Catskill Center founder Sherret Chase dies at 102

(Photo by Heather Phelps-Lipton)

Catskill Center for Conservation and Development founder Sherret Spaulding Chase died Monday, June 7 at his home in the Town of Olive, surrounded by his family. He was 102.

Chase founded the Catskill Center in 1969 with the dual mission of protecting the environment while spurring the region’s economy.

“The Catskill Center will take on the mantle of Sherret’s advocacy and try to make him proud,” said Jeff Senterman, executive director of the Catskill Center. “His unparalleled advocacy for the Catskills continued until the very end of his life, and he believed, as we do now, in the benefit of collaboration among the region’s stakeholders. While a Catskills region without Sherret Chase seems unimaginable, and he is inextricably linked to the Catskill Forest Preserve, the Catskill Center will carry on with his goals of conservation and development. Right now, our thoughts are with his family.”


In his biography from the Catskill Center’s 50th Anniversary publication in 2019, Natural Resources: 50 Stewards of the Catskills, Chase said the ideas of conservation and development may have seemed antithetical to some. He said the goal was to use the two principles together to protect against “mis-development” of the pristine Catskill region.

“Sherret Chase’s vision helped to significantly protect and enrich the Catskill Mountains,” said Margaret DiBenedetto, President of the Catskill Center Board of Directors.” The Catskill Center for Conservation and Development is one of Sherret’s many legacies, and will endure as long as there are people who live among and enjoy these mountains. On behalf of the Board of Directors, our hearts go out to the family and are heavy with his loss, but are light with the memories we have of his insightful leadership and gracious friendship.”

Sherret’s daughter, Helen K. Chase, serves as vice chair of the Catskill Center’s Board of Directors.

Prior to founding the Catskill Center, Sherret Chase performed groundbreaking work in plant breeding, including in corn genetics. He earned an undergraduate botany degree from Yale University, a doctorate in genetics from Cornell University, and was awarded a fellowship at Harvard University in the area of forestry. Sherret received numerous honorary degrees and awards.

Sherret Chase was born June 30, 1918 in Toledo, Ohio son of the late Clement E. and Helen Mar Kelsey Chase. He was predeceased by his wife Catherine November 2, 2012.