The following essay was authored by Assemblyman Steven Englebright and State Senator Todd Kaminsky.
The 2019 legislative session was a great one for New York’s environment. As the chairs of the Environmental Conservation Committees in both houses, we were pleased to talk with Adirondack residents and visitors about the session in late September when we came to the park to discuss next year’s agenda.
The Adirondacks aren’t just New York’s largest park, they are a national treasure and a shining example of long-term conservation that serves as a model for the world.
This year, the Legislature passed and the governor signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which will guide the state to a cleaner and greener future. It will set a national example for how to handle the challenges of a rapidly changing climate and help to propel us to a global solution.
Both houses also approved a constitutional amendment that would guarantee all New Yorkers the right to clean water, clean air and a healthy environment. It must pass both houses again before it goes to the voters for final approval. We approved another billion dollars for clean water grants and loans to communities. We placed a ban on single-use plastic bags and required institutions to prevent largescale food waste.
In addition, we extended for another year the law requiring boaters to remove invasive species before launching their boats. This will allow time for a debate over whether we should include mandatory boat inspections when the law is renewed again in 2020.
For the Adirondack Park specifically, we granted final approval to the land bank that was needed to carry out the constitutional amendment approved by the voters in 2017. It will allow small infrastructure improvements, including bike lanes and broadband, along town roads that pass through the state forest preserve.
But there is more work to be done.
At the Adirondack Park Agency, seven of eight citizen members are now serving on expired terms. We are hopeful that the governor will propose a full and diverse slate of qualified candidates for the Senate to confirm. Communities, clean water and wildlife depend on this happening in 2020.
While the Adirondack Park Agency was created in the 1970s as a response to sprawling development, conservation science has come a long way in the last four decades. It is now evident that the spatial pattern of development is as, if not more, important than the density of development when it comes to preserving wildlife habitat. Improvements must be made in the Adirondacks to employ conservation development practices on the park’s largest subdivisions.
We are glad to see record-setting crowds coming to see the High Peaks Wilderness Area and other popular destinations. But the wear and tear on these over-loved locations makes us believe special measures are needed to protect their ecological health (water, forests, wildlife) and their wild character – that feeling of freedom and solitude possible only in wilderness.
Let us remember that New York conservationists walk in the footsteps of the world’s greatest environmental leaders, such as Bob Marshall, Teddy Roosevelt, and Wilderness Act author Howard Zahniser, who dedicated their lives to wilderness preservation and changed the lives of all Americans for the better.
The Adirondacks were the inspiration for all of them. The Adirondacks will be our inspiration too as we approach the 2020 legislative session with renewed hope and a sense of urgency to our purpose.
Steven Englebright is a Democratic Assembly member from Setauket. Todd Kaminsky is a Democratic senator from Long Beach.
Photo of Todd Kaminsky, left, Willie Janeway, center, and Steven Englebright by Nancie Battaglia.
This essay originally appeared in the Adirondack Explorer, a nonprofit newsmagazine devoted to the protection and enjoyment of the Adirondack Park. Get a full print or digital subscription here.