That change could be very good or very bad. Much will depend on political leadership from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, according to the Adirondack Council’s State of the Park report for 2015. The report is being released to the public on Wednesday.
The future of the Adirondack Park depends on change that is good for clean water, wildlife, wilderness and communities. The park’s most difficult problems affect both the environment and the economy. They include the recent proposal to store derelict oil tanker cars on local railroads, the continuing battle against invasive species infestations and the long-standing need to update the rules for siting new homes on the park’s most remote private lands.
The Adirondack Park is poised for change because of the Governor’s willingness to seek creative solutions, while a new spirit of cooperation has brought formerly conflicting Adirondack stakeholders together to find answers. Thanks to an improved economy and strong leadership from the Governor, the state is poised – and able – to make a legacy investment and legislative and policy updates to secure the future of the Adirondack Park.
Heading into 2016, the Governor has an opportunity to help state, local and environmental leaders reach new agreements that are good for the park’s environment, its residents and its visitors. The park is poised to capitalize on the new commitment to collaboration in the year ahead.
The report notes progress including acquisition of new wilderness lands, better wildlife management planning and restoration of 36 environmental staff positions. A three-year, $200-million grant program for clean water infrastructure highlighted a generally pro-Adirondack budget. But an increase in the Environmental Protection Fund was offset by a raid in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s fund balance.
Many other important Adirondack initiatives stalled in 2015, including efforts to modernize the Adirondack Park Agency’s regulation for clear-cutting to better reflect current standards and best management practices for sustainable intensive timber management.
The Governor and Legislature accomplished very little after adopting a pro-Adirondack budget. Progress was slowed by political pressure to expand motorized recreation in inappropriate locations and to undo some of the State Constitution’s protections for the “forever wild” Forest Preserve.
While it’s important to recognize both the progress and setbacks from 2015, the focus should be on the opportunity to move ahead.
Will the Governor, Legislative leaders and others act in the best interests of the park’s clean water, healthy forests, abundant wildlife and vibrant communities in 2016? Or will they allow another year to pass without permanent comprehensive solutions to invasive species infestations, off-road vehicle damage, expansion of clear-cutting, and ill-advised development subdivisions in remote locations?
Will under-funded state agencies including the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) regain some of the budgets they need to better promote and manage the park while protecting it from harm? The Adirondack Park is the best Park in the world, and it is truly poised for change.
The coming year will be a momentous one, promising an opportunity for the state to acquire more than 20,000 acres including the Boreas Ponds tract pictured on the cover of this year’s report, as part of a 35,000-acre addition to the High Peaks Wilderness, which it adjoins. Grants will be available to communities for clean-water infrastructure, expanded recreation and access, community connector trails, hut-to-hut lodging and green projects that will boost the economies and vibrancy of local communities.
The Adirondack Council’s State of the Park report, issued each fall since 1986, reviews the decisions and actions of local, state and federal officials that helped or harmed the Adirondack Park. This year’s edition provides brief summaries and critiques of more than 95 Adirondack issues. It is available online and includes recommendations for 2016.