I have always believed that the initial step in addressing a deep and difficult issue – especially one that is controversial – is recognition: we must first understand that something matters; that it is real; that it affects people’s lives. Without recognition, without an embrace of the importance of an issue, we risk what will likely be at best a display of sturm und drang when we try to talk about it, signifying nothing but ego and personality. Yet despite the sometimes perfunctory dismalness of on-line comments, I am convinced by the experience of writing these columns that the issue of diversity in the park is headed for a substantive future, not just shouting and rhetoric. » Continue Reading.
Posts Tagged ‘economics’
One can always hope. But readers already know this is not the case. Cuomo’s Environmental Conservation Commissioner, Joe Martens, made it explicit when he testified recently to legislative committees “Basically, this is a flat budget staff-wise,” he told legislators who politely questioned why his DEC budget appeared to be cut $43 million.
“Those dollars were non-reoccurring federal pass-through funds,” the commissioner answered. “Those are not cuts to our operating funds.” When questioned about the apparent loss of staff, the commissioner answered that those were DEC information technology personnel moved to a central IT office in Albany. » Continue Reading.
Two weeks ago I posted my initial interview with noted travel writer and blogger Carol Cain. That column set a record for comments here at the Almanack. My own reaction to those comments taken as a whole is that they persuasively demonstrate the need for this conversation (fortunately the off-line discussions that have been spurred by this issue are leading to some productive initiatives… more on that in the future).
Subsequent to my first interview with Carol I asked her a series of of follow-up questions. I share her answers today. These questions were formulated previous to the posting of the first interview, thus not influenced by the tone and content of the comments. However her answers, written after the comments, speak powerfully for themselves.
Over the last few weeks I have been making an argument that socioeconomic and racial diversity is a primary challenge facing the Adirondacks. The core of the argument is that the Adirondack region is becoming ever-more sequestered racially as the rest of New York State rapidly moves towards a non-white majority and this poses problems for the future of the park. This sequestration cuts both ways – the Adirondacks lose and an evolving population that does not have a relevant connection to the park loses too.
So far my argument has been rooted in experience, raising questions of equity and social justice along the way. Proceeding from this experience I would contend that the my core argument is true prima facie – that is it is obvious to anyone with open eyes and a little breadth of experience in the world. » Continue Reading.
It all started in August. The media inquiries about Lake Placid’s Olympic heritage have increased by the day as we get closer to the games in Sochi. Many want photos, or to visit to write or film a news story, and most want to know what impact hosting the games has had on Lake Placid in general.
As communications director for the region’s destination marketing organization, my job is to support our efforts to drive overnight visitation, and implement promotional messaging that is based on research. And through that research, we know that the biggest driver of overnight visitation to Lake Placid and the Adirondacks is outdoor recreation – hiking, paddling, cycling and the like – hands down. However, for a couple of months every four years, I prepare to spend a lot of time responding to the expected influx of Olympic-themed media requests. » Continue Reading.
Last week I wrote a column about my personal experiences on the South Side of Chicago. My purpose was to frame the issues in terms of sequestration: when a region or area is overwhelmingly of one socioeconomic or racial class, it gets cordoned off – literally and figuratively. Other classes know little about it in experience and understanding. Stereotypes predominate. Economic and cultural gaps persist, even widen.
This is a two-way street. An obvious example is the gap in understanding between people who have lived all their lives in hyper-urban areas – say East 55th Street in Cleveland – and people who have lived exclusively in very rural areas – say farm country near the Ohio River. When the only experience of another way of life is popular media, the lack of understanding can be fractious indeed; witness the current divisions in American politics. » Continue Reading.
Over the last couple of weeks I have noticed a substantial increase in reader comments on various posts claiming that environmentalists who are uncompromising about preserving or restoring pristine wilderness are absolutists, because there is no such thing in the Adirondacks.
The idea of pristine wilderness, they say, is an elitist fantasy. The real-world approach, they suggest, is some common sense pragmatism. When we don’t take that approach, residents suffer, recreationalists suffer, the economy suffers – in short, people suffer. » Continue Reading.
Recently, Pete Nelson opened a conversation on a social level many of us have been thinking about and working on a professional level. This conversation about the challenges facing a park whose population of residents and visitors does not reflect the shifting demographics of our larger society is keenly felt in the conservation, education and resource management professions. There is a famous quote, paraphrased, that says you will only commit yourself to what you know and love, and you will only come to know and love that which you feel is relevant to your life.
So the question Peter opened for conversation – and if you check out the comments on his January 11th post you will see he stimulated quite a conversation – is how do we make the Adirondacks more relevant in the lives of those who do not currently find it so. » Continue Reading.
Last week I began a series arguing that racial and socioeconomic diversity is the number one issue facing the Adirondacks. My multi-part argument is sustained in part by overwhelming demographics that I will be presenting soon. But there is a deeper moral and cultural dynamic to my argument far more important than statistics. I need to get to it first or the rest of the argument will suffer a lack of meaning. As always, I’ll try to accomplish that with a story. » Continue Reading.
About a month ago I crafted a little poll for readers to take. The purpose of the poll was to test a hunch: that of all the issues affecting the future of the Adirondack region, the one I happen to think is most important goes all but unrecognized. So I wrote descriptions of the ten issues I had selected, trying not to tip my hand or show bias, and released the poll. The results, while interesting in their own rite, validated my hunch even more than I had expected.
Here is your ranking, the aggregate of more than 150 responses (some of you may notice that the results are different than published by me three weeks ago – additional responses broke the three-way tie for third place) :
It’s state budget time, and the members of regional advisory committees on open space conservation from the Adirondacks to Niagara and Long Island will be watching that fraction of one percent of the state budget called the Environmental Protection Fund. Will the EPF continue to recover from the recessionary influenza it caught in 2009?
New York State’s extraordinary three million acre Forest Preserve in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, and its extensive State Park and Historic area system (330,000 acres) outside of these Parks are two big reasons why the state has been a national leader in conserving forests and open space since the 19th century.
Another is nearly million acres conserved through the use of conservation easements on private lands. The EPF and spending from the 1996 $1.75 billion Clean Water/Air Bond Act (expended years ago) has funded this growth: 85% growth in conservation easements since 1992, 5% growth in the Forest Preserve during that time span. » Continue Reading.
I have often said that I am blessed because I get paid to do something I love. And I often put in more hours in my week than I get paid for in my pay check, but it is a balance. I also for the most part set my own schedule. Of course we have set office hours, and I have a desk and a chair I am supposed to be in during the work week. But I also have meetings and consultations outside those office walls. Because of my job, I have gotten to travel to places I probably wouldn’t have gone on my own. Have seen and experienced places I would not have done if I hadn’t had the job I do.
At the end of the day, I am fairly certain that I am paid for the work I do and the contributions I have made to my organization and community I live and work in. So it is rather distressing when many of the people I work with (yep I am talking about farmers) don’t feel they are paid or even that their customers could pay them what they are worth. So they end up settling for what they feel customers can afford, or that customers expect to pay. For someone who is trying to inspire farmers to raise good quality products for their customers that they as farmers can be proud of raising, growing or making, it is disheartening to hear the heavy sighs followed by such statements.
» Continue Reading.
Thank you readers! The results of my little poll exceeded my expectations. I received nearly 150 responses, a great number.
Let me remind you that this poll was intended to be neither scientific nor comprehensive. It was designed by me to see if the results would highlight what I think is a hidden issue concerning the future of the Adirondack Park. It did that for sure, but it also provided other insights.
Here is how the issues fell out, ranked by weighted average:
When it comes to major issues that impact the future of the Adirondacks this year has been one of the most event-filled in decades. From the ongoing Adirondack Club and Resort debate and the orbiting cluster of questions related to private land use to the continuing economic wins for the North Country, the recent constitutional amendments and the classification of the Finch Pruyn lands, this has been a pivotal time.
My reading of recent events is that most of the news is good news for the park. It seems to me that stakeholders in the Adirondacks are responding to the challenges we face with concrete initiatives that are making a difference but also with a sense of intelligence: people are thinking a lot about matters in the park and there seems to be a higher level of general understanding of these challenges than in years past. » Continue Reading.
My last column in this APA series was a proposed new land use policy organized around a consensus-driven process with a development plan and ecological assessment as the primary inputs and a design that maximizes both ecological protection and the profitability of the project as the desired output. I expected a number of less-than-receptive comments but instead I received a lot of good ones including some questions and challenges that I hope are at least partly answered this week. » Continue Reading.
Get out your torches and pitchforks, kids. Here comes a nice fat target to shoot at. I’m going to propose an updated land use policy and permitting process for the Adirondack Park Agency. I’m not going to go into a detailed explanation of it since I imagine that I will have ample opportunity to do that in response to the numerous comments I hope to receive.
Consider this a straw man that you can light on fire or eviscerate as desired. I don’t suggest for a moment that I have the one best answer or anything remotely definitive. But I aim to have something to talk about which I can defend on the basis laid out in the two previous commentaries in this series: common ground exists to a far greater extent than the usual rhetoric would have you believe and we waste time, effort and good will by playing politics when reasoned discussion and a rational process can get us to consensus far more often than not. So be ready, because I’m going to come back at any and all objections with direct challenges. » Continue Reading.
As I began to think about my series on the Adirondack Park Agency, my discussions with people elicited a wide variety of comments. My topic over the next two weeks, land use policy, generated some skepticism from people who have been around the proverbial block on this issue. “If you want to be buried in angry commentary, write about zoning,” went one. “Private land use is the third rail of Adirondack politics,” went another. These sentiments are not news to anyone.
But there are other comments I have heard over the last month. Here’s one: “I’m not opposed to development; I’m opposed to pollution. Development is development, pollution is pollution.” That quote, from the Strengthening the APA Conference held at the end of September came from an environmental advocate some would consider strongly anti-development. Then there’s this: “Policies that protect the most appealing and beautiful parts of the land we’re developing, like clustering, make sense to me. I want strong land value.” That one is from a developer and contractor in the park, said to me over coffee a few weeks ago. Or how about these vicious salvos (paraphrased as I didn’t write down the exact words): “We should always be doing that sort of thing” (conservation design) and “I never understood why the APA allows houses that big to be built; there should be a restriction on size.” Those two are from a real estate developer and realtor I know. » Continue Reading.
This summer, a Canadian company called Scotia Investments has been auctioning off parts of the old Newton Falls Paper Mill in the northwestern Adirondacks. It’s the latest painful chapter for a region of the Adirondack Park that has fought for years to maintain its old industrial economy.“It’s tough, it’s really tough,” said Sherman Craig, an Adirondack Park Agency commissioner who owns a woodworking shop in Newton Falls and lives in nearby Wanakena. “After they cut up the paper-making equipment, it’s just a shell.”
Craig joined a half-dozen men in late July in the lobby of the mill’s mostly empty main headquarters for a public auction of roughly four thousand acres of timberland owned by Scotia. The company has declined to say whether the property found a buyer. That means more uncertainty for Terrance Roberts of Canton, president of the Trail’s End hunting club on paper-mill land for decades. “It’s a heartbreak,” he said. “My brother worked here for thirty-something years.” » Continue Reading.
I’ve been following the debate over the proposed amendment to the New York State Constitution to allow NYCO Minerals, Inc. to conduct exploratory drilling on 200 acres of Forest Preserve in the Jay Mountain Wilderness. The basic framework for this proposal is that whatever land NYCO disturbs by their drilling and mining must be exchanged for land of equal or greater value and acreage that NYCO donates to the Forest Preserve.
Please remember as you read this commentary that I have repeatedly and consistently positioned myself as an advocate for finding common ground and seeking consensus around the most controversial issues in the park. There are plenty of people who are wary of this approach because they fear that efforts to find “balance” or “compromise” will lead to the abandonment of principles that should never be compromised. That skepticism is unfortunate: negotiations to achieve consensus around common interests, when done correctly, are never about compromise of principles. Rather they are about avoiding black and white thinking, absolutist rhetoric and the disingenuous politics that so easily proceeds from strident declamations of rightness (for an object lesson, see the tragic rhetoric over this issue). » Continue Reading.
The 2012 American Camper Report provides detailed data and analysis on camping trends throughout the United States. The report presents information on overall participation, preferences, buying behavior and the future of camping.
The report makes a broad definition of camping to include everything from ‘Glam Cabin Camping’ to sleeping overnight in the backyard with your kids, but it has some interesting data none-the-less. » Continue Reading.