We’re saddened by the news that Art Cooley has passed away. Many remember Mr. Cooley from his time as a biology teacher at Bellport High School, where he founded the Students for Environmental Quality. Under Mr. Cooley’s guidance, research by students on the Carmans River ecosystem was turned into a report for the DEC and was instrumental in getting Governor Malcolm Wilson to sign into law a bill that has protected Carmans River from development by putting it under the protection of the Wild, Scenic and Recreation Rivers Act.
Cooley also played a huge role in the environmental movement in the 1960s and 1970s. He was one of several local activists who organized to stop use of the pesticide DDT, a toxin that was threatening survival of birds including the osprey, bald eagle and peregrine falcon. The legal battle led to the banning of DDT in the United States and the formation of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). This led to the nationwide use of science to challenge industry groups in court and helped establish the right of ordinary citizens to sue the government to protect human health and the environment, EDF said in a statement. (Another co-founder was his friend and neighbor, Dennis Puleston, who worked actively on conservation efforts on the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge.)
Finally, as an honorary board member of Friends of Wertheim, we will miss his enthusiasm and charismatic presence.