The Adirondack Council, an independent advocate for the Adirondack Park founded in 1975, has issued it’s 2012 State of the Park report. “The Adirondack Park was subjected to a barrage of extreme outside influences over the past 12 months, some of which devastated small communities and public natural resources, while others brought unprecedented good news to park residents and visitors,” a Council issued press release said.
The annual State of the Park Report reviews of the actions of local, state and federal government officials that the Council believes have helped or harmed the Adirondack Park over the past year. The illustrated, 18-page review is the Council’s 27th annual State of the Park report. A copy of the report is available online.
“Last fall, Gov. Andrew Cuomo acted quickly to marshall state agencies to the aid of communities that were hit hard by Tropical Storm Irene,” Adirondack Council Acting Executive Director Diane W. Fish said in the statement issued Monday. “In the process, however, damage was done to rivers and trout streams that will take great effort and substantial investments to repair”
“Then, this August, the Governor announced he would make the largest purchase of new public lands for the Adirondack Forest Preserve in history,” Fish said. “These lands are unique, biologically rich and vitally important to the park’s water quality and wildlife. They will be a lasting environmental legacy for the Governor and a big boost to local tourism.”
“Still, budget cuts and expired terms of office are plaguing his environmental agencies, while his regional economic councils lack environmental representation,” she said. “On the whole, the Governor won more praise than criticism this year.”
The Adirondack Park is the largest park in the contiguous United States (9,300 square miles). Unlike most American parks, it consists of both public and private land and contains 130 small villages and hamlets inside of 92 towns and 12 counties, with roughly 135,000 permanent residents. It also contains 2.7 million acres of “forever wild” Forest Preserve and most of the wilderness and old growth forest remaining in the Northeast.
The State Legislature earned the Council’s praise for the state’s first law designed to slow the spread of invasive species, sponsored by Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, and Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee Chairman Bob Sweeney, D-Lindenhurst.
“This year, state officials confirmed that invasive species such as the Asian clam and spiny water flea have been found in Lake George and other popular water bodies, while feral pigs have been spotted digging up portions of Clinton County,” Fish said. “There are still large areas of the park that are not yet infested. We want to keep them that way.”
Singled out for individual criticism were: Senator Little for three bill the Council calls “anti-wilderness bills aimed at increasing motorized traffic on the Forest Preserve”; and, Sen. Pattie Ritchie, R-Oswegatchie and Assemblyman Bill Magee, D-Nelson, for a bill that would allow 1,500-pound all-terrain-vehicles on public trails.
On the federal level, praise went to Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, and Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, for restoring funding for flood-warning gauges on Adirondack streams.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Schumer were also praised for helping defeat a bill that would have prevented federal officials from implementing a new acid rain standard for power plants. The Adirondack Council also praised five out-of-state U.S. Senators for breaking with fellow Republicans in an otherwise party-line vote that would have killed the new federal mercury regulations for power plants.
The Warren County Board of Supervisors won the highest praise for local governments in the report, for passing a tough invasive species law this summer that includes fines of $5,000 and up to 15 days in jail for knowingly introducing aquatic invasive species.
Local governments were also praised for what the Council said was progress controlling all-terrain vehicle traffic on public lands; major energy conservation and renewable energy development projects; and, for rejecting development plans for Peck’s Lake, near Gloversville.
“The Adirondack Park Agency did improve the flawed resort project proposed for the ski hill outside of the Village of Tupper Lake,” the Council’s press statement said, “but its rules and regulations do not incorporate the latest science on water quality, wildlife and forest health. They have not been updated since 1971. Some of the rules can be changed by the agency. Others would require legislation.”