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Peter A.A. Berle

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STOCKBRIDGE -- Peter A.A. Berle, 69, of 2 Sky Farm Road died Thursday

Born on , son of , he was an environmentalist, public servant, lawyer and farmer who served the national, regional and local communities in a number of leadership capacities over the last 50 years. Most recently, he wrote and hosted environmental programming for public radio and television. For years, he hosted the "Environment Show" on WAMC/ Northeast Public Radio, and later in life provided commentary for the show, which was broadcast weekly.

He was president and CEO of the National Audubon Society from 1985 to 1995 and went on to serve as a director of the New York Independent System Operator, which runs the state's electricity market and transmission system. At the same time, he was the president of the Stockbridge Land Trust, director of the Orion Society and a trustee and former chairman of the Century Foundation.

Mr. Berle spent his childhood in New York City and Great Barrington , and attended Friends Seminary School in Manhattan. He graduated from Harvard College in 1958 with a degree in economics and as an Air Force ROTC candidate. He then served three years in South East Asia as an Air Force intelligence officer and parachutist and was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal.

Upon returning to the United States, he attended Harvard Law School, graduating in 1964. He was then hired as a junior lawyer by Paul, Weiss, Rifkind and Garrison in New York City.

He was a three-term New York state assemblyman, serving from 1968 to 1974, and was appointed commissioner of the conservation department in 1976 by then Gov. Hugh Carey. His district extended from 60th street to 125th street. During that time he was a champion for the rights of underprivileged constituents, and wrote the book "Does the Citizen Stand a Chance?" which continues to be used in political science classrooms today.

He was the ranking member of the Committee on Environmental Conservation.

As a freshman assemblyman he successfully sued then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller over budgetary process issues. In 1971, he was a founder of Berle, Butzel, & Kass, the first law firm in the United States specializing exclusively in environmental law. Some years later, the firm was recognized as one of the top-10 small law firms in the country.

From 1976 to 1979, Berle was the New York State Commissioner of Environmental Conservation under Gov. Hugh Carey. During his tenure, action was taken against the General Electric Company for discharge of PCBs into the Hudson River. Also on his watch, the Love Canal toxic waste site at Niagara Falls was identified and remediation initiated. During this time, his agency was responsible for readying and running the 1980 Lake Placid Olympic venues.

After returning to private law practice for a few years, Berle served as President and CEO of the National Audubon Society and as publisher of Audubon Magazine from 1985 to 1995. During his tenure, he spearheaded initiatives to prevent oil drilling in the Alaska Arctic Wildlife Refuge. He also argued before the Supreme Court to support responsible handling of water issues along the great rivers in the Midwest. Under his leadership Audubon House on lower Broadway in Manhattan was transformed from an empty warehouse into a National Headquarters and was the first all-green building in the city.

He also served on numerous USEPA advisory committees and chaired the New York State Commission on the Adirondack Park in the 21st century.

Appointed by former President William J. Clinton, he was one of the five U.S. members of the Joint Public Advisory Committee, a constituent part of the Commission on Environmental Cooperation under the North American Free Trade Agreement. He held that position from 1993 to 2002.

Mr. Berle leaves his wife, the former Lila W. Wilde, whom he married May 30, 1960; two sons, Dolf A. Berle of Pasadena, Calif., and Robert T. Berle of Charleston, S.C.; two daughters, Mary A. Berle of Stockbridge and Beatrice L. Berle of Hoosick, N.Y.; a sister, Beatrice Meyerson of Washington, D.C.; and 13 grandchildren

FUNERAL NOTICE -- A memorial service for Peter A.A. Berle of Stockbridge, who died Thursday, Nov. 1, 2007, will be conducted Saturday, Nov. 10 at 11 a.m. at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Stockbridge by the Rev. Thomas H. Damrosch, rector. He will be assisted by the Rev. Mark H. Hatch, interim rector of St. James' Episcopal Church in Great Barrington. In lieu of flowers, friends and supporters are encouraged to make donations to the Stockbridge Land Trust and/or the National Audubon Society. Donations may be sent to the KELLY FUNERAL HOME, 3 Main St., Lee, MA 01238. Mr. Berle leaves his four children: Dolf Berle is the president of Lucky Strike Entertainment in Los Angeles; Mary Berle is a member of the faculty at Muddy Brook Elementary School and develops materials nationwide for teaching mathematics; Beatrice Berle runs Berle Farm an organic farm in Hoosick, N.Y.; and Robert Berle is an entrepreneur who develops and restores historic houses in Charleston, S.C. and Stockbridge. Peter and Lila Berle have 13 grandchildren. His family celebrates and remembers him as a man of unshakable character. Among his passions were being outdoors, teaching children at St. Paul's Church in Stockbridge to ring the Church Bell after services and sharing his two antique fire trucks with the community. His beloved grandchildren include Dahlia, Louisa, David, Thomas, Rye, Baxter, Lila, Peter, Adeline, Miriam, Eliza, Beatrice and Oliver.

Published in The Berkshire Eagle on Jan. 1, 1900
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