In so far as a judicial ruling expected later this year, nothing can be determined by the questions the judges posed this week regarding the Adirondack Club and Resort, that precedent-setting subdivision near Tupper Lake still being litigated. But the questions raised by several of the judges on the Appellate Court in Albany (and answers given) were interesting because they were unexpected (by me, anyway) and largely unrelated to the big, controversial issues surrounding the spreading out of the Great Camps, the use of the Resource Management lands for exurban sprawl development that is neither “on substantial acreages or in small clusters on carefully selected and well designed sites” (quoting the APA Act), or about the lack of substantive information in the hearing record about the project’s financing, marketing, sales and tax projections. » Continue Reading.
I attended a recent forum in Albany, Facing the Storm: Preparing for Increased Extreme Weather in Upstate New York, and wanted to pass along some of what I heard, or thought I heard. The event was sponsored by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government.
For a forum concerning the impacts of a changing climate the audience was unusually diverse in terms of backgrounds and professions. As a staff member for Adirondack Wild, I was sitting next to a firefighter from a village in Montgomery County. At the next table were other firefighters and emergency personnel in uniform. Across from me were several members of the League of Women Voters. Initially we all wondered if we were in the right meeting. I think by the end we realized what we all have in common. » Continue Reading.
Legal champion for nature, for our nature and for the wild, David Sive, eulogized in The New York Times recently, was a man who epitomized the truth that you protect only what you love, you love only what you understand and you understand only what you are taught. According to the writers of the Times obituary, David brought Thoreau’s Walden with him to World War II and he and the book survived the Battle of the Bulge.
That is a blessing, for David Sive went on to employ Thoreau’s transcendence, his own legal training, fierce guardianship of all he loved and consummate use of the English language in the courts of law to protect the Hudson Valley and its Highlands, the Catskills, the Adirondacks, our State Parks, and many other places.
Before David Sive, the idea of a citizen and their representative gaining standing to argue for the environment in a court of law was rare indeed. Thanks to him and other pioneers, it has long been practiced. One can always wish that more of our judges were better trained and more inclined in this direction, but that is another story. » Continue Reading.
The gap between legislative intent to protect the open space resources of the Adirondack Park and the APA’s analysis of project impacts in accordance with the law widened into a chasm in 2012 when the agency approved the Adirondack Club and Resort by a 10-1 vote.
Now, the Agency has also approved by 10-1 vote a Zipline thrill ride down scenic French Mountain above the Village of Lake George at the entrance to the Adirondack Park. That development will not engender statewide publicity nor, I suspect, a lawsuit. Nonetheless it requires the cutting of a 900-foot swath, 35-50 feet wide, down a steep and wild mountainside. According to Agency staff, the steel cables would be highly visible from many vantage points; in some views the cables would be silhouetted above the mountain, and the cut would resemble a utility line. The thrill ride benefits exactly one business in a resort community. » Continue Reading.
One can always hope. But readers already know this is not the case. Cuomo’s Environmental Conservation Commissioner, Joe Martens, made it explicit when he testified recently to legislative committees “Basically, this is a flat budget staff-wise,” he told legislators who politely questioned why his DEC budget appeared to be cut $43 million.
“Those dollars were non-reoccurring federal pass-through funds,” the commissioner answered. “Those are not cuts to our operating funds.” When questioned about the apparent loss of staff, the commissioner answered that those were DEC information technology personnel moved to a central IT office in Albany. » Continue Reading.
Fifty years ago, the nation as a whole needed a diversion after the shocking assassination of President Kennedy, and all eyes were on the Beatles performing on the Ed Sullivan Show. President Johnson was hard at work persuading key congressmen to support the Civil Rights Act. The seedling that was to become the Vietnam War was growing. I knew little about any of this. I joined thousands my age trying to impersonate the Beatles with a mop on my head and a “plugged-in” broomstick.
And in Washington DC the final legislative compromises behind another civil right encompassed within the National Wilderness Preservation Act of 1964 were agreed to. The legislated right to an enduring, living wilderness for every American was nearing. The labors of the Wilderness Society’s Howard Zahniser reflected in 18 years of his advocacy and 66 drafts of the bill had nearly reached an end. On September 3, 1964 President Johnson signed the bill. Zahniser had died a few months earlier, just days after the bill’s final hearing. » Continue Reading.
Bernard C. Smith served in the NYS Senate from 1965-1978, an era when trust in our government’s good will and capability to improve our lives was ebbing fast. But Senator Smith, a Republican, believed strongly in that capability and responsibility.
His belief found expression in numerous laws to protect our environment, laws which had to pass through his Committee on Environmental Conservation.
The Adirondack Park Agency (1971) and its organic act (1973), the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act (1972 and ‘75), the Environmental Quality Review Act, the law creating the Department of Environmental Conservation (1972) and its organic act, the Environmental Bond Act of 1972 and many other bills all found a lead sponsor and champion in Senator Smith. » Continue Reading.
It’s state budget time, and the members of regional advisory committees on open space conservation from the Adirondacks to Niagara and Long Island will be watching that fraction of one percent of the state budget called the Environmental Protection Fund. Will the EPF continue to recover from the recessionary influenza it caught in 2009?
New York State’s extraordinary three million acre Forest Preserve in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, and its extensive State Park and Historic area system (330,000 acres) outside of these Parks are two big reasons why the state has been a national leader in conserving forests and open space since the 19th century.
Another is nearly million acres conserved through the use of conservation easements on private lands. The EPF and spending from the 1996 $1.75 billion Clean Water/Air Bond Act (expended years ago) has funded this growth: 85% growth in conservation easements since 1992, 5% growth in the Forest Preserve during that time span. » Continue Reading.
For three days, the Adirondack Park Agency deliberated on a set of classifications for Forest Preserve in Newcomb, Minerva and Indian Lake that were never in doubt. The decisions were the Governor’s. APA took its direction from him, as it did with the Adirondack Club and Resort two years ago.
APA staff labored mightily over the past week to put those State Land decisions, and the maps into a format that their members might understand. The convoluted resolution was adopted unanimously but requires changes in inconvenient regulations and policies before the classifications are finalized. That is the price this Governor exacts from his state agencies in order to settle a controversial policy matter for these magnificent new parts of the Adirondack Forest Preserve. » Continue Reading.
Someone I know gained some of his inspiration for helping to conserve the backwoods and wildlife in the Adirondack Park from an African who spoke admiringly of the Adirondack Park’s people and wilderness coexisting, and as one of the globe’s most important places. My friend has never forgotten this encounter with a man knowledgeable of the Adirondacks in East Africa. Perhaps it is necessary to travel purposefully in the world to more keenly appreciate how many from all walks of life pay attention to what goes on in our Park.
I don’t know if Nelson Mandela was another one of those on the African continent paying attention to the Adirondack Park, and it doesn’t matter. He paid attention to freedom and justice in South Africa and the world, and that attention encompasses the right to enjoy, appreciate and protect an unpolluted world from whence he and we come, and evolved. As he stated in the address copied below, “a sustainable future for humankind depends on a caring partnership with nature as much as anything else.” He clearly loved the land of his birth, and his body and spirit are returning to it this week. » Continue Reading.
The late, extraordinary forest educator, Dr. Edwin H. Ketchledge, started an exhibit of native Adirondack trees at the base of the Whiteface Memorial Highway in Wilmington, and wrote to all who would listen how important it would be to properly interpret the natural history of the mountain from the base of the road to the mountain’s summit. Of course, Dr. Ketchledge had interpreted this route in hundreds of ways during his career as a teacher, and was hopeful that his legacy would continue.
Governor Andrew Cuomo just made it a lot safer to accomplish Dr. Ketchledge’s vision as a result of the state’s commitment to expend $12 million to rehabilitate the road and the summit’s facilities. This is welcome news indeed for Wilmington, the Olympic Authority and many Adirondack residents and visitors who marvel at what they feel, see and learn from this mountain road. » Continue Reading.
Perhaps I first heard of the Township 40 disputed land titles during the Adirondack Park Centennial year, 1992. It was probably that fall during a Raquette Lake cruise on the WW Durant with Capt. Dean Pohl. I recalled the issues when canoeing on the lake later that decade. My friend Dan and I paddled Raquette Lake, took the Marion River Carry en route through the Eckford Chain of Lakes. I was back paddling on Raquette Lake through some high winds and waves when our mentor Paul Schaefer died in July, 1996.
I felt terribly that I was not with Paul when he died, but consoled myself with the knowledge that he would have certainly approved of where I was at the time he died, paddling into the teeth of the wind to reach a quiet bay on this great Adirondack lake. Paul was fond of showing us an early 20th century map of Township 40 to make the point that before becoming the famous first chief of the U.S. Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot had (in about 1900) proposed lumbering thousands of acres east and south of Raquette Lake, a threat which had energized the organization of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, the citizen and advocacy organization Paul served for 50 years and which I had the privilege of working for. » Continue Reading.
His interpretation, that the land exchange stripped-down to its essence represents a straight commercial transaction that lacks any public need or benefit, is one Adirondack Wild shares, but Bill made an especially articulate case.
One of the interesting comments to Bill’s post comes from my colleague Dan Plumley. Dan notes that the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s characterization of “Lot 8,” the 200-acre section of Jay Mountain Wilderness the company wants to mine for wollastonite, is plain wrong. Dan’s opinion is informed by observations he and I made during recent field visits to Lot 8. We were impressed by the forest environment there, which I will get to in a moment. » Continue Reading.
I don’t recall ever crying before at an annual meeting. I am pleased to catch up with people, I am excited to see members and friends gathered together in one place in support of our Adirondack and wild mission. I am proud of the efforts of my colleagues and our members as we talk about our accomplishments together over the past year, and anticipate the challenges in front of us.
But tears flooded my eyes at The Grange in Whallonsburg this past week when Bonnie MacLeod displayed the best of Gary Randorf’s photography set to some o f the most beautiful string music I have ever heard. » Continue Reading.
“Let us develop as if human beings were planning to be around and live on this land for a while longer,” said Randall Arendt, the noted landscape planner and designer and author of numerous books about how to develop the land without ruining its natural, ecologically functional, aesthetic and economic values as open space, books such as Rural By Design. Arendt was one of the keynote speakers at the Adirondack Explorer’s one-day conference last week, Strengthening the APA (NYS Adirondack Park Agency).
Stating “there is no constitutional right to sprawl,” Arendt took it right to the APA. “I look forward to returning to the Adirondack Park when conservation development is the mandate and the norm, not the exception.” He argued that the APA should make conservation design of development the default option, and conventional lots which spreads development out the rare, special case. » Continue Reading.