ALBANY, N.Y. – The closing hours of the NYS Legislative Session saw three Adirondack Park Agency appointees confirmed by the Senate, including the first Black appointee, Benita Law-Diao. The Legislature also approved important policy advances to curb the impacts of climate change, such as the commitment to protect 30% of New York’s forests by 2030. None of the several proposed amendments to the NYS Constitution’s “forever wild” clause was approved.“Overall, the Legislative Session provided some great victories for Adirondack wilderness, water, jobs and communities,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway. “It was great to see new Governor Kathy Hochul reaffirm her support for the Adirondacks and work with Legislative Leaders to achieve it.”Janeway said the “30 by 30” initiative also would benefit the park by curbing the effects of climate change, using the state’s most effective climate-moderation tool – its well-protected forests – to remove carbon dioxide and keep soils and waters shaded and cool. The “30 X 30” legislation was sponsored by Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy (D-Albany) and Senator Todd Kaminsky (D-Rockville Centre).“It was equally great to see members of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus reconnect with the Adirondacks before the session, and provide leadership of their own,” he said. “Together with the park’s legislative delegation and allies in legislative leadership, the caucus made investments in the future of the Adirondack Park that will pay dividends well into the future, especially for the students who will come to the new climate and careers job training program.”New Voice at Park Agency“Benita brings a strong wilderness ethic to the job at the park agency, along with a desire to see the park become more welcoming to all New Yorkers and the world act more compassionately toward the poor,” Janeway said. “The Council is also very pleased to see the Senate confirm John Ernst’s reappointment and his continuing service as chair of the board.”Janeway said Law-Diao’s volunteer work fostering access to wild places for people of color, and her professional efforts to ensure that poor and elderly residents of the north country had the nutrition and health care they need, would serve the park agency well.Capital District resident Law-Diao recently retired as a public health nutritionist with the state Department of Health, which brought her to the Adirondacks professionally. The park is home to 130 rural communities whose household incomes are generally lower than in the state’s median. She has been a leader with the Sierra Club’s Outdoor Afro organization, which promotes diversity and inclusion in outdoor recreation.Currently, Law-Diao is on the board of John Brown Lives!, which promotes social justice and human rights on behalf of the John Brown Farm State Historic Site in Lake Placid. She is also on the Adirondack Experience museum’s board of trustees. She now fills a seat vacated by the resignation of wilderness expert Chad Dawson in 2020.Law-Diao was among the first winners of the Ujima Journey of the Capital District’s Kazi Award for community service and cultural education. Ujima Journey and the Adirondack Council have been collaborating on cultural education, Adirondack access and social justice since 1995.Short Session, Little TimeThe NYS Budget approved in early April invests billions of dollars in clean water and climate initiatives to protect Adirondack wilderness, wildlife, and taxpayers, he said.The rest of this year’s Legislative Session was scheduled to be among the shortest in history. While there was a great deal accomplished, there were some missed opportunities to begin the approval process for Constitutional Amendments designed to resolve conflicts over future uses of Forest Preserve lands protected under the NYS Constitution’s “forever wild” clause.Among the opportunities lost were proposals to allow automobile access to a hunt club and trail access to the summit of Cathead Mountain, Hamilton County; allow the sale of a former state prison campus in Gabiels, Essex County; allow the sale of a former great camp donated to the state in Duane, Franklin County; and authorize the use of unlawfully constructedOlympic training facilities and accessories in North Elba, Essex County.The Forever Wild clause (Art. 14, Section 1) forbids logging, lease, development or private use of the 2.7-million-acre public Forest Preserve, which makes up less than half of the park. The remainder of park’s six million acres (9,300 sq. mi.) are commercial timberlands, large estates, farms, resorts, communities, and private homes. Private land use is guided by a state plan.Janeway said the Council will continue to work to resolve constitutional conflicts, according to its long-standing policy for review of constitutional amendments. Among other provisions, the policy requires that amendments create a clear benefit to the Forest Preserve; don’t set precedents that harm other areas of the preserve; and, represent the only alternative to accomplish an overwhelming public benefit.About the Adirondack Council:Established in 1975, the Adirondack Council is a privately funded not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park. It is the largest environmental organization whose sole focus is the Adirondacks.The Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action. It envisions a Park with clean water and clean air, core wilderness areas, farms and working forests, and vibrant, diverse, welcoming, safe communities. Adirondack Council advocates live in all 50 United States.
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