Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Things Fall Apart At The Adirondack Park Agency

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) was rocked last week with the sudden resignation of Chad Dawson, who served as one of three APA Board members from outside the Adirondack Park Blue Line. Dawson is a Professor Emeritus at SUNY ESF, who not literally, but actually, wrote the book on the management of Wilderness and public lands. See Wilderness Management: Stewardship and Protection of Resources and Values (4th edition). Though Dawson was an authority on public lands management and is recognized widely across the U.S. as an expert, few at the APA and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) would listen to him.

Dawson took words on paper seriously, especially the words of the APA Act and Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. One such case was where the Master Plan calls for carrying capacity studies on public water bodies during the development of Unit Management Plans (UMPs), a clause that the DEC has long refused to acknowledge and fulfill. The APA has never tried to uphold this requirement. At deliberations over UMPs in the last four years, Dawson would point to this section of the Master Plan and he would be met with yawns from other APA Board members that the APA has never asked for these studies before, so why start now.

At the APA meeting on December 10, 2020, Dawson banged his head against the wall repeatedly. On the release of the new Debar Mountain Wild Forest UMP and reclassification proposals for the Debar Lodge tract, Dawson pushed for analysis and data to support proposals that could weaken natural resource protections for the Forest Preserve. Answers from DEC and APA staffers consisted of a smattering of personal observations. They offered no data, no analytical process. According to state law, the top priority of Forest Preserve management is natural resource protection, yet the Cuomo Administration has made Forest Preserve decisions based primarily on facilitating an array of recreational uses. Only one other Board member, Zoe Smith, spoke in support of Dawson’s line of questioning last week, where he argued for a coherent analytical process for Forest Preserve decision-making. To cap off the APA’s discussion on the Debar Mountain Wild Forest UMP, Board member Art Lussi called on the APA and DEC to once again allow the public to ride All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) on the Forest Preserve.

Dawson’s resignation follows the resignation of Karen Feldman in 2019, who was the acting APA Chair at the time and who left after disagreements with how the Cuomo Administration was managing the agency. Feldman followed the decision of Cornell professor Richard Booth in 2016, who was a Spitzer appointee who served on the APA Board from 2007 to 2016, to step down when his term ended. These three Board members have been the only three Board members at the APA to act independently since Andrew Cuomo’s first election in 2010.

In its nearly 50-year history, the APA has never experienced this level of upheaval. Three prominent Board members have stepped down in the last four years, each of whom was distinguished by their independence, conscience, and fidelity to the law, and who each found the APA in the Andrew Cuomo years to be an inhospitable place. Two of these Board members were the most credentialed to serve during the Cuomo years, experts in their environmental fields.

Among the other two remaining outside-the-Park Board members, John Ernst from New York County, who chairs the State Lands Committee, has failed to step forward during big votes and act independently. Kenneth Lynch from Onondaga County, appointed in July, is a retired careerist at the Department of Environmental Conservation and was put on the APA in 2020 explicitly to uphold the party line. He is, in essence, a second vote for the DEC on the APA Board.

Among the five inside-the-Park Board members, Dan Wilt and Art Lussi zealously serve to keep the APA weak and ineffective, a rubberstamp for any and all development. They were rewarded with new terms in July. Lussi and Wilt were joined in their quest to keep the APA weak and ineffective by Mark Hall of Star Lake, a longtime local government leader and a critic of the APA who was appointed to the APA Board in July. Also appointed to the APA Board in July 2020 were Zoe Smith, of Paul Smith’s College, who backed up Dawson at the last APA meeting, and who has shown signs of independence, and Andrea Hogan, Town of Johnsburg Supervisor, who has yet to find her voice.

In the Andrew Cuomo years, the APA has been primarily led by the three Board members representing state agencies — the Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of State, and Empire State Development. This is a rotating cast of capable Cuomo Administration political functionaries who not only vote the party line, but lay down the party line. One hallmark of the Andrew Cuomo APA is how the trio of Board members from state agencies has actively directed the agency, with little deference to the citizen members. The weakness of the APA today is evident by the fact that the APA has no permanent Chair. There has not been a chair, acting or permanent, since Feldman’s resignation more than a year ago. Meetings have been run by Brad Austin, a political appointee at Empire State Development. Despite pushing through a full slate of APA Board members in July, the Cuomo Administration apparently sees no viable candidate on the Board to serve as Chair from among its citizen members.

Fed up

Upon announcing his resignation, Dawson said “I am leaving not because I don’t care. Rather, because I’m passionate about the Park, particularly protection of the Park for future generations.” He went on: “Four and a half years ago, when I first joined this APA Board, Professor Dick Booth, who was my predecessor on this Board, predicted that one day I would realize that even though I was recruited because of my public land planning experience, the APA was too understaffed to take on any large-scale regional or Park-wide planning projects and that DEC Administration would only be interested in pushing UMPs crafted to highlight their pre-determined goals with little regard for full analysis or public comment and outside input. Well, as Dick Booth predicted, that day has come.”

In an interview with the Adirondack Explorer after he announced his resignation, Dawson said “I don’t think alternatives were fully developed and the consequences of those were fully developed. That’s been my concern all along, is how do we balance development, protection. The agency is about protection primarily, and also development where appropriate. The department tends to be more about development. Recognize my background is both in recreation management and planning, as well as preservation and protection, so I was asked to be on the board because of that, and yet I don’t think people were taking my questionings seriously about how do you balance the alternatives.”

The APA in the Andrew Cuomo years has mostly functioned as a bureau within the DEC Division of Lands and Forests. As such, it is incapable of upholding its statutory responsibilities to oversee and hold the DEC accountable for Forest Preserve management. The APA has a checks-and-balances role with the DEC for Forest Preserve management and should uphold state law and state policy even when the DEC declines to do so. Both Booth and Dawson highlighted the policy and power imbalances between the agencies, and the poor policy outcomes as a result, in their decisions to step down.

Flashback of past actions

In 2016, at the time the APA approved the controversial Essex Chain Complex UMP, Dick Booth stated “For many months, the Governor and the Governor’s staff have forced the agency toward the result reached today. They have done so by rigidly controlling what analysis state agency staff was allowed to prepare and present to the agency. They have rigidly controlled what materials agency staff may prepare and present to the agency. We have not had a full and open discussion on what in fact were all the issues reflecting the action that we have taken today.”

Later in 2016, at Booth’s last meeting, he commented on actions that year by the APA to weaken the State Land Master Plan by allowing motorized uses and bicycles in Primitive Areas, which prior to that decision had been managed as Wilderness. This was the first such action in the history of the APA to weaken, not strengthen, the Master Plan. “At a minimum those decisions cast doubt on how two very important Primitive Areas will be managed in the future. They also cast doubt on how all areas of the Forest Preserve classified pursuant to the SLMP will be managed because those decisions flow from choices consciously made by state officials to ignore the Master Plan’s purposes and mandates. In writing this memo, I have assumed that those recent Agency decisions were clearly in error and that at some time in the future those errors may be corrected.” We can only hope.

Wanted: Independent voices

Independent voices with independent expertise are badly needed at the APA. Right now, it’s a Team Cuomo chorus. There’s little likelihood that things will get better. The response from the Cuomo Administration to Dawson’s resignation is worthy of Kellyanne Conway or Kayleigh McEnany. Dawson’s resignation was met by the Cuomo Administration with a jab and recitation of alternative facts. As reported in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise: “While Chad Dawson’s comments are disappointing and contrary to the facts, we’d like to thank him for his service to the board and his dedication to the Adirondack Park Agency. DEC subjects every proposal and plan to a painstaking review and conducts extensive public outreach to solicit input and comments from the community in order to continue our work of protecting the Adirondack Park, its natural resources, and its people. DEC looks forward to continuing to work with our fellow board members on the ongoing important initiatives for the protection and enhancement of the Adirondacks.”

Chad Dawson photo from APA website

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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.

83 Responses

  1. Phil Fitzpatrick says:

    Understandable, but too bad he quit. Perhaps he and you can send recommendations to the Governor for ardent replacements. Even if ” There’s little likelihood that things will get better ” this is no time for resignation.

    Once you have a candidate or two, please let us know how to support them

  2. Boreas says:

    Effectively eliminating the APA will certainly streamline the Cuomo administration’s heavy-handed approach to development. Everything put together falls apart. Entropy.

  3. Shawn Typhair says:

    Maybe it’s time we give up on the idea of the Adirondack Park as we know it today. Maybe the Adirondack part should only consist of certain sensitive areas such as the high peaks and other areas such as Lowes lake for example. Each time the state buys property it is death by a thousand cuts for the people that live here. When the governor put this board together I think he was giving local people like myself a voice. The Adirondack Council , Protect the Adirondacks will sue , stall , drain finances of the natives until all are eradicated So if Mr Dawson wants to quit the board because people want to be able to have a campfire then so be it.

    • gabe susice says:

      i agree 100% with you. also author is being disrespectful to the other board members.

    • M Leybra says:

      Maybe Dawson quit seeing there was no stopping the Park going the way of all flesh. The perceived ‘needs’ of people who live there & more people who “want to be able to have campfires” & people promoting ATV use in supposed wilderness areas, add up to a lot of anti-preservation pressure. Put together w/ yawning APA Board members & an aggressive recreational-use governor & his appointed DEC agency, not everybody has the stamina to devote their life & energy to what looks like fighting against the tide. Increasing humanity leaves no room for completely natural wilderness.

    • Tim-Brunswick says:

      Shawn…you’re on the money with your response.

      The Adirondacks are a beautiful place, but the “wilderness only ” rant has to stop…too many folks want to be able the beauty that is off limits to only those physically fit folks. The State of Maine has beautiful wilderness areas, wildlife, flora, fauna in abundance yet they also have recreational opportunities galore for ATV’rs, snowmobilers, bikers, and certainly hikers and paddlers. Mr. Dawson has resigned and admirably he did try and promote his beliefs during his tenure.

      However, it’s time to move on….

  4. Gary and Nancy Hartwick says:

    Once upon a time we favored and supported the creation and implementation of the APA, but no longer. It has proved over and over again highly ineffective, extremely controversial, and expensive. It is time for it to go. Many of its functions could be assumed by the DEC and the remaining abandoned. The people of the State of New York and the Park itself will be far better off.

  5. Barak Tarkan says:

    Dump the APA, never was a good idea.

  6. AM Brewer says:

    Thank you for such a complete article. This article gave me a complete understanding of the parties involved.

    I live in the Clifton Fine area we are stridently anti APA mostly because of the APA heavy handedness and the Joey Hickey amendment.

    In this instance it is my opinion we need to rethink this and give it a second look.

  7. Donald Sage says:

    BRAVO to the removal of a hater of outdoor recreation. The time is long overdue to replace these appointed people with local elected ones who care about our economy, tourism, wildlife habitat, forest management. End this stupidity of closing, locking the people out of these state lands. Reopen all 300 plus roads they and DEC closed. Allow all recreation to disburse into all areas. End this discrimination of “hikers only!”

    • Eric says:

      That’s right , gravel roads to every lake and pond , you can ride your ATV wherever you want , chainsaws and cutting of live trees allowed . Anything less is an infringement of our God given rights .

    • Tim-Brunswick says:

      Well spoken Donald Sage….couldn’t have said it better…………………..adios APA and hello to more access to our Adirondacks by all !

      The Boreas Ponds circus was just one more example of locking up more acreage and preventing folks who are not as physically fit from viewing/appreciating it!

  8. Tim says:

    While I may agree with much in this article, the snarky, negative tone turns me off. Perhaps this is how we have become such a polarized society. I see no suggestions about making the APA better.

    • Boreas says:


      If there is no political or public will to change the APA to perform its stated purpose, there is no need to make it better. It has become a rubber stamp and may as well be abolished. Without the APA as a scapegoat, politicians will actually be outwardly responsible for their actions instead of hiding under the protective barrier the APA provides. In its current state, the APA serves no useful purpose.

  9. Chris says:

    The political plan is working perfectly.

    It is always dispiriting to note the asymmetry in language between the winners and losers in politics. The considerate loser always uses gray-area phrases like “disappointing” and “don’t think alternatives were considered” while the self-dealing winners use direct accusations and clear statements of “fact.” State a lie forcefully enough and it is perceived as fact. Offer reasonable consideration and it is run over.

    Unfortunately, that’s today’s game. Until the conservationists/preservationists recognize and play that game (which is counter to their nature) bad ideas and self-interested people will continue “winning” over good ideas and people like Mr Dawson. That’s quite clearly how things work, unfortunately.

  10. I’m alarmed and saddened to hear this news of Chad Dawson’s departure from the Adirondack Park Agency Board. As one who has researched the political events in Adirondack History, particularly leading up to the Constitutional Convention of 1938, and of the extensive lobbying effort to educate the public about the problems in the way state officials were acting, I can tell everyone that this is the same problem, with history repeating itself. I’m publishing the correspondence (more than 900 letters) between John Apperson and his many allies (often known as the Schenectady Force), and hope all those who are concerned about what just happened to Chad Dawson to have a look at my website and read about the courageous effort to defend the Constitution (forever wild), more than seventy years ago. Ellen Apperson Brown

  11. Susan McDonough says:

    The DEC is just a big hunting club. Wild animals are managed for the sale of licenses and the recreational kill… lots of recreational fun to bring the family together! They do nothing
    for the rehabilitators and they actually “manage” deer herds so that there’s too many deer.
    People realize this now and are sick of it.
    This is an agency that won’t even take a stand against “wildlife killing contests” because more hunting licenses are sold and that’s their main concern. It will never be for the suffering of wildlife. This is an agency that promotes the trapping of animals. Imagine your dog or cat caught by the leg and struggling in a trap. Wild animals suffer as much as domesticated animals…disgusting!

  12. Vanessa says:

    Oh boy, at risk of stepping into like the worst fracas I’ve ever seen on this or any ADK related site…and yup, that’s saying something as a young lady unafraid of “controversy”…

    …for the life of me, I just cannot find/understand an objective political or sociological history of this agency that literally everyone seems to hate. Like I definitely get y’all don’t like it, and even better, I definitely understand the tensions between wilderness preservation and development – but discussions of the APA seem to produce a special variety of irritation on either “side” that makes it really, really challenging to even understand what the hec goes on. Like I’d rather keep talking about the confederate flag, with all of the unkindness & personal pain that those discussions produce, than attempt to wade into APA-related crud and seek clarification.

    Which makes it very hard to try to bridge gaps or genuinely understand anyone’s perspective. It seems like environmentally minded people think the agency doesn’t protect the environment, and development minded people think it stops them from surviving economically. Or rather, that environmental protection will necessarily come at the expense of the economy. Which for the life of me, isn’t actually true (and give me a few weeks and a librarian more well versed in ecology as a genre, and I could write about that.)

    Obviously, with environmentalists quitting left and right, as Mr. Bauer points out, an agency tasked with protecting the environment isn’t meeting its goals. But to call for reform, we have to have an easily articulated vision of what should be done better. Mr. Bauer’s is helpful. What I’d like to see explored more here (please and thank you, local folks?) is how certain actions could affect either pole of our supposed dichotomy.

    Like let’s take the ATV example. I’m not clear at all on how anyone lives or dies economically due to ATV use, but maybe I just don’t understand the importance of ATVs. On the flip side however, their harm to the environment seems clear:

    But there are lots of questions that seem less cut and dry. Are campfires truly harmful when controlled properly? Are there rules that make development more sustainable? Or is the problem really what seems to be Dr Dawson’s main concern, is that already-agreed upon policy is not being enforced?

    Good faith responses on this one only, please!

    • gabe susice says:

      i will start with the atv issue. most people including me think atvs should be allowed on existing logging roads these roads were built to handle heavy log trucks, would there need to be maintenance done absolutely. we dont want to just drive through
      the woods tearing every thing up. we should have to pay for a permit to go on these “trails”. also registration and insurance required. if caught off these”:trails” pay a very steep fine say 500$ 2nd time banned for life. the economic benefit is people with atvs spend money LOCALLY on food,gas,drinks,lodging.etc you might think its
      not alot of money being brought in but it would help the locals alot.

      • Vanessa says:

        This was informative – thanks for the comment! Like not being sarcastic, to be clear.

      • Eric says:

        i will start with the atv issue. most people including me think atvs should be allowed on existing logging roads these roads were built to handle heavy log trucks, would there need to be maintenance done absolutely. we dont want to just drive through
        the woods tearing every thing up.

        Gabe , where do you come up with this “fact” that most people think atvs should be allowed on these roads ? Has a poll been taken on it ?

        • Chris says:

          What seems to rarely be mentioned in either ATV or snowmobile discussions is noise pollution. I do not think anyone should have to listen to them and for many, if not most people, they ruin a “nature” setting. I know some people think they’re fun. But does your fun get to ruin mine?

    • Shawn Typhair says:

      What people don’t understand is that their are two Adirondack parks. You have the Aditondack park that people see in tourism commercials such the high peaks and Lake George area Then you have the other parts such as live in (Fine NY ) This area is the buffer zone to the more desired destinations of the park. When the state buys land in our area it usually has had extensive logging or mining It was never forever wild. Organizations such Protect and the ADK council try to paint a picture to people of the state that these lands are virgin areas. I’m saying it is time to reduce the footprint of the park to the most sensitive areas. The towns of Fine , Clare . Colton all have beautiful areas that the state owns but they are not forever wild places. As we speak the Adirondack Council is suing the town of Clare over allowing atv use a public road. People have been using that road for years before the state brought the Tooley pond tract. The environmental groups are oblivious to these facts. The lands in Clare and Fine are not the high peaks Let these towns vote to see if they still want to be part of the park and I would bet the answer would be no

      • Vanessa says:

        So I dunno much re the ADK Council suing Clare and will look that up before commenting. As is likely obvious, generally speaking I consider myself an environmentalist and support many of the Councils goals.

        On the other hand, as I eluded to in this very forum a while ago, I also heavily disagree with what many environmentalists interpretation of “wilderness” is in 2020. Wilderness as a concept is dated and associated with some bad dynamics, which I think you’re pointing out to here. While I think environmental protection should be paramount, I actually strongly agree that the approach that just completely eliminates all human interaction with nature in all cases is the wrong one.

        Personally, I don’t vacation much in Maine because the ATV use there kinda bothers me, in particular the noise and it seems unsafe. But your counter to this comment could be, ‘well based on what I said, do you ever plan to vacation in Clare?’ – which is a good rejoinder and I hope proves that I see your point. It’s a big park, and while I think it’s status as a huge space is special and important – it’s true that the rules shouldn’t be the same everywhere.

        • bruce says:

          It is illegal to ride ATVs on public highways whether in the Town of Clare or on any highway in New York State. ATVs simply are not made for highways.
          Too many rural towns think they are sovereign unto themselves and that state laws are only suggestions.
          The problem here is not the APA or Adirondack Council but the appeasement of ATV fanatics by local municipalities.
          The Park is a jewel, don’t lose it. The arguments here attacking the APA are largely rationalizations for having your own way.

          • Shawn Typhair says:

            I’m not a lawyer but why are local municipalities allowed to post roads for atv use. If it was against the law wouldn’t the state make the towns take down the signs? If you go to Jefferson county atvs are active on town and county roads. Why wouldn’t the state ticket all atvs that are seen on the roads? Your point about towns appeasing to atv enthusiasts is absurd. Why wouldn’t a town want to make people who live in that town happy. What you fail to understand is that people that live in these areas want to be able to ride and help the local economy.

            • bruce says:

              ATVs are allowed on roads only when a municipality determines that it is “otherwise impossible” for ATVs to access legal riding areas. Multiple court cases, including the decision in the first lawsuit brought against the Town of Clare, have concluded that this determination can not be mere recitals but be based on studies and hard facts. Your example of Jefferson County makes my point. Many north country municipalities have violated state law and have opened roads illegally including in Jefferson County. The state does not police the actions of towns. Citizens may bring lawsuits against municipalities for wrongfully opening roads. There is a long list of decisions where courts have ruled against towns, counties and villages for illegally opening highways to ATVs. The only absurdity here is your own reasoning. You ask, “Why wouldn’t a town want to make people who live in that town happy.” Because it’s illegal, end of story. The economic argument is a non starter. The “economy” of ATVs riding illegally on public highways raises an immense liability problem for towns and an accident lawsuit will quickly wipe out whatever, if any, economic gain there is to opening roads.

              • Shawn Typhair says:

                Apparently the town of Clare determined that it was Impossible for the trail to go thru any other point. St . Lawrence county also feels the trail cannot be rerouted therefor are offering assistance to fight the lawsuit. So the town wanting to make its residents happy is not absurd .

                • bruce says:

                  “Apparently the town of Clare determined that it was Impossible”. No, the fact is they did not. This is the second time the Town of Clare has passed this law and the Court ruled against them the first time and will again. You need to understand the issue better. Courts have ruled and the Attorney General has opined that it must be truly “impossible” and not simply a matter of “convenience” for ATV riders. Opening a stretch of road for over ten miles is clearly a matter of “convenience” and goes against the entirety of the law. If ATVs can be trailered to a connection then it is not impossible to gain access to a trail. The fact that ATV riders prefer to ride on the road rather than trailer to the trail connection is irrelevant. The town wanting to make its residents happy does not justify violating state law.

                  • Shawn Typhair says:

                    Bruce , have you seen the proposed trail route? Their is one trail head. They need the road to complete the trail. Have you been to Clare ? When I’m riding my atv down tooley pond road like I have for 30 years I will think of you . As far as the so called noise pollution from atvs I don’t believe the good folks of clare will not be to concerned. When Fort drum starts to do military maneuvers on easement land as suggested by the environmental groups on the tooley pond tract I’m sure the locals will adjust to that noise as well.

                    • bruce says:

                      Roads can not be a part of a trail system. If you wish to reach that tail head load your ATV on a trailer and take it there. Again roads can’t be opened for your convenience and never 10 miles of a road.
                      Anything else and you will be driving illegally.

                      I will be thinking of you when I see your name in the police reports.

                      This conversation is an example of what Chad Dawson complained of. Facts don’t matter to people with their own agendas. I have presented legal facts and only received replies based on invidual desires and a disregard for other people and the environment as exhibited in the comment, “… I’m sure the locals will adjust to that noise as well.”

          • Vanessa says:

            This is also noted. My goal related to anything APA is to just learn more. This is a tough challenge given folks’ extremely strong feelings. I personally would never ride an ATV – they seem unsafe and I read about ATV deaths every winter. Further, I do really treasure the natural soundscape of a natural environment full of wildlife.

            But I’m here to gain info on all perspectives. In this particular situation, I just don’t know enough about the diversity of views. Frankly, I wish folks would give me this same courtesy on different topics.

            • gabe susice says:

              atvs are not unsafe if you follow the rules of operation, yes there are people who break the law.and there are accidents.

              • Vanessa says:

                Yeah my husband read my earlier comment and says he’d like to ride an ATV. There you go, a divided household ??

                • bruce says:

                  Doesn’t need to be “divided”. Let him ride an ATV but it should be on your own private property or property where he has the owner’s permission. It should not be on public highways or in sensitive and wilderness like the Park.

                  It needs to be stressed that ATV manufacturers include a sticker on their ATVs that warn riders that ATVs must not be driven on public highways.

      • gabe susice says:

        youre 100% right.

      • AMBrewer says:

        Yup Towns of Clifton Fine and Clare would be an no APA vote for sure.
        Good points Shawn

  13. Jen felice says:

    Every city dweller wants to build a second home here and have their own little piece of wilderness. There are people everywhere now, sighting wildlife or finding quiet has become nearly impossible. Soon Saranac Lake will look like downtown Rochester, and the outlying forests will be full of man made infrastructure, not to mention garbage. If you don’t want to live in the Adirondack Park, then don’t live in the Adirondack PARK. Sorry to hear we’ve lost another conservationist. No hope left here.

    • Andre says:

      Yeah it is really strange. There is plenty of space in Upstate NY outside of the Adirondack Park. The dualism isn’t a long term solution

  14. John says:

    I still have my ABOLISH APA bumper sticker from the ’70’s in pristine condition that I will gladly sell to anyone that lives outside the Blue Line. Or I’m willing to trade it to have control over what you do with YOUR land. It is reassuring to see some things never go out of style

  15. Tony Portello says:

    It is way past time to eliminate the APA and the Adirondack Park.
    The forest is not managed, it is rotting into a massive uninhabitable untaversable mass of decaying pine trees.
    It is way past the point of management
    A hunter cannot travel in the forest without putting him or herself in danger of losing their lives
    Old felled line trees have poisoned the water flowing into ponds and lakes
    The APA only serves the environmentalist and not the citizens of Franklin, Hamilton, St Lawrence counties.
    The level of depression and exodus is devastating.

    • gabe susice says:

      the apa should be defunded,

    • Jen felice says:

      The APA does not serve environmentalists. The rich can build on the water and pay the fine. The APA told me I could only choose three paint colors for my house. Not sure how that helps the environmental movement either. My neighbor is off grid and runs a generator 24 hours a day- APA approved. The APA, like 99% of government agencies, only serve themselves. So perhaps it doesn’t matter what side you are on, we can agree that none of it makes sense.

    • Ben says:

      The healthiest forest is “not managed”. Think about forests before 6 billion humans came into the world. Natural, healthy, not managed.

      • So you are willing to live without paper, wood houses and all the other products derived from trees, including firewood for heat. Oh, and lets just get rid of the human population too? Forests can and are healthy today. Maybe ever more healthy than all those years ago. If we really cared about forests, we would all live in city centers and high rise buildings, not on 1 acre lots with 3,000 square feet homes. Zoning laws are the biggest threat to forest health and existence. Not outdoor recreational pursuits.

        • Dana says:

          Kinda defensive, eh? Ben’s point was the health of a forest. Can you dispute his statement? Save your condescending canned lectures.

          • Not defensive, not condescending and not canned. Just factual. It is an assumption unmanaged forests are healthier than managed forests. Plenty of research on how management prevents or reduces the impact of wildfires such as those comparing the NJ pine barrens to the managed pine barrens in PA. Fighting the hemlock woolly adelgid in the forest preserve is management which helps maintain the health of the current wilderness ecosystem. Would it be as diverse or as healthy without this species? No one was around 6 billon years ago to compare forest health then compared to now.

        • JB says:

          I think that the point of leaving some areas undeveloped and untrampled to return to old-growth forests is that they can serve both wildlife and people, by being reservoirs of biodiversity and by serving as an example of what forests “should” look like. When there are few examples of relatively intact ecosystems of a certain type left, people begin to think that the damaged ones were always normal.

          The world’s consumption of wood is increasing and will logically exceed the regeneration rate of the world’s accessible forests, if it has not already. And, you are right, there is really no straightforward answer for how to solve that problem. Eventually, though, wood products will be a luxury if we don’t, so doing nothing is not an answer. Unless we start growing large plantations of genetically improved trees (which will create its own set of problems), we will have to reduce our consumption and incentivize forests, as wood becomes increasingly valuable (and people will try to cut down every tree they can to cash in). And our houses will be built with little or no wood, as the expensive alternatives steel, aluminum, concrete and masonry become more attractive. That is what they already do in parts of Europe where there a few forests left.

          This is why I think continuing to protect both the public and private lands in the Park is what the state should do. You don’t have to go far to see what it would look like if we “abolished” the APA.

          The whole thing about the APA and DEC being appointed boards that are straying from their chartered goals is also very true. I can attest to the same thing about the NYS board of regents. Maybe they have made it easier since COVID, but they used to require homeschoolers to log way more hours and take more standardized tests than everyone else, which now people are starting to say actually hurts education. If I remember correctly, in the law that established the APA there was a lot of talk about “protecting the wilderness character” of the park.

          But again, what is the better alternative to appointees? I’m not sure. Maybe people like Peter just continuing to give them hell?

  16. Bob Meyer says:

    As much as I admire Cuomo’s handling of the Pandemic, I am sorely disappointed in his politicizing of the APA. As much as anyone, I wish all people and businesses in the Adirondacks success and prosperity. Where the disagreement arises is in what’s the best way to help communities prosper. Some think it’s unrestrained growth and minimal regulation, opening up more of the Forest Preserve to motorized recreation etc. Others see strengthening environmental protections in the Forest Preserve as the answer. There are supporters on the extremes of the issues and those in-between the extremes. The fact is that the Adirondack economic engine is no longer dominated by extractive industry. The reality on the ground is that the economic engine of the Park is tourism and recreation. Ask yourself, which vision and action will best produce the desired results for the people and communities within the Blue Line, especially in the long run. What will bring the people from outside the Park into the Park to recreate, stay, eat, spend money etc.? What will attract the ever increasing diverse population of our state and nation to the Adirondacks? What will bring the younger folks so desperately needed in most of the Park to come and even move to the Adirondacks?
    Lots to ponder….. Happy Holidays.

  17. Phil Fitzpatrick says:

    Melissa, I note the number of negative comments about the APA, and the dearth of support for the agency. Let me suggest that when you close this thread you or Tracy bundle up all the remarks and send them to the APA board as well as Governor Cuomo.

    Best wishes from snowy RI.

    • We could rename this post “Things fall apart at the APA, and in the comments”

      • Pablo Rodriguez says:

        So when people have a genuine opinion (and a civil one) on an agenda-based website, it’s time to close their discussion down because it is mostly opposed to the website’s agenda. Sounds reasonable.
        Peter’s op-ed sounds like an argument for abolishing the APA. It no longer functions as intended and has been politicized. That started with Anne LaBastille, who voted no to everything, not Andy Cuomo.

        • I was joking. I’m not closing this down…and trust me, there’s no agenda! This is everyone’s forum. The only “agenda” I serve to ensure the conversation stays respectful to others (which can be a challenge at times!)

  18. Georgia Davison says:

    What a sad commentary about the APA and DEC workings. The bigwigs in Albany only REALLY care about what the park can do to bring more money to Albany. They obviously don’t really care about the health and protection of the Adirondack Park. Chad Dawson was doing his best to get the APA and DEC to follow the rules that would help protect the park, and all he got was deaf ears from board members. The APA and DEC should be ASHAMED of themselves. They are both agencies that are supposed to be the park’s protectors, but all they really are is Cuomo’s “YES MEN”…put in place to allow activities that will raise more money. What a shame that Mr. Dawson got so fed up with everything, that he resigned. The park board members should not be appointed by un-caring agencies. The best people for the job should be volunteers that care about the well-being of the park, that WANT to do their best to protect our greatest natural resource this state has, and that have the qualifications needed to guide a group that will follow the rules set forth, governing the park. WE NEED TO PROTECT THIS PRECIOUS AND UNIQUE LAND WE CALL THE ADIRONDACKS.

  19. Todd Eastman says:

    Lazy buggers on their ATVs…

    … a bit of walking couldn’t hurt most of em…?

  20. mike says:

    Maybe Mr. Cuomo could just sell off the 46 highest peaks to companies like Amazon and Google and any other corporate giant with the money and then they could pave a road to the top of each one so people won’t even need to get out of the car no less hike to the summits. They could put big, giant (perhaps neon?) signs at the top of each high peak and maybe even luxury condos and helipads so “mountain lovers” can just “heli-transport” themselves to the top without the need for a chauffeur. Yeah, the hell with all that conservation and preservation crap. We got condos that need to be built and developments that need to be developed. Oh, and we need to ride our ATVs for god’s sake! So maybe all the current hiking trails could be blown out to nice big, wide, muddy routes so no one ever needs to hike those silly mountains ever again. And who knows, maybe someone could come up with a really good reason to drain all those darn useless wetlands. Heck, with enough dynamite and backfilling they could build an Amazon fulfillment center or a FedEx hub and employ every person living in the Adirondacks. Just need to build a good sized airport. So yeah, just ditch the APA. Who needs all that analysis and heavy thinking anyway? Just build the condos, that will fix everything. Who needs all these trees anyway.

  21. Mark "Dick" Harnes says:

    Excellent article. APA Commissioners should be elected, not appointed. The Park belongs to it’s natural origins first (our creator) and it’s inhabitants second. The Governor should be a protector of the Park first or change the State’s Constitution.

  22. greg ely says:

    most people growing yup are not in touch with nature, or animals at all. cuomo is no different yet we are all supposed to follow his lead.

  23. Peter Bauer says:

    Dear All:

    Thank you for your comments.

    For the record, I personally, and Protect the Adirondacks generally, support the work of the Adirondack Park Agency. The Adirondack Park has benefitted enormously from the last 48 years of regional land use planning of the APA Act. The Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan not only sets zoning density guidelines, the most important being the Resource Management lands, but it also aims to integrate the management of the public Forest Preserve and the private lands to make the Adirondack Park into an integrated and coherent protected landscape.

    The APA’s role is a difficult one where its statute calls for conservation and development to be balanced in a landscape that has been contested, as our preeminent historian tells us, for more than 150 years. For the APA’s first 25 years, it was primarily run by environmentalists. For the last 25 years it’s been run by the business community and local government interests. The differences are stark. Historically, major changes, major moments, and major events in the Adirondack Park have been at the hand of the Governor. Because of the APA’s regional zoning plan and because of the extensive public ownership of Forest Preserve and conservation easements, state agencies play an outsized role in the Adirondack Park and Adirondack communities. And, the reality is, that state agencies in New York are managed almost exclusively by the Governor with limited public oversight.

    The Andrew Cuomo years have been marked by missed opportunities, poor long-term investments, and by poor natural resource management by our state environmental agencies. Recent events at the APA are the logical outcome of the Governor’s poor management of state agencies. The Adirondack Park deserves better and it’s never too late to change.

    • Todd Esstman says:

      So it would be fair to say that Cuomo’s use of the agencies for personal political ends is similar to how Trump has weaponized the federal agencies to further his political needs…

      … smells rotten in both Albany and Washington DC.

      • JT says:

        I was thinking the same thing. Like Trump appointing people from industry to head the EPA. We know how that’s going to turn out.

      • Boreas says:

        That certainly would be fair to say. Politics isn’t for people with a good sense of smell.

    • Chris says:


      Thank your for all your work.

      Honest question: Are there many such orgs around these days that are, in fact, managed in a way to not miss opportunities, manage environmental issues well, and make good long term investments?

      There are so many examples of fundamental incompetence here and seemingly everywhere that I wonder if we aren’t approaching the issue incorrectly, by assuming that the leadership does care about doing a good job and isn’t actually mostly interested in self-serving politics or financial gain.

      Assuming that everyone thinks like “we” do and has the same goals and plays by the same rules is a very common mistake that serves one poorly. What if, like many areas in life today, we now have to contend with a true adversary instead of an assumed partner? After all, many of the anti-wilderness forces are openly hostile to conservation in a way that is not equivalent to the animation of the conservationists.

      An assymetrical approach leaves the non-hostile party at a disadvantage, which leads to a downward spiral.

      • Boreas says:


        Well said!

        A “balanced” agency is not an agency that swings widely from one side of the road to the other. Decades at one extreme do not “repair” decades at the other extreme – especially since most decisions cannot be undone. So EVERY decision needs to be made by a balanced agency. In other words, the APA needs to become balanced and STAY balanced going forward. With a balanced agency, public sentiment actually serves a function.

        • Chris says:

          as those who do the decimating know very well, it takes 50x more time and resources to rebuild something than to tear it down.

    • Vanessa says:

      Hi Peter – this comment is appreciated, thank you! One question in reply: it sounds like you’re calling for reform – but would you classify your position in this way?

      I have a lot of experience with advocacy and I admit, for an agency where I’ve seen so much negativity it seems like the time is right to outline concrete calls for change. But it’s tougher to take a strong position on something that seems to have such long history and granular policy debates.

      I actually don’t want to rely just on local non profits to advocate on all our behalves. I support their work, as I said above. But there’s a place for informed citizens to independently reach out to lawmakers and etc. on this topic, am quite intimidated from doing so, unfortunately…

  24. DebraE. says:

    Without the APA or people that truly care about the Adirondack Park and preservation, the park will turn into a s**t hole.

  25. Cathy Brucker says:

    We are standing at the precipice in decision making regarding the preservation of the ADKs. I’ve been to Debar Pond and the lands around it and I respect our natural resources throughout our Park.
    Week by week we lose pieces of our pristine wilderness. If it is our intent to further open the gates to people with a variety of intentions and with the primary focus on boosting our NYS economy, then we must revisit our management balance on the forests’ fragility with economic growth. I see a fine line between commercializing access to wilderness areas and the sanctity of forest preservation.
    It is sad that we have our environmental experts picking up others’ toilet paper on and off the trails, tearing down historic landmarks and permanently damaging fragile alpine growth. We need to address Forest and Land management by keeping and encouraging people who have expertise, passion and clear vision to lead our management teams.

  26. Shawn Typhair says:

    For Bruce,
    Roads can be used to connect trails. I think you see that the town will win this time. You never answered my question about have you ever been to Clare? This is what people are fed up with. This property is not forever wild land , it has been logged , has hunting camps on it etc. As we speak their are skidders, tractor trailers , wood chippers , snowmobiles and vehicles going up and down tooley pond rd everyday. I really think towns like Clare and Fine should start looking for ways to remove themselves from the park. Peter Bauer has said it himself that this area is a good spot for FortDrum to do military exercises. What that tells me is that our area of the park is not as important as other parts , The park needs to be reduced to the high peak areas and the bs forever wild narrative can be dropped in areas like Fine Another question , why was our thread stopped?

    • AMBrewer says:

      It amazes me how often I have had to explain to people who do not live in the Adirondacks that you need a lot of acreage to be able to build a home. I have been told over and over that I should sell off 35 acres and use the money to build a house. Then I explain you can’t build if you don’t have enough acreage. Then I am told by the uninformed downstate I am wrong.
      I think it’s funny when somebody builds a structure 42 feet high and gets told knock 2 feet off.
      After the microburst of 1995 you could not clear fallen debris. My point is that people come from downstate and enjoy recreating in the Adirondacks but we are under more constraints inside the Blue Line than anywhere else in NYS.

      We get angry about things like ATVs because the state always finds a way to create more restrictions. Sometimes I think Albany is trying to push all but the very rich out of the Adirondacks.
      Our communities are dying and we have no way to keep young people up here.

  27. Todd Eastman says:

    Cuomo political moves…

    … quid pro schmo… ?

  28. Steve Hendershot says:

    This is typical of how Governor Cuomo runs the state. As much as he, correctly, criticizes President Trump , he is as much of a dictator and control freak as Trump. There is nothing that happens within the state that he doesn’t try to control. He is dependent upon his city votes and acts accordingly.

  29. Christine says:

    Wow. I had no idea that this was going on.

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