Water Act and could not restore their biological integrity.

Glowka’s long-time work as a citizen scientist and environmental advocate helped shape the modern environmental movement in the New York Metropolitan Area and across the nation. His papers will be a valuable resource for environmental researchers and advocates, and form an important contribution to the on-going policy debates over the health of Long Island Sound and the Hudson River.