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.
However as I have followed all of this I have come to feel that there is one huge issue that is not on the radar, so to speak. My own experience of the region along with some recent media coverage has given me to consider that even when this issue is in the public sphere it is only present in certain, limited dimensions. I sense that a full, rich understanding of it is lacking in comparison to other issues we collectively discuss. This troubles me because in the final analysis I think it may well be the most important issue of all.
On the other hand I’m not sure if it is as off-the-radar as I think it is. So I’m not going to say what the issue is yet, or even tip my hand. Instead I’m going to ask you to take a poll (there is also a link to it at the end of the article). The poll has a single ranking question and will take you all of one minute to participate. But I do ask you to take it seriously; don’t just toss off an answer. The poll is anonymous as well. If for some reason you want to identify yourself and express an opinion about any of the issues or the poll itself you can do so via the usual comments.
I’m going to briefly describe the poll and some of the items you will be ranking so that you have a better understanding of what I mean by them.
You will be asked to rank ten issues or factors that affect the long-term viability of the Adirondack Park, from most important to least important. They are listed in random order; you will sort them in the order you like. The issues necessarily overlap in many cases but I strove to define them from the dual perspectives of both how we talk about them (and how they have been present in media coverage) and how we act upon them.
Let me define “long-term viability of the Adirondack Park.” By that I mean a park that preserves and protects its wild character, open space and ecology as well or better than today and that also sustains healthy communities with quality of life and economies as good or better than today. Therefore among the issues I list you will not see things like “healthy economies of the towns” or “ecological protection for the park,” as these are part of the definition.
Here is a brief description of the ten issues or factors, in random order:
- Invasive Species
- The Regional Education System – Private and public schools from pre-kindergarten through vocational, technical and college – enrollment, quality, standards
- State Government Agencies, Policies and Regulations – DEC, the APA, other State agencies, Article XIV and amendments, the SLMP, APA Act, UMPs, etc.
- Tourism – local and regional, tourism initiatives, infrastructure
- Climate Change
- Socioeconomic and Racial Population Diversity – park demographics, prisons, racial issues, broadening diversity in residents and visitors
- Scientific and Technological Advancement – research in ecology and other fields, application of science to mitigate environmental problems, green energy, enhanced communication, broadband
- Land Use Law, Policy and Practice – Land classification, APA permitting, local and regional zoning, private land use, development standards, economics
- The Regional Health Care System – Insurance, coverage, clinics, emergency facilities, preventative services, rural outreach, cost
- Watershed Protection – Water quality, protection of lakes and rivers, reversing acidification, storm water runoff, fish stocking, shoreline protection
Please take a minute to try the survey; the more results the better. If those results come back the way I think they will, I’ll have plenty to write about, but no matter the results I’ll write about them in the near future.
There is nothing scientific about this poll, of course. It is strictly anecdotal. But as we all know anecdotal information can be quite telling. Let’s find out.