Thursday, April 4, 2013

Peter Bauer: More On Adirondack Park Population Myths

Entering Adirondack ParkIn the Adirondack Park we face many persistent myths and shibboleths about the impacts of environmental protections, land use controls and the Forest Preserve. One that has received recent play goes something like this:

In the Adirondack Park our population is aging at a rate that will soon make us the 2nd oldest region is the U.S. That we are aging rapidly is the result of the out-migration of families resulting from a poor economy, which, in turn, results from excessive public ownership of land and a restrictive regulatory environment.

The reality is more complicated, but it goes something like this:

In the Adirondack Park our population is aging at rates that are typical for rural white populations in the US. Many sparsely settled Northern Forest populations from Maine to Minnesota and the Great Plains agricultural populations are older than we are and are likely to remain so. Moreover, aging and population loss are not necessarily a sign of a weak economy. In fact research shows that for rural areas quality of life is the more important factor and that good scenery and access to public lands are major influences on population retention. The fundamental fact of Adirondack demography, however, is out-migration of college aged young people and that old people die or leave the area for better services for advanced aging. In essence, we educate our children to leave and old people die and these trends are structural. Urban areas with advanced and specialized divisions of labor are where the jobs are for skilled young people. While the Adirondacks has little economic “push-out” we do have a significant mismatch between the jobs sought by college educated people and the jobs to be found here.

The minor population losses in the Adirondack Park are not the result of economic conditions, but rather larger national demographic and social trends

There’s a lot to all of this and all too often the important details, larger trends, and important research get buried beneath the political spinning.

Adirondack communities are old and aging. No doubt. And our median age is greater than that of any state although, as written about in Myth and Reality Number 1 by Protect the Adirondacks, this has more to do with the fact that we are a predominately white population than it does with any facts about our economy. That we are on track to become the 2nd oldest region in the US, as the APRAP Report claimed, is however, unverifiable hyperbole. APRAP does not even tell us how they define a region. However, when one looks at the US based on any sensible definition of a region, there are many areas of the country that are older and losing population more rapidly than the Adirondack Park.

Here’s a map produced by the USDA that shows the percent of county populations 65 years or older.


What can be easily seen in this map is that the counties with large populations of older people are concentrated in the Great Plains, Northern Forest areas, and places such a Florida and Arizona with large concentrations of retirees. Most rural counties are aging.

Most rural counties in the US are also losing population. As the map below shows, the main region that is suffering from population loss is the rural agricultural county region of the Midwest. In a book discussing population loss, Hollowing Out the Middle, Patrick Carr and Maria Kefalas, provide a USDA created map entitled Decimation of America’s Heartland showing the US counties with a net population out-migration of 10% or more from 1980 to 2000. This map shows dozens of counties from North Dakota to Texas that have lost population at this rate. Note that for this period, all counties in the New York North Country and the Adirondacks gained population with the exception of Clinton County, which lost population due to the closing of the Air Force base there. This map itself shows the absurdity of the claim that we are on the way to becoming the 2nd oldest region of the country.


After the 2010 Census the New York Times published an interactive map color-coding counties that lost and gained population. Most of the same Midwestern counties that lost population in the 1980–2000 period lost population from 2000 to 2010. Overall the Adirondack counties gained population from 2000-2010, although Hamilton County lost around 10%. A town-by-town study by the Adirondack Park Agency found that overall the Adirondack Park experienced a 1.3% population loss. For reasons we discuss below about the impact of modern American demographic trends, mild population loses are likely to continue. We have begun to lose population and we will continue to age.

However, the Park’s recent, minor population losses are far less than the 3% losses in a dozen counties in Western New York. The 2010 Census found that over 25% of all New York counties experienced losses. Clearly, from a review of the Decimation of America’s Heartland map or the New York Times map, many areas in the US are aging and losing population. If we stand out among them it is not because our changes are extreme. It is because, as rural areas go, they are modest.

Basic national demographic trends that are driving changes in the Adirondack Park

Notwithstanding, we are old and aging. And the fact that we are aging is a harbinger of steady, minor population losses to come. Older people have fewer children. The real concern about the overdramatized hyperbole of APRAP is that it is unaccompanied by any serious analysis of the nature of population change in the Adirondacks and what it actually means for us.

Below we want to look at some details about this matter.

First, some basic demographic concepts:

1. Changes in population are a result of two factors: births minus deaths, and in-migration minus out-migration.

2. Generally, affluence lowers birth rates. Affluent places with little or no in-migration will age and decline. (Japan) And because they are aging their birth rates will be even lower. In contrast, poor places (sub-Saharan Africa and many US Native America reservations) have very high birth rates and young populations. It is a serious mistake to uncritically link aging and population loss to a poor economy.

3. Historic national demographic trends are playing out here in the Adirondacks. Below are three examples of what’s known to demographers as the US population pyramid. One shows the results of the 2010 Census. The other two are projections for 2020 and 2050. After WWII the U.S. birth rate soared and then declined producing a large swell in the population (the Baby Boom) that moves through time. This demographic swell (the “pig in the python”) can be seen moving up the pyramid as Boomers age. The Boomer swell is followed by several progressively smaller age cohorts (the Baby Bust). However, because the Baby Boomers were numerous, despite their low birth rate, as they began to have children, they produced another uptick in population (the Baby Burp), which is also moving up the pyramid. As the Boom and the Burb move upward they change in relative size as Boomers die off. In 2010, the population of the US (when represented by population pyramid showing the numbers in 5 year age groups with the oldest at the top) shows bulges for 45-65 and their progeny 15-29.

New York’s population pyramid has the same overall shape with one exception. The US the population pyramid shows that age cohorts under 10 begin again to increase. In NYS the most numerous groups are to be found in the age ranges from 45–49 and 50–54 (the Baby Boomers). The next most numerous group (the Burp) is 20-24. Below this every 5-year age cohort has fewer people. The 20-24 age group in NYS has 1,410,935 and the 0-4 has 1,155,822.

What follows from these facts is that other things being equal populations that have little net in-migration and that have had a Baby Boom and Burp will age, and, as the largest age cohorts leave their child-bearing age, such populations will have fewer babies and more deaths. Thus even relatively stable communities, such as the Airondacks, will tend to lose populations as they age.

Here are the age pyramids for the US in 2010 and projected out for 2020 and 2050.


4. And other things are not always equal. In the US some poor communities have unusually high birth rates. Even when they are near places that are aging and losing population, they grow and stay young. Rollette County in North Dakota, for example, continues to grow and has a median age of 30 despite being surrounded by rural counties that are losing population and aging. 70% of its citizens are Native Americans. It is much poorer and has much higher unemployment than the surrounding counties. And in-migration can affect different areas differently too. Places that attract senior citizens may grow and age even with high birth rates. Places that attract Hispanics may grow and stay young. Finally, death puts a ceiling on aging. Very old places will not see continued increases in median age simply because elderly people die at higher rates than younger people. Nature enforces an upper limit on median age.

5. Broadly speaking population migrations everywhere show migration from rural areas to urban areas. Is this because that’s where the opportunities are? This needs to be answered cautiously. Many urban areas have higher poverty rates and unemployment rates than rural areas. Typically urban areas have higher per person and household income than rural areas, especially for college graduates, but this is frequently offset by lower cost of living in rural areas. The real advantage that urban areas have over rural areas, especially in attracting college educated people, is that they have a more diverse job market and more opportunities for people with specialized talents. This advantage of urban areas over rural areas is structural and has almost nothing to do with the overall availability of jobs in rural areas.

Other factors also affect migration. Cultural opportunities and physical attractiveness are important. Of course, very poor job markets will generate out-migration and booming economies will generate immigration, but absent booms and busts other things become more important. It does not follow from the fact that college graduates and others find more opportunity in urban areas that urban areas have more positive indicators on such measures as poverty or unemployment.

Thus the meaning of an aging population is not in the median. It’s in the details. And, minor population losses are less likely tied to economics than to larger demographic trends.

Impact of birth rates and fertility rates from loss of college-bound young people

Let’s look at some of these details. Because many Census statistics are presented by county level data we will look at Essex County and Hamilton County since they are fully within the Blue Line.

We will start by looking at birth rates.

Myth-2-CHART-1What Table 1 tells us is that these Adirondack Counties have dramatically fewer births than elsewhere in NYS. This is to be expected of an older population. There are fewer women of child bearing age (15-45). The fertility rate, however, tells us what the birth rate is for women of childbearing age. Here too Essex and Hamilton are low. So one reason why Hamilton County is aging and losing population and Essex County is aging and has begun to lose population is a low birth rate. But, as we will see below, birth rates are not the main story.

What do we know about the extent to which changes in population are a consequence of births and deaths or of more people leaving than arriving? And who is coming and who is going? Consider Table 2:


The top row shows the total population change between the 2000 and 2010 US Census. Included are figures for two additional counties other than Essex and Hamilton to provide some contrast. Lake of the Woods is a Northern Forest county in Minnesota. Pembina is an agricultural county in North Dakota. Both are small and rural. The figures for age cohorts are for females only. We use women because women are the ones who have children, and because using women tends to cancel out the effects of the prison population in Essex County.

Lake of the Woods and Pembina Counties seem like us in that they are small and sparsely populated. But we should also note that, like many rural agricultural counties in the Midwest, Pembina has been losing population for decades – often at double digit rates whereas Essex and Hamilton Counties have not. Pembina’s population peeked in 1900 at nearly 18,000. It is now just over 7,000. In contrast Hamilton gained population until 2000 and Essex until 2010.

What is most noteworthy about these numbers is that, in the four rural counties, but not in NYS or the US, there is a significant drop off in the percentage of women in the 20-24 age cohort which persists for a decade or more followed by a modest uptick.

This very likely shows two things. First, it means that the main story about population in these counties is that children finish high school, go off to college or the military, don’t return, and are not replaced by others in their age groups. We educate our children to leave. They do. We have a youth drain.

The loss of women in theses age cohorts very likely also explains both the low birth rate and the low fertility rate of Essex and Hamilton. There are fewer women of childbearing age, hence a lower birth rate. Also among women of childbearing age it is women from 25-34 who are most fertile. But these women are under-represented among women of child bearing age. Hence there is also a lower fertility rate. We not only have a youth drain. We have a baby drain.

One more observation on Table 2: Unlike the Adirondack Counties, Pembina has been shedding population for decades. Shouldn’t it be older and have a higher percentage of seniors, especially in contrast to Hamilton County? A significant factor here may be that Adirondack communities tend to retain or recruit retirees and seniors to a greater extent than Lake of the Woods and Pembina. From 2000 to 2010, Hamilton added 54 people over the age of 65 and Essex added 920. Lake of the Woods lost 49 and Pembina 185. Thus it is likely that it is out-migration of seniors from Lake of the Woods and Pembina that keeps their percentage of seniors on a par with Essex and Hamilton and lowers their median age. Conversely, retention of older people is a factor in driving up the median age of Essex and Hamilton. Perhaps our aging is, in some measure, a virtue.

How much does out-migration versus a low birth rate contribute to aging and population loss? Recent census data suggests that Essex and Hamilton Counties are among the 1/3 of US counties (mostly rural) where deaths now exceed births. Cornell’s PAD program suggests that over 60% of the population loss of Hamilton County is attributable to more deaths than births. But this does not tell the full story. We need to look at migration and ask who is coming, going, staying, and why?

One way to address these questions is to compare selected age cohorts from the 2000 Census with age cohorts from the 2010 Census that are 10 years older. For example we can compare people who were in the 5-9 age group in 2000 to those who were in the 15-19 age group in 2010. Of course changes can be the result of either migration or death, but we can plausibly assume that death is a minor factor until we get to older age groups.

Here are the results for Essex County and Hamilton County that follow age cohorts from the 2000 Census to the 2010 Census, this time using both males and females; see Tables 3 and 4:


The important patterns here can be more clearly shown by combing counties and collapsing age groups. In the latter case we can use four groups: Precollege (0-9 in 2000), College (10-19 in 2000), Mid-Career (20-54 in 2000), and Elderly (55+ in 2000). See Table 5:


There are three things to notice about these tables.

1. The populations of both counties are relatively stable in the pre-college groups and the mid-career groups. In fact there is modest growth. (Whatever deaths occur in these groups are more than offset by modest in-migration.) The modest growth in the pre-college and the mid-career groups are obviously related since it is the mid-career people who will be the parents of these pre-college children.

We should also note that the stability of the pre-college group is probably underestimated by the fact the students are often 17 or 18 when the leave for college or the military. Because the Census groups people into 5 year cohorts some of those who leave for college are classified as pre-college here.

2. There is a dramatic loss of population in the college group. The cohort that became of college age between 2000 and 2010 declined by over 22%. And here the fact that many of those who go to college are under 20 means that this figure underestimates the out-migration.

3. There is also a significant drop in the elderly group. We assume that this results largely from deaths, but out-migration for health reasons may also be a factor. Recall that we are looking at loss of people within an age group as that group ages. We are not looking at changes in the number of people over 65 in 2000 to 2010. As noted both Hamilton and Essex saw an increase in the number of 65 and older residents.

How should we interpret these findings?

The following are important to note.

1. There is no evidence that there is significant out-migration driven by the lack of jobs in Essex and Hamilton County. Mid-career cohorts are stable over time. And, in fact, various social indicators suggest that we do not have a bad economy. Poverty rates and unemployment rates are generally in line with other rural NYS counties and with NYS itself. (Sometime they are better). We do not have economic push-out.*

2. There is evidence of a significant out-migration of young people who leave to attend college or join the military. Often these people do not return and are not replaced. Is this evidence of a poor economy? We think it is instead evidence of an economy that is mismatched to the aspirations and training of college educated people. Advanced technological societies are characterized by a high degree of division of labor and specialization. These jobs are located in urban areas where employers can find the specialized labor they need in adequate numbers. Colleges train people for these kinds of jobs and their graduates migrate to urban areas where these jobs are. Thus there are structural reasons in advanced economies that explain why sparsely populated small rural communities export young people to urban areas even if they are prosperous. In fact, their prosperity may very well exacerbate out-migration of college aged people. One characteristic of poor rural communities is that there are more drop outs and a lower rate of college attendance. That is not the Adirondack experience.

3. It appears that we do better than many rural communities in retaining or attracting retirees. Nevertheless, very likely there is some force out related likely to health care for advanced aging.

Thoughts about the future

If we wish to stabilize the Adirondack population and increase employment, the crucial question is “Who can we attract?” We are not going to attract large firms that require significant pools of specialized labor. We might attract very small manufacturing firms that do not require specialized labor and whose products have high value-added. But most high value-added products require specialized labor and we don’t have the cheap electricity in most communities or provide easy transportation. If we want to attract the college educated (and others of course) there are three groups to emphasize: retirees, telecommuters, and commuters. We might also seek to attract firms who need few non-specialized employees and who produce products or provide services that have high enough value-added to compensate for higher transportation cost. (Our track record here is not good.) And we might look to attract firms that rely on local materials. And, of course, we must nurture our tourist industry.

Finally, we need to keep who we have. Often the college educated work in government jobs – education for example. And governments are among the largest Adirondack employers. Austerity may be something government has forced upon it at this moment in history, but for Adirondack communities it is the enemy of population stability.

(We might also seek to use Hispanics instead of foreign students for summer labor and hope they stay, but that is a topic for another day.)

What is important to emphasize is that very many of the people (and their businesses) we can attract (or keep) will be people who can live where they want or who at least have considerable flexibility as to where they live. Thus what we need to think about and invest in is quality of life. A recent USDA study focused on out-migration in small rural counties. The authors found that in high poverty counties economic factors played a significant role in out-migration. But many reasonably prosperous places (Essex and Hamilton are reasonably prosperous by their definition) also had out-migration in excess of 10% per decade. What made the difference between relatively prosperous counties that lost significant population and those that did not was quality of life. The study concludes:

“Most high net out-migration counties, however, are relatively prosperous, with low unemployment rates, low high school dropout rates, and average household incomes. For these counties, low population density and less appealing landscapes distinguish them from other non-metro counties. Both types of out-migration counties stand out on two measures, indicating that quality of-life factors inhibit in-migration: a lack of retirees moving in and local manufacturers citing the area’s unattractiveness as a problem in recruiting managers and professionals.”

Among the factors that were counted as enhancing quality of life were scenery, access to outdoor recreation, and public land. That low population density is perceived as detracting from quality of life has to do with the ability of a community to support restaurants, cultural events, good schools, and the like.

We are becoming a society in which an increasing percentage of the population can live where they want. Retirees and telecommuters are obvious example. Some people are also able to move established small businesses where they want them. If we want to reclaim college educated people we need to look to creating communities where people with this kind of flexibility want to live. This will be an older population. Retirees obviously will be old, but telecommuters are likely to be people who have established careers and earned the flexibility to work where they want to live. These are likely to be people who have already established families as well as successful careers and who want to live, work, and raise their families in an attractive setting.

The myth that the Adirondacks is losing population due to its economy has two costs. The first is that those who promote it seek to roll back one of the resources that research has shown is important to the long-term stabilization of the populations of rural areas – well protected, accessible public land. Second, this myth implicitly emphasizes reclaiming jobs in areas such as logging, mining and construction. But the decline in logging and mining jobs has far more to do with mechanization and foreign competition than with the Adirondack Park. In the case of mining, depletion of resources is also a factor. And a focus on the construction of vacation houses is unsustainable and will ultimately detract from the quality of life. To look to expand employment in these places is to address the wrong questions and to find implausible answers. It is also to suggest to most of our children that they should seek their futures in blue collar jobs.

The hard questions we need to ask do not concern population size and aging. They concern quality of life. How do we make our communities attractive places to live for people who can live wherever the please? How big or small these communities should be should be determined by the scale necessary to sustain restaurants, cultural events, good schools, arts centers and movie theaters. And they should not be so big as to generate the factors about urban life that people flee. They need to maintain a small-town feel surrounded by wild lands. Above all, they should not be inconsistent with maintaining well protected, accessible public land.

Perpetuation of this myth of economic dislocation of Park residents, such as found in the over-hyped APRAP report’s focus on aging, represents an attempt to turn back the clock and restore a world that is not coming back. We need a vision for the future.

Ken Strike of Thendara is the co-author of this post. He is a Board member of Protect the Adirondacks and is a professor emeritus from Cornell University.

* There are two anomalies about Essex County that may affect these results. There are 2000 male prisoners in Essex. And there is NCCC. We suspect that these do not significantly alter the overall patters in Table 5. Prisoners are disproportionately young. While they add to the total population, and may explain some differences when we look at 5 year cohorts, we suspect they do not have much effect on the grouped cohorts. They in-migrate and out-migrate within the mid-career group. They are a wash. Most NCCC students are local and live at home. NCCC which does not offer a bachelors degree may defer out-migration for a couple of years thus decreasing out-migration for the 2000 15 to 19 group and increasing out-migration for the 20 to 24 group. The few out of county students may slightly increase in-migration of the 15 to 19 2000 group. But we do not think these anomalies change the overall pattern, and we think this is conformed, at least in the case of prisoners, by Table 2 which looks only at women.)

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Peter Bauer is the Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks. He has been working in various capacities on Adirondack Park environmental issues since the mid-1980s, including stints as the Executive Director of the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and FUND for Lake George as well as on the staff of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century. He was the co-founder of the Adirondack Lake Assessment Program (ALAP) in 1998, which has collected long-term water quality data on more than 75 Adirondack lakes and ponds. He has testified before the State Legislature, successfully advocated to pass legislation and budget items, authored numerous articles, op-eds, and reports such as "20% in 2023: An Assessment of the New York State 30 by 30 Act" (2023), "The Adirondack Park and Rural America: Economic and Population Trends 1970-2010" (2019), "The Myth of Quiet, Motor-free Waters in the Adirondack Park" (2013), and "Rutted and Ruined: ATV Damage on the Adirondack Forest Preserve" (2003) and "Growth in the Adirondack Park: Analysis of Rates and Patterns of Development" (2001). He also worked at Adirondack Life Magazine. He served as Chair of the Town of Lake George Zoning Board of Appeals and has served on numerous advisory boards for management of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve. Peter lives in Blue Mountain Lake with his wife, has two grown children out in the world, and enjoys a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities throughout the Adirondacks, and is a member of the Blue Mountain Lake volunteer fire department.Follow Protect the Adirondacks on Facebook and Threads.

24 Responses

  1. Ann Melious says:

    Are we a park or merely a rural area?

  2. AdkBuddy says:

    Regardless of which theory you buy into, most of the locals are trying to revive the economy here and that is what upsets Peter Bauer. His goal is to trash the economy here and drive the regulars folks out.

  3. George Nagle says:

    This strikes me as a definitive study, one that will inform our discussion of public policies for the Adirondack Park.

    Thank you.

  4. logical and rational says:

    This is manipulation of numbers at its finest. The basic premise of APRAP IS COMPLETELY CORRECT. The region’s cited do share some of the characteristics of the Adirondacks but leaves one fatal question unanswered: Why consciously through state legislation impose poverty on the people of a region through the use of public funds to excessively and severely preserve previously productive land? People are part of the natural environment too and the APA Act acknowledges this fact in its preamble.

    We need not get further misleading guidance regarding the interpretation of demographic statistics from a professor of philosophy. Stick to philosophy Ken and get out of the statistical analysis business that you have no business doing. Your research and methodology are flawed and results transparently trying to support a preconceived outcome are misleading. I give this effort an “F”!

    • Pete Nelson says:

      Here we go again with the reflexive, a priori side-taking again. How tiresome.

      The interpretation of statistics is a difficult and subjective undertaking, though hopefully one that is done with intelligence, consideration and informed sensibilities. I may or may not agree with all of Peter Bauer’s argument but he has made one here, and my reading of it is that it has content and thought.

      It would be more amusing if it were not so galling that someone who bravely picks the anonymous name “logical and rational” completely misses fitting the description of either.

      First, you may not like Peter’s background, his work history if you will – sure, he is seen as a contentious figure in various circles – but that has nothing to do with the merits of his argument. To assess or condemn the argument based upon who is presenting it is neither logical nor rational. I can read the post and consider it without giving one damn about his politics.

      Second, typing “COMPLETELY CORRECT” in caps does not constitute an argument, a hypothesis, a refutation or evidence.

      Third, the unanswered fatal question may be a good question in some other discussion, but being a highly subjective question that begins with “Why?” and continues with propaganda (“impose poverty…” etc.) that presupposes an answer to the very issues under discussion, it is the furthest thing from a logical or rational contribution. Plus it has nothing whatsoever to do with the meaning of the statistics. However, it does sound like a “preconceived outcome” to me.

      Now for help on being logical and rational, I have a suggestion: take a class from Professor Strike. Despite your screen name you apparently missed the fact that the very locus of logical and rational thought is philosophy. To suggest that a philosopher, by virtue of his or her profession, is unqualified to provide guidance, analysis or statistical analysis and interpretation is breathtakingly ignorant of philosophy.

      I looked up Professor Strike’s resume, he being unfamiliar to me. I’m betting we could have quite an argument or two about educational philosophy. No doubt I would need to be well-prepared, logical, rational, analytical and smart to make it worthwhile for both of us, because as a professional philosopher he is all of those things.

      On the other hand, you giving him an “F” after what you wrote sounds like high acclimation.

      • logical and rational says:

        Mr. Nelson:
        I made no comments regarding Peter’s background or the referenced contentiousness as that is completely irrelevant and quite frankly I could care less about how contentious he is. I respect him for his passion, albeit misguided it is none-the-less to be respected.

        However, I do take exception to people with the realm of higher education miscasting their qualifications to the point where they fail to fully divulge the true nature of their specialty – in other words the reference to Mr. Strike as simply a “professor emeritus” is disingenuous as it leads the reader to believe he has received this high status in the field of demographics or statistical analysis when in fact he is simply a philosophical environmentalist venturing into the demographic analysis to lamely support his preconceived conviction that locking away over 1 million acres through state land purchase and hundreds of thousands more in conservation easements and taking these lands out of productive use will have no impact on the socio-economic characteristics and performance of a region is laughable especially in the face of overwhelming data that factually demonstrates the clear decline of the regional economy of the Park and resulting downgrade in the quality of life for its residents.
        Furthermore, what difference does it really make if the failings occurring in other rural areas of the nation are in some ways similar to the clear decline be experienced by the year-round residents of the Adirondack Park? Does that really make it okay? APRAP demonstrated the measurable decline that is worsening which passing year. Perhaps that is why some 4 years later after its release the environmental groups still feel compelled to try and disqualify the findings of the report. Must be it really got some traction and it really got under their skin. I for one do not accept the premise that “well every other rural region in the country is experiencing bad times so it’s okay for the communities of the Park too. No. We can do better and the APA Act envisioned something better. A bold experiment to advance ecological preservation AND the socio-economic welfare of the residents who live there. The Act was suppose to prevent this rural region from being like every other rural region and I think if the Act were executed as envisioned in its preamble it would have. It would have created a region that was a draw for new residents rather than invoking regulations that drive people, especially the youth, away. Rather the execution of implementing the Act was pirated by environmental groups with a singular special interest. So narrow in focus that the welfare of year-round residents has been damned and conscious poverty has been invoked. I take great exception to an individual, especially someone so learned as a professor from Cornell, to gloss over the realities of the current economies of the local communities and try to justify the conditions by simply saying “don’t fell bad you’re no worse off than other folks in rural areas”. No. We should do better. After all the APA Act provides us with the guide.

    • Brian says:

      Because these policies do not impose poverty. The Adirondacks were a poor region before the evil APA was created. It was a poor region even before Forever Wild. What state policies do is preserve environmental quality. In doing so, this permits the existence of an outdoor tourism industry. Who would come here from outside the Blue Line to fish if the lakes were all dead with runoff? Who would come here to snowmobile if the woods were all cleared for subdivisions? Who will come here to ski when the full effects of climate change hit? State policies do not impose poverty. Quite the opposite. They are the main reason the Adirondacks are doing better than most of the rest of rural upstate New York.

  5. Dave says:

    Fantastic analysis Peter. Thank you.

    The tin foil hat crowd won’t appreciate the facts and data that you’ve presented here, but I’m hoping the local journalists who have been pushing their own agendas and narratives (context be damned!) on this issue will stop and take notice.

  6. M.P. Heller says:

    Another manipulative piece submitted by Peter. Whodathunkit?

    He must be on a strict diet of herring. Red ones.

  7. Marisa Muratori says:

    It does not surprise me, Peter, that you would thresh out this subject so thoroughly, it brings it back home…

  8. loggerhead says:

    Drink this Kool-Aid and believe….it’s fine to take all the resource management – forestry lands in the Adirondacks and chuck them into wilderness. It’s ok because we are all petering out anyway, and besides- those blue collar jobs suck.

  9. localbeleiver says:

    NO need to worry folks, once that frivolous lawsuit against the ACR goes down the whole park will be surging forward. Good jobs for everyone, ski area rebuilt to state of the art, taxing entities will be swimming in money, Tupper Lake will be the envy of all the Adirondack communities, we’ll be just like Lake Tahoe. We’ll have so many people moving to the park we will have to build new suburbs around Tupper. Pay no attention to the naysayers.

  10. Ellen says:

    I’m not going to respond to the comments, only to the article itself. I must say that Mr. Bauer and Mr. Strike (neither of whom I know personally) have done an excellent job of interpreting the statistics. As someone who has worked with demographic and economic data for decades, I was appalled at the simplistic analysis contained in the APRAP report. It takes an understanding of what’s going on in other rural areas of the U.S. – of the bigger picture – to see that what’s happening in the Adirondacks is far from unique. Moreover, the economic changes in the region have more to do with the structure of the national/global economy than with state land use policies.

    Honestly, I know of very few communities where residents DON’T complain about losing their young people – including communities with growing economies. Although I have not thoroughly researched the issue, I believe that most young people experience a “rejection” of wherever it is they grew up. Statistics indicate that young adults have higher rates of migration than people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. The question is whether it’s possible to attract young people from other areas, or to bring back folks with local connections, when they are ready to settle down, raise families, and perhaps start businesses.

  11. Pete Klein says:

    You simply can’t look at the Adirondacks as something separate from the balance of the United States or even the World for that matter.
    Throughout the World urbanization is rapidly taking place. Economically, even in forestry, machines are taking over the jobs once done by people, by many people. Throw in automation and computerization for good measure and you see the past is forever past and the future will run over and squash you if you are not careful.
    Pete merely points out some facts. The response to those facts will be done on a person by person basis. The result? Only time will tell. You just have to know when to hold them and know when to fold them.

  12. Big Burly says:

    I’ve known Peter to be a thoughtful and thought provoking person for quite a while.
    The APRAP report when it was published was also thought provoking and a clarion call for thoughtful conversations throughout our region about what has happened and what we want for the future.
    The rate of new construction across the region is steady; new residents have chosen this beautiful area for their permanent home. I know after 55 years of visits, we chose our second home to be our only one. Improving access to highspeed (10Mbps+ with low latency) internet is making us Adirondack wireless workers.
    Peter’s analysis is a helpful addition to the conversation. I don’t agree with all of it, but it does move the objectives we are all seeking closer to accomplishment.
    Either or is not a viable process. A new path is needed. Let’s keep seeking common ground.
    The world economy is changing rapidly. What we have in the ADKs is what a lot of folks on the planet are seeking. Most resident ADKers have more than the usual dose of common sense; let’s stop throwing epithets and verbal insults and get on with creating solutions that work for all of us who cherish this place.

  13. Connection? says:

    Keep in mind who did the bulk of the work on the APRAP report, The LA Group, same group that was/is working with the ACR project.

    • John Warren says:

      The APRAP report was funded by Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages (AATV), the Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA), the towns of Arietta and Chester (where LGRB’s Fred Monroe is Sup), Glens Falls National Bank, and Stewart’s (the convenience stores). Also, funding from the NYS Department of State Coastal Resources Division Quality Communities Grant Program.

      Is there any wonder what kind of angle the APRAP would take?

      Had Fred Monroe and the APRAP producers included the perspective of ALL residents (Peter Bauer for example, and plenty of others), they might have produced a more balanced report.

      Instead they went on a months-long media blitz – most of the media in this state bought it wholesale and passed it on as an objective “finding” that the death of Adirondack communities was imminent.

      Four years later – Hamilton County still hasn’t disappeared and the Glens Falls Post-Star is still seeing ghosts.

  14. School districts are closing and most people hanging out at the Route 30 One Stop are over 60 years old. I don’t need a study to tell me what’s obviously going on here.

    Just going by what I see…..


  15. “There is no evidence that there is significant out-migration driven by the lack of jobs in Essex and Hamilton County.”

    That couldn’t possibly be the reason why many people my age who grew up in Indian Lake now live in Glens Falls, eh?

    Even though I live in Indian Lake, I have to commute OUT OF THE ADIRONDACK PARK 5 days a week to work.

    Again, I don’t need a study to tell me what I’m seeing.


    • John Warren says:

      You do realize that “what I’m seeing” is about a useful in this discussion as your personal experience? In other words, not at all useful and totally irrelevant.

      I’m sure that is not the kind of logic and evidence based inquiry you use to forecast the weather.

  16. My experience is “not at all useful and totally irrelevant” to this discussion because it conflicts with YOUR opinion.

    People leave Indian Lake to live in Glens Falls because they can’t find work up here. How do I know this? Because many of these folks are my friends and family and that’s what they tell me. Or maybe that “experience” is irrelevant. Whatever, you’re failing to see the forest through the trees…..

    Looks like I struck a bit of nerve with you. Maybe that’s because you approached me about being a contributor to Adirondack Almanack as a weather expert several times and I turned it down. It’s quite disappointing that you took that personally and made jabs at my weather forecasting, which is “not at all useful and totally irrelevant” to this discussion.


    • John Warren says:


      Your experience is anecdotal. Anecdotes are no way to guide opinions or decisions, let alone policy. My weather comment was not a jab – it was an appeal to your good sense, but you seem to have a personal issue, so let’s clear that up.

      Your words, from your last e-mail to me dated 5/23/12:

      “Once a week is probably too frequent for me [to contribute to Adirondack Almanack]. But I can probably manage twice or maybe three times a month.”

      When I belatedly replied to you, you ignored my e-mail. My invitation to you to join the Almanack and write about current weather still stands. If you want to insult that invitation with a pissy story about how you turned me down, I could care less. Especially since it’s petty, and false.

      I am, however, sure you don’t lie about the weather, you use evidence and logic, something you are missing in demographic theories based on personal anecdotes.

      John Warren

  17. News and Reviews June 26, 2013 | Leo's Log says:

    […] of Education that provide a state and national context for the Adirondack population debate. In previous posts I have argued that we need to look at Adirondack Park population trends against a backdrop of state […]

  18. APRAP Update misdiagnoses population issues in Adirondack Park | Protect the Adirondacks! says:

    […] PROTECT has previously documented, and it stands true with the APRAP Update, this project critically misdiagnoses the problems facing […]