The Adirondack Council unveiled a new long-range vision for the Adirondack Park in a publication entitled Adirondack VISION 2050, offering recommendations for how to preserve the park’s ecology, sustain its small villages and hamlets, and improve park management by the middle of this century.
“Arriving at a destination requires action,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William (Willie) C. Janeway. “Doing nothing is a choice as well, but not a static one. If no change is made, the ecological integrity of the Park will continue to erode, the human communities will struggle to retain their quality of life, and management will drift further and further from the cutting-edge leadership that is needed.”
“Together with our fellow Adirondack Park residents, visitors, and supporters we hope to achieve a future with intact natural systems, vibrant and diverse human communities, and cutting-edge park management,” said Sarah C. Hatfield, Chair of Adirondack Council’s Board of Directors. “The park belongs to the wild creatures, the people who live here, those who visit, and those that may never set foot inside the Blue Line, all of whom sustain this park in their own ways. Its successes belong to all New Yorkers. So, too, does the responsibility to take bold action to preserve this legacy for the future.”
Why is VISION 2050 Needed?
“The Adirondack Park Agency has not had the resources and capacity to provide the long-range unified planning, wilderness protection and local government assistance that was envisioned in the now 50-year-old Adirondack Park Agency Act,” said Janeway. “This has created a vacuum in comprehensive, long-range park planning. One of the goals of Adirondack VISION 2050 is to restart and continue a dialog about and implementation of improved planning and plans.
“The Adirondack Park is a national treasure — a legacy we inherited more than 100 years ago — that we must collectively protect for current and future generations,” said Janeway. “To produce Adirondack VISION 2050 the Adirondack Council gratefully accepted participation and input from conservation professionals, community leaders, business owners and other stakeholders with deep roots in, and knowledge of, the North Country.”
The Adirondack Park is vital to New York’s ecology and its economy, he explained.
At 9,300-square miles, it is the largest park in the contiguous United States. It safeguards the world’s largest, intact temperate deciduous forest; 87 rare species; most of the uncut ancient forests remaining in the Northeast; more than 11,000 lakes and ponds; more than 1,500 miles of rivers, and 30,000 miles of brooks and streams. Created in 1892, it is a rare example of an American park that intentionally includes dozens of small communities alongside vast and well-preserved wilderness areas. It has a year-round population of 130,000 and yet hosts more than 12.4 million annual visitors.
“The Adirondack VISION 2050 Project grows out of the need to understand the forces of change within the Adirondacks,” Janeway said. “Adirondack VISION Director Julia Goren encouraged long-range strategic thinking about the future of the Park. Understanding how the past provides historical context for today’s policies allows us to move towards a stronger future.”
“The strength of the Adirondack VISION 2050 is from the myriad community leaders, government officials, scientists, advocates, and other stakeholders who engaged with the project,” said Julia Goren, VISION 2050 project director. “While their voices and perspectives were diverse, all influenced and inspired the final product.”
One point of concern is the fragmented nature of state management of the Adirondack Park, the publication notes. For example, most state agencies divide the park into regions and manage it piecemeal.
“Adirondack VISION 2050 embraces a holistic Adirondack Park, where public and private, human and natural, and different aspects of governance are considered as pieces of one whole,” explained Board of Directors VISION Committee Co-Chair Charles Canham. “We chose to use an integrated approach in which the park’s ecology, its communities and its management fit together and work in harmony.”
The Components of VISION
Adirondack VISION 2050 is a single vision, founded upon three mutually supportive pillars. It offers 18 eighteen paths to success and more than 240 suggestions and ideas for marking the milestones of progress.
There are also reasons to be optimistic that the park’s future is bright, Janeway said.
“In the Adirondack Park, people and nature do coexist and can thrive together. Public and private landscapes model the success of people and nature rather than people versus nature. The scale of this effort is hard to comprehend — six million acres, forests sequestering carbon, protecting waters on which over 11 million people and countless wild creatures depend.”
And yet, the Adirondacks remain threatened. Natural and human systems are at risk from climate change, challenging economic forces, and inadequate, under-funded management, he said.
“Short-term thinking that is too focused on immediate issues can lose sight of larger preservation goals,” he said. “Lasting protection will require a long-range vision that guides all management decisions year after year. A new vision is necessary to chart a course to a brighter future.”
Arriving at a Shared Vision
Noting that its previous long-range vision for the park (2020 VISION: Fulfilling the Promise of the Adirondack Park) had been aimed at the 30 years between 1990 and 2020. More than half of its four volumes of forest protection recommendations had been accomplished by 2020, Janeway noted.
Recognizing the need for a new plan, the Adirondack Council launched the Adirondack VISION 2050 project. Its goal was to engage with stakeholders and experts to create a narrative of the Park’s future that inspires support and specific actions to preserve natural communities, foster vibrant human communities, and manage the Park. From the beginning, listening to and learning from a variety of different voices was essential, he explained.
“To preserve the Adirondack Park forever we need consistent principles and a comprehensive plan, based on sound science that also addresses real needs and concerns by those who live, work, play, and visit here. The need and the will exist to launch a period of rapid transformation in management within the Park.
“When those who care about the Adirondacks see beyond the turmoil of the moment to a shared vision, we can fulfill the promise of a Park where people and nature can thrive together,” he said, “meeting the challenges of our time.”
A Few Specific Examples
1. Preserving Natural Communities: The Adirondack Park must elevate the importance of ecological integrity and wild character in its management. Recommendations include:
- A reimagined and adequately staffed and funded Adirondack Park Agency
- Robust monitoring, research and science
- Restoration of degraded wild lands (rewilding) & recognition of carrying capacity
- Independent funding, and
- Building a broad and diverse constituency for nature and the Adirondacks
2. Fostering Vibrant Human Communities: Human communities within the Adirondack Park must have the resources to thrive economically and demographically and fit the character of the place. Recommendations include:
- Building more diverse, welcoming and safe communities
- Ensuring there is a diverse spectrum of good paying jobs
- Aid from the state and others to plan and build community infrastructure,
- A concentrated focus on the importance of education in its many forms including schools, workforce development, visitor interpretation, and local history, and
- Small scale and regional collaboration to share expertise and resources.
3. Managing the Adirondack Park: Management creates a structure that can accomplish these goals. One important change is for the Adirondack Park to be managed as a singular entity rather than a collection of disparate units. Recommendations include:
- Dedicated and increased Adirondack Park funding
- A change in planning and management strategies
- A shift to watershed management with more of an emphasis on holistic, regional planning, and
- Integrated public lands management by experts in wilderness and recreational management
How Can I Support Adirondack VISION 2050?
The Adirondack Council’s Adirondack VISION 2050 web page provides an opportunity to support the continuing effort to discuss the project, distribute the publication and achieve its goals. The Adirondack Council has a Four-Star (94.94/100) “Give with Confidence” rating from CharityNavigator.com.