Crown Point, NY – The Adirondack Council will present its Conservationist of the Year Award to the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative (BPHA) Caucus for its support of Adirondack environmental science, education, jobs and wilderness protection.
The presentation will take place during the Adirondack Council’s annual Forever Wild Day Celebration on July 15 at the Crown Point State Historic Site on the shore of Lake Champlain. The Council will hold a virtual annual meeting of its members on Wednesday, July 12.
“The Adirondack Council was very pleased when the leaders of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus chose the Adirondacks for their annual retreat and strategy sessions in 2021 and 2022,” said Adirondack Council Acting Executive Director Raul Aguirre. “It is important for rural and urban communities of New York to work together and see the linkages that connect us. Neither of us can achieve our environmental or community-development goals without help or appreciating the similarities we share. The achievements we celebrate this year clearly illustrate that, and we are honored to once again have the Caucus join us in the Adirondacks as our Conservationist of the Year recipients.
“The Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus thanks the Adirondack Council for honoring our work with their ‘Conservationist of the Year‘ award,” said Michaelle Solages, Chairwoman of the BPHA Caucus. “The Adirondack Park is a national treasure belonging to every New Yorker. The Caucus continues its fight to address systemic inequities and injustices for people of color across this state. We can and must do more to ensure that the voices of all New Yorkers are heard when it comes to matters concerning the future of their Adirondack Park.
“I want to thank Caucus Executive Director Joshua Joseph and Chairwoman Michaelle Solages of Nassau County and the members of the Executive Board for focusing their attention on the Adirondacks,” Aguirre said. “We want to thank them for seeing the Adirondack Park for the national treasure that it is by engaging with its history and communities, expressing appreciation for its incredible wild beauty, standing up for the clean air and water it provides, and working to make the park a better, more accessible, safe, and welcoming place for all New Yorkers.”
The Caucus’s efforts have led to better recognition of the Park’s multi-cultural history. It has provided funding for a new careers institute to educate young people about environmental jobs. And, the Caucus fought for funding for a comprehensive, new scientific study of the impacts of climate change and pollution on Adirondack water quality, Aguirre said.
Voting Rights, Race and the Safety of Wilderness
In 2022, an historic marker was placed on Old Military Road in Lake Placid, where the 19th Century Suffrage Settlement of Timbuctoo was located. Several former Suffrage Settlement sites are currently under study by archeologists hoping to find traces of their former inhabitants. Prior to this, only the former cabin and farm of white abolitionist John Brown had been identified for the public, marked by historic signs and a state historic site.
The Caucus has been working in cooperation with the Adirondack Council and other local organizations as part of the outreach efforts of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative. Part of the initiative was an exploration and celebration of the history of Black people in the Adirondacks, including the Suffrage Settlements of Essex, Clinton and Franklin counties in the northeastern Adirondacks.
Suffrage Settlements were farming communities where Black men such as Lyman Eppes of Troy could gain the right to vote in New York by claiming and working lands offered by abolitionists. Thus, he obtained the $250 in property required of Black men who wished to vote at that time.
Eppes later founded a religious school and choir, was elected overseer of roads and inspector of elections in the Town of North Elba, where Timbuctoo and Lake Placid are located. His family remained in the area through the 1940s. Other Suffrage Settlements included Blacksville, Bloomingdale, Vermontville, Ray Brook, Freeman’s Home, Township 9, St. Armand, and Negrow Brook/Negro Hill. The latter two settlements are part of a current effort to rename those places in honor of the persons who lived there.
The Timbuctoo Summer Climate and Careers Institute was funded through the work of the Caucus, receiving $2.1 million in each of the FY2022-23 and 2023-24 budgets. The program links prospective City University of New York students at Medgar Evers College with the State University College of Environmental Science and Forestry campus in Newcomb, Essex County. There, New York City students will spend two weeks learning about rewarding environmental careers not generally available at urban campuses and visiting the wilds of the Adirondack High Peaks. The Institute is intended to create a new pipeline to good environmental careers for Black and Latino students, while providing the Adirondack Park with a larger, more diverse pool of talented young people. The first cohort of students is set to arrive this summer.
Calibrating the Scientific SCALE
The Caucus also helped to establish an important scientific research project intended to assess the impact of climate change, water pollution and air pollution on Adirondack lakes and rivers. It has been nearly 40 years since the most recent comprehensive field survey of more than 1400 major Adirondack lakes has been conducted. The results of the last one led to a national acid rain program that cut dramatically the acid rain-causing air pollution falling on the Adirondacks. The project will assess how that has translated into improvements in soil health and water quality, while also gauging the impacts of climate trends such as hotter summers and shorter winters. Additionally, the study will seek to understand how Adirondack lakes can help combat climate change, and provide necessary data that will aid in the protection of public health for New Yorkers.The New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus is a 76-member body of state legislators representing a third of residents across the State of New York from Long Island, the metro New York City area, and upstate. The Legislature has 213 members.
Other Conservationist of the Year Award winners include: NY Governors Mario M. Cuomo and George E. Pataki; NYS Attorney General Dennis Vacco; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson; NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation Commissioners John P. Cahill, Erin Crotty and Joseph Martens; Senator Carl Marcellino; Assemblymen Richard Brodsky and Maurice Hinchey; Adirondack Park Agency Executive Director Robert Glennon; New York Times editor John Oakes; Adirondack environmental activists Timothy Barnett, Frances Beinecke, Peter Borrelli, Michael Carr, George Davis, Christopher “Kim” Elliman, John and Margot Ernst, Barbara L. Glaser, Harold Jerry, Jen Kretser, Bill McKibben, Chris Navitsky, David L. Newhouse, Peter Paine, Clarence Petty and Paul Schaefer.
Created in 1892, the Adirondack Park is one of the oldest and largest protected landscapes in the United States. It is a six-million-acre (9,300-square-mile) blend of public and private lands protecting the largest temperate deciduous forest in the world. Within this single mountainous park are 11,000 lakes and ponds, and roughly 30,000 miles of rivers, brooks and streams that provide water to most of New York State.
It is the largest park of any kind in the contiguous United States. It is larger than the combined areas of Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier and Grand Canyon National Parks.
New York’s Constitution requires that the Park’s 2.7 million acres of public Forest Preserve be kept wild forever. Private lands consist of commercial timberlands, large estates, resorts, outdoor recreation venues, private homes and 130 small communities, only nine of which are large enough to be incorporated as villages. Its year-round population is 130,000 but nearly twice as many live here during the summer. More than 12.4 million people visit annually.
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.
Photo at top: Caucus Chair Assembly Member Michaelle Solage, D-Elmont, right, views rainfall/air pollution testing equipment at the Adirondack Survey Corp laboratory in Ray Brook, October 2022. Photo Credit: Justin Levine/Adirondack Council.