Almanack Contributor David Gibson

David Gibson

Dave Gibson, who writes about issues of wilderness, wild lands, public policy, and more, has been involved in Adirondack conservation for nearly 25 years, much of that time as Executive Director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks and then as first Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks.

During Dave's tenure at the Association, the organization completed the Center for the Forest Preserve including the Adirondack Research Library at Paul Schaefer’s home. The library has the finest Adirondack collection outside the Blue Line, specializing in Adirondack conservation and recreation history.

Currently, Dave is a partner in the nonprofit organization launched in 2010, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve.


Monday, November 5, 2018

Gibson: Large Scale Subdivision An Important Test of APA

Applicant's preferred design of subdivision at Woodward LakeCurrently on the Adirondack Park Agency website (apa.ny.gov) are links to “large scale subdivisions currently under review,” an entirely new feature. What is that new feature all about?

Earlier this year, APA adopted a new application for large-scale residential subdivisions, as the agency defines them. In the green land use color, Resource Management, large scale subdivisions are defined as 5 or more lots or parcels in a given project. In the yellow land use color, Rural Use, they are defined as 10 or more lots or parcels. In the orange, or Low Intensity use, they are defined as 25 or more lots or parcels. All subdivisions in those colors meeting those size thresholds, says the APA, must meet new application guidelines. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Dave Gibson: Push for DEC Personnel Increases, Again

Forest Rangers lead search and rescueI listened to NCPR’s Brian Mann recent report about NYS DEC Forest Ranger staffing, and the great pressures on the static ranger staff resulting from so many emergency incidents. DEC Commissioner Seggos’ remarks appeared to be resistant to the need for additional Forest Rangers. He was quoted as saying that the entire DEC staff must rally to help to relieve the pressures on the Rangers and – I would add – on all natural resource professionals at the DEC. In other words, don’t worry members of the media, members of the public, we always do more with less.

In my experience, this Commissioner is very responsive to issues facing him and pays attention to detail. I also know he supports his people in the field. However, it was important for him to hear the support for more DEC Forest Rangers from local government representatives, like Wilmington Town Supervisor and Essex County Board of Supervisors chair Randy Preston. The supervisor was persistent because he knows what we all know: that the DEC Commissioner has no authority to increase the number of rangers, or foresters, or wildlife or fisheries, or operations or campground professionals. The urgent message that DEC natural resource and lands and forests and ranger personnel are at the breaking point must get to the Governor. Local government officials make excellent messengers. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, August 30, 2018

Will DEC Rubber Stamp New Bridge Over the Cedar River?

State agencies in the Adirondack Park are full of dedicated, hardworking employees who want to do their level best under their relevant laws and jurisdictions. However, in a situation where the same agency acts both as the applicant and the decider of an application, the public has good reason to be skeptical that there will be sufficient independence to raise difficult questions, much less objections.

This situation is apparent in the August 22, 2018 edition of the Environmental Notice Bulletin (ENB) issued weekly by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, or DEC. This edition of the ENB gives the public notice that a “Cedar River Bridge and Recreational Trail” is the subject of a permit application by the DEC’s Division of Lands and Forests. The decider of that permit application is the Permits Division of the same DEC. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, August 9, 2018

A Partnership For Wilderness, 1946-2018

In July 1946, Howard and Alice Zahniser drove with their children to the Adirondacks for the first time. Howard had started work as the first executive of The Wilderness Society in Washington D.C. the year prior. Howard would begin drafting the federal Wilderness Act of 1964 (66 drafts in all) from a cabin he acquired in the Adirondacks.

Howard kept a journal of his first trip to the Adirondack Park.  The rest of us know about it thanks to his son Ed Zahniser’s small book, Where Wilderness Preservation Began – Adirondack Writings of Howard Zahniser (Ed Zahniser, Editor., North Country Books, 1992). For 72 years the extended Zahniser family, now including the fourth generation, has returned to the same place in the Adirondacks. This August I held a cook-out to welcome them back. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Gibson: Limited Entry Systems For High Peaks Wilderness

Given ongoing evidence of recreational crowding, overuse and resource damage of the eastern High Peaks Wilderness, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve has called on our DEC to institute permit systems, sometimes called Limited Entry systems, to assure and restore Wilderness preservation, character and opportunity in the most heavily used portions of the High Peaks. Such systems are widely used around the country.

The internal debate at DEC over whether to institute permit systems for the High Peaks has gone on for more than 40 years. Meanwhile, the U.S. Forest Service is considering the expansion of such a system within 500,000 acres of federal Wilderness in Oregon’s Cascade Range. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, June 21, 2018

David Gibson: Bill Would Wrest Away Santanoni Success

We all have a tendency to wrest failure from the jaws of success. We either don’t recognize or admit when we are enjoying success, we get so wrapped up in details that we don’t see the big picture, or in many cases different people may view success very differently. In the case of a bill that comes up repeatedly, year after year, in the State Legislature, perhaps all of these are true.

The bill is simple. It would change the status quo by taking Camp Santanoni in Newcomb away from the legal jurisdiction of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and confer that responsibility it to the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP). » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Gibson: State Rushing Process For High Peaks, Boreas Plans

I’d like to recognize the Adirondack Daily Enterprise for its recent editorial “APA, DEC Skimp on Public Meetings.” The newspaper wrote that two public meetings, both held on the same day (Wednesday, May 23) about numerous management amendments to the High Peaks Wilderness and Vanderwhacker Wild Forest:

“while important, are also severely wanting. These lands belong to the people of New York, and folks near New York City, in Syracuse and Buffalo, Watertown and Ithaca all deserve to have APA and DEC staff come explain what the plans mean and hear the public’s concerns. Together, the two UMP amendments run to more than 300 pages, and it would be beneficial to the public to have them explained by the people who wrote them.”

Now that the classifications are decided and amendments to the unit management plans (UMP) are underway, the process seems highly accelerated and rushed. » Continue Reading.


Friday, May 4, 2018

An Arbor Day Experience On Thomas Mountain

Late last year, our NYS DEC removed a cabin atop Thomas Mountain in the Lake George Wild Forest. The cabin, dating to the mountain’s former private ownership, had been vandalized and had become a public hazard. Its presence was also a violation of Article XIV, Section 1 of our NYS Constitution. DEC did the right thing to remove it.

Restoration of the former cabin site was a logical next step, and Arbor Day the right occasion. Adirondack Wild was very pleased to be invited by DEC to collaborate. We reached out once again for volunteers to the Youth EdVenture and Nature Network (YENN). » Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 5, 2018

Dave Gibson: More On Inner Gooley Club

As noted in stories in Adirondack Explorer and Almanack, the Inner Gooley Club buildings on the shores of Third Lake in the Essex Chain, were nominated for inclusion in the State and National Register of Historic Places.

The nomination is controversial because the lake and lands around it, including the Gooley Club footprint, is publicly-owned Adirondack Forest Preserve classified Primitive, and managed as closely as possible to Wilderness guidelines. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, March 31, 2018

A Fence Full of Car Parts in Baker’s Mills

Paul Schaefer c. 1960The late Adirondack wilderness advocate and conservation leader Paul Schaefer (1908-1996) had loads of stories to tell about his life and the people he came to know in the Adirondacks.

Now that Adirondack rivers are starting to flow again and trout season is about to open, it may be an appropriate time to relay one Paul told me at his fireside. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Gibson: DEC Should End Uncertainty of Old Mountain Road

old mountain roadThis past week, the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court ruled that the Old Mountain Road that runs through the public’s Sentinel Wilderness between Keene and North Elba remains a town road and is not abandoned by either town. The court thus overturned a decision by former Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens in 2016 and affirms an enforcement proceeding decision by former DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis in 2009.

It’s been a long, bumpy and controversial legal ride to this point. What is so perplexing about it is that the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation could have prevented it from ever happening if the DEC had asserted certain legal authority it has been wary of asserting. In a few places where it’s obviously warranted, DEC should start to employ that legal authority again. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Dave Gibson: Forever Wild and Forever Taxable

Wilcox Lake in the AdirondacksRecent Adirondack Almanack posts by Anthony Hall and Peter Bauer broke the news that Governor Andrew Cuomo has stuck a provision in his 2018-19 State budget to cap the annual State Land taxes we all share with towns and school districts in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks.  Furthermore, the Governor proposes to convert the long tradition of full payment of taxes on the Forest Preserve into (capped) payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT).

The approximately three-million acre, publicly-owned and “forever wild” NYS Forest Preserve in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks (and a small amount outside the Parks) is taxable for all purposes. Since 1886 the law has required that Forest Preserve lands must be valued for tax purposes as if privately owned (today’s Section 532a of the Real Property Tax Law, or RPTL). » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Gibson: Proposal for Boreas Ponds Falls Short

boreas ponds classification mapOne could almost hear the exhalation of relief by environmentalists when they learned this week that the Governor’s DEC and APA had decided on “Alternative 2 B” for the Boreas Ponds State Land classification.

Large, obvious violations of law were to be avoided, so they learned. Fears held over the past year were apparently allayed. There would be no unclassified area reserved for a future glamorous camping (“glamping”) in the interior, and no bicycle route on vanishing old roads cloaked by balsam fir leading north towards White Lily Pond and the High Peaks Wilderness. Under “2B” the Boreas Ponds themselves at 1200 feet elevation would be incorporated in that Wilderness, as would the boreal forest stretching north to 3,700 feet and the existing High Peaks Wilderness border. Motorized and mechanized access would end at the Boreas Ponds Dam, eight miles in from county highway, or Blue Ridge Road.

I confess I exhaled as well. After all, one year ago the Governor had declared in his State of the State that there would be infrastructure developed and a Hut to Hut program installed in the Boreas Ponds tract. Rumors of a long “Wild Forest corridor” to allow biking far to the north of the Ponds abounded. Wilderness advocates had dodged a bullet, it seemed. A Solomon-like compromise of Wilderness and Wild Forest access to the Ponds had been reached, or so it seemed. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Dave Gibson: Protect Adirondack Boreal Habitat

Road Network affects boreal habitat near the Raquette-Jordan Primitive AreaThe state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced in September that it would construct 1.25 miles of new road on private lands between Carry Falls Reservoir and the West Branch of the St. Regis River. The new road would connect two existing, much longer forest roads. To understand what’s wrong with this idea, here is some background.

In 1988, large commercial forest owners began to sell their enormous holdings in the Adirondack Park. DEC entered a new era of acquiring conservation easements and public recreational rights. The first large easement acquisition occurred in the part of Park in question. There was a disagreement over who would maintain the miles of industrial haul roads — nearly twenty miles. As a result, the public has been blocked from this easement ever since. Only leaseholders and private owners have access. The new road, paired with negotiations to gain more public rights, would finally open year-round motorized access for the public. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Last, Lost Colvin Survey Report of 1898

Along the banks of the Hudson at North River, and further south on highway pull-offs from Route 28, are some of the Adirondack Park’s best interpretive stops.

Sturdy, visually appealing and informative exhibits coupled with well-designed DOT parking along the Hudson River have attracted visitors and residents for years to turn off the engine, breathe deeply, eat lunch, listen to the river and learn from the exhibits. » Continue Reading.