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 over 30 years as executive director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks and currently as managing partner with Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve

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 managing partner in the nonprofit organization launched in 2010, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve.


Friday, September 10, 2021

‘If Allowed to Continue at Present Rates’

Here are a few excerpts from past Adirondack conferences preparing audiences for climate change, severe weather events, and consequences.

Photo: Post Hurricane Irene streambank and instream restoration efforts on the E. Branch Ausable River. Photo by Dave Gibson

September, 1989: George Woodwell, global ecologist and then director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, from an address at the Ausable Club, St. Hubert’s, Keene:

By cutting vast tracts of the world’s forests without replacement, humans are seriously adding to the atmospheric pool of CO2 and diminishing the natural background modulating effect of the earth’s lungs – our forests. A 25% increase in atmospheric CO2 since the mid-19th century, if allowed to continue at present rates, will have a severe impact on our climate. It, in addition to even more dramatic increases in methane and other greenhouse gases, will inevitably lead to global warming and climatic changes on a large scale. Ecological and societal changes, many of which may drastically affect the Adirondack Park, are sure to follow.

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Monday, August 16, 2021

Lesson from Wetland Hydrology 101

Many, many years ago I entered graduate school at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in New Haven, CT. My graduate interests lay primarily in water resources, so I searched that first semester for a lead professor/advisor in that vast field – and, due to recent retirements, found none.

As luck would have it, a Ph.D. candidate hosted a course in basic wetland hydrology 101 that fall. He was young, energetic, no nonsense kind of person, a stickler for getting out in the field and measuring things like water flow, water inputs, outputs and what was going on underneath our feet and the wet soils he was interested in. He took us to interesting places called bogs, fens, and cedar swamps requiring hip boots. We saw great swamp trees, like tupelos or black gum. We brought back funny looking, stained sketches of bogs and fens, with arrows showing what we thought was the direction of water flow pointing in various directions. I learned that a fen was a kind of boggy wetland where surface and/or ground water flowed through, introducing minerals and oxygenated conditions and thus making a fen somewhat less mineral impoverished than a bog lacking such through flow.

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Tuesday, August 3, 2021

“Staff should rely on this policy.” Really ?

essex chain stakeholders

Forest Preserve stakeholders meet with DEC staff to discuss management alternatives, Essex Chain Lakes, 2012. Photo by Dave Gibson

The NYS Court of Appeals ruled on May 4 of this year in favor of plaintiff Protect the Adirondacks and against the State of New York, deciding that Snowmobile Community Connector trails as planned, permitted, and constructed by the Department of Environmental Conservation during the first term of Governor Andrew Cuomo violated the “forever wild” clause, Section 1 of Article 14, NYS Constitution.

It took the DEC until June 30 to formally respond to the Court’s ruling, and that formal response came in the form of an internal DEC memorandum issued by DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos and handed out at a recent meeting of the DEC’s Forest Preserve Advisory Committee on which I serve as a representative of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve.

In his first paragraph, Commissioner Seggos wrote that:

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Monday, July 5, 2021

From Perkins Clearing to Cathead Mountain

cathead firetower

I was hiking in Hamilton County recently when one of my companions spoke of the days of the Perkins Clearing land exchange (1979), a publicly supported amendment to Article 14 of the NYS Constitution which led to a significant land exchange between the State of New York and International Paper Corporation north of the village of Speculator.

We spoke of that land exchange as not only highly sensible and pragmatic for both sides, but also a classic Adirondack “win: win” result for the public’s Forest Preserve and for private forest industry.

Perkins Clearing Exchange: The confusing checkerboard pattern of state-private land evolved over many decades around Perkins Clearing (named after Isaiah Perkins, who owned a deer hunting camp here in the late 19th century). It was finally ended after 1979. Ownerships were consolidated, clearer boundaries established. Unbroken ownership blocks facilitated better land management. Both parties gained roughly the same acreage. The state’s Forest Preserve gained a little over 10,300 contiguous acres, International Paper gained just over 7,100 contiguous acres.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The End of Arbitrary Powers to Dam Adirondack Rivers

indian river

The State Legislature has just adjourned, but on a good many nights this past month I grew sleepy watching legislative TV or legislative proceedings on the internet. For the non-debate pieces of legislation, meaning when the legislative majority is not allowing minority debate on bills, the viewer is treated to the following exchanges in a monotone, one after the other:  The speaker or his representative, or the Senate president or her representative: “The clerk will read the bill.” The clerk: “a bill to” …whatever it does. The speaker or his representative: “The clerk will read the final section.” The clerk: “this act shall take effect immediately.” The speaker, president or their representative: “The vote: 63 in favor. The bill is passed.” All of that has taken less than ten seconds. Next.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Fragmenting Whitney Park?

whitney parkNews on May 29 comes from the Times Union’s journalist Wendy Liberatore that the late Marylou Whitney’s husband John Hendrickson plans to apply for an 11-lot subdivision of Whitney Industries land in Long Lake.

Unable to sell the 36,000-acres in one fell swoop, Hendrickson tells the TU journalist that he will change the name to Whitney Real Estate and try for a permit allowing one private, two-three-thousand-acre estate on each of 11 lakes, leaving him, he estimates, with $238 million. Such sales would average $6600 per acre. That seems a bit high, but he’ll have the chance to find out.

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Thursday, May 20, 2021

Adirondack Nature Conservancy – An Unheralded Founder

carl george

Adirondack fiftieth anniversaries abound. While visiting the Adirondack Nature Conservancy website this week I am reminded of this chapter’s founding fifty years ago. Like the legislative formation of the NYS Adirondack Park Agency, an Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy was one of the 181 recommendations of the Temporary Study Commission on the Future of the Adirondacks, which reported to Governor Nelson Rockefeller and the public in 1970.

The commission’s final recommendation, #181, read: “an Adirondack Nature Conservancy to encourage gifts in the Adirondack Park should be established by private interests.”

That is all it says.

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Friday, May 7, 2021

The Court’s Snowmobile Connector Decision in Perspective

The NYS Court of Appeals has just decided by a 4-2 majority, that New York State agencies under Governor Andrew Cuomo have violated Article 14, Section 1 of our State Constitution by impermissibly constructing snowmobile community connector trails through the ‘forever wild’ Forest Preserve, removing rocks, grading the trails, bench cutting the trails, and cutting thousands of trees.

Bitter comments about the court’s decision notwithstanding, snowmobiling continued in the Adirondack region during the years while this case was being appealed by state agencies up to New York’s highest court, and will again.

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Friday, April 9, 2021

At 50, how are APA and DEC Performing?

Report of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the 21st Century April 1990In the just-approved 2021-22 state budget is a $3 billion-dollar environmental bond act, subject to voter approval in November 2022. If approved, it may make a small dent in the $60+ billion needed statewide to upgrade our state’s old water and sewage treatment systems. If approved, it may help to do even more than we are doing today to prepare and make more resilient New Yorkers and their villages, towns, counties and cities for the more frequent and more severe weather events that will continue during a warming climate. And it may help to create more incentives to protect intact forests in private ownership to offset our carbon emissions.

If approved, maybe a tiny amount, relatively speaking, perhaps as little as a few hundreds of thousands of dollars from the $3 billion could go towards an independent evaluation of how well the Adirondack Park Agency and Department of Environmental Conservation are fulfilling their respective, but also overlapping missions.

This also being the 50th anniversary of the Adirondack Park Agency, the question should be asked: has there ever been an evaluation of the agency’s current and past performance visa vi its legislated responsibilities and jurisdiction? The answer is a qualified no.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Adirondack Wild applauds pilot reservation system at AMR

AMR lotThe non-profit Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve applauds the announcement by Commissioner Basil Seggos of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation of a pilot reservation system for accessing selected trails from the privately-owned Adirondack Mountain Reserve located off State Rte. 73 in the Town of Keene.

“This pilot program for the upcoming High Peaks Wilderness hiking season is part of a critically needed set of user management tools for both the DEC, the Town of Keene, and the adjacent, cooperating private landowner, the AMR,” said Adirondack Wild’s David Gibson.

“We have been calling for a pilot reservation system for a number of years to reduce Wilderness congestion, restore wilder conditions, and increase both hiker education and public safety. Now, we wish to thank the High Peaks Strategic Advisory Group, the DEC, the Adirondack Mountain Reserve, the Town of Keene, and other stakeholders involved for their study of the problems, and for their upcoming cooperation and commitment to initiate this pilot beginning on May 1.”

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Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Loss of Institutional Memory at the APA

acrInstitutional memory is important. It reminds folks who join an institution of any kind what the mission of that organization is, what has come before them, what was considered important then and why, what continues to be the mission today. It strengthens the links in a longer historical chain that can easily be weakened if there is no one left in the institution to remember, to teach and to motivate the newcomers.

Veterans should be empowered to help newer hires understand that they are part of an important historical legacy. This is not to say that the institution cannot adapt to new circumstances and improve. It must. It is to say that there ought to remain a commitment to always keep the legacy in view so that the compass points in the same direction.

Adirondack Park Agency staff are highly skilled resource professionals doing a difficult job on a huge scale, working under difficult legal timelines and, like the rest of us, isolated from their colleagues during the pandemic.  However, judging from comments some of them made last week during the permit issuance for the Woodward Lake major subdivision, I believe the Adirondack Park Agency has lost significant amounts of institutional memory. That can lead to mission creep.

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Monday, March 8, 2021

Elk Lake: The First Adirondack Conservation Easement

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s website reveals that 777,206 acres of private land in the Adirondack Park are protected by a state-owned conservation easement.  During the Adirondack Park Centennial year of 1992 there were 93,000 acres of private lands under state-owned easement in the Park.

That number jumped to 250,000 acres early in this century as the former pulp and paper companies in the Park, such as International Paper, Champion International and Domtar, all negotiated easements under the state’s program. Lyme Timber acquired many of these eased holdings in the 21st century and is now the largest private forest landowner in the Park.

The Finch, Pruyn Company also sold just under 100,000 acres of private lands under conservation easement in 2007  (plus about 60,000-acres that has become Forest Preserve). The acreage under easement has steadily grown since then. And that doesn’t even count all of the private easements negotiated and acquired by groups such as the Adirondack Nature Conservancy, Adirondack Land Trust, Lake Placid Land Conservancy, Champlain Area Trails, and others.

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Thursday, February 18, 2021

‘Out of harmony with forest lands in their wild state’

Article 14 of NYS constitutionPreviously, the Almanack has asked “which side are you on” when it comes to a court case involving Article 14, the “forever wild” provision of our state constitution.

Recently, dueling press releases from plaintiff Protect the Adirondacks and the Adirondack Mountain Club, Open Space Institute, Adirondack Council, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter and Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, the group I work for – indeed suggest that all of us are retreating to our separate corners.

In truth we are longstanding and natural allies and proponents of the “forever wild” provision and much else. Politicization has not completely engulfed the world of wild nature – yet.

» Continue Reading.


Friday, January 29, 2021

Adirondack Wild’s Comments on the Governor’s Environmental Budget

forest ranger logo

Budget testimony from Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve to the New York State Legislature, January 27, 2021

Adirondack Wild applauds Governor Cuomo’s executive budget for not cutting environmental protection, stewardship and related staffing despite steep projected reductions in budget revenues.  We applaud the Governor’s and the State Legislature’s ongoing emphasis on climate protection and mitigation. We believe that the following targeted and relatively modest budget increases are needed to respond to climate and resource-based opportunities and urgent needs that should also be confronted during this year of budget challenges.

 

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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Driving the Northway with Paul Schaefer

As the decade of the 1990’s began, noted Adirondack conservationist and wilderness coalition leader Paul Schaefer’s eyesight was failing. He had macular degeneration. We had noticed that this skilled carpenter, home and cabin builder and historic restorationist was no longer hitting the nail squarely on its head.

We worried about him continuing to drive. Some of us were eager to drive him to meetings or to his Adirondack cabin and, increasingly, he accepted our invitations. He had a lot to say to those who drove him or sat with him in his living room or at his Adirondack cabin before a blazing fireplace. Paul liked his fires hot.

His larger-than-life experiences, salted with many humorous moments, crackled along with the logs in his hearth. Paul laughed heartily in recounting his adventures, and those of us privileged to sit with him joined right in.

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