As I watch Governor Andrew Cuomo’s press conferences daily, I continue to be extremely impressed by his overall handling of the COVID 19 Pandemic. His daily briefings are fact-based with his opinion sprinkled in. It is inspiring. He may have stumbled out of the gate on how quickly he started the State’s PAUSE, his handling of the nursing home situation, and his kerfuffle with Mayor Bill de Blasio is a distraction, but overall I give him an A minus.
The phases to opening the state within each of the State’s ten regions is nothing short of genius. Its fact based, has clear phases and for each phase has clear criteria for determining whether to go to the next phase or whether things need to be shut down once again. His plumbing valve metaphor for opening the state with gauges to help determine whether the state will continue to open the valve or close it down based on how the gauges/indicators are doing is a model for the rest of the country. I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t work pretty well in helping the state move forward.
It struck me today, as I was walking in the woods, how similar managing the opening of the State is to wildland management and the issues the Adirondack backcountry is facing today. The Governor’s valve metaphor is the same for managing the Adirondack’s Wilderness Areas. Let me say up front, I am not stating that wildlands management is the crisis that COVID-19. COVID-19 is a true crisis with loss of life and economic impacts of a staggering scale. Our wildland management issues however, are a major challenge even if not on the scale of a pandemic. The state has historically struggled in confronting the challenges of wildland management. Issues of visitor use have been around since 1869 when W.H.H. Murray’s book Adventures in the Wilderness was published launching the “Murray Rush” into the Adirondacks, giving rise to the moniker “Murray’s Fools.”
The Governor’s metaphor depicts a way to establish appropriate visitor-use levels and acceptable recreation-activity impacts to our wildlands. Just like the State had to come up with the indicators and standards for monitoring COVID-19 as part of managing a return to normalcy, the DEC must come up with the indicators and standards for monitoring visitor use impacts as part of managing our wildlands. Ultimately a decision is made as to the area’s visitor capacity. You monitor the indicators and adjust the number of visitors to maintain the standards set for protecting our natural resources and providing quality visitor experiences.
I wish I could take credit for these concepts but all I’ve done is adapt the Governor’s metaphor to wildland management. Visitor use management concepts and methods have been around for decades.