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 PreserveDuring 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.
Paul Schaefer in his early 70s in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness during deer season, perhaps around 1980.
I think of Adirondack conservationist and forever wild advocate Paul Schaefer (1908-1996) during deer season, actually in any season, but particularly in deer season at his Adirondack cabin. From 1921 on, over a century now, Paul Schaefer and his family, friends and hunting club comrades in the Cataract Club ventured into the wilderness from cabins in the Adirondack mountains. Some of them stayed in deer camp during big game season, others came and remained in the area for a lifetime. Physically, Paul frequently came and went for 75 years, but his spirit lingered in the mountains and cabin country, as he called it. Friends my age and I only knew him in his final decade. I wish that I could have known him as his family, Adirondack neighbors and hunting companions knew him, in full vigor, ever alert, loping, climbing and watching through the big woods, hills and ledges of the Siamese Ponds Wilderness, searching for the “sagacious and graceful” white-tailed deer.
At Adirondack Wild’s October meeting at the Paul Smith’s Visitor Interpretive Center, lakes and ponds came under the spotlight in a panel discussion about Cooperative Stewardship of Adirondack Lakes. Of particular interest was a given lake’s classification and subsequent comprehensive study, planning and management. If Adirondack waterbodies are considered part of the Forest Preserve, and for the last fifty years the State Land Master Plan talks about incorporating both land and water, then the law requires that lakes and ponds be classified, just as forests are. That raises important questions.
Classification leads to…If the lakes are classified, then they are subject to unit management planning, just as trails, trailheads and mountain summits are. The classification sets the basic guidelines and legally required outcomes. If lakes and ponds are subject to UMPs, then their carrying capacity, or ability of lakes and ponds in the Forest Preserve to withstand a variety of present and anticipated future uses, must be evaluated, like the requirement to measure and assess actual and projected public use on our forest’s trails and summits. I am not suggesting such assessments are an easy or inexpensive thing to do. Under the APA Act, however, it is a legal requirement, however often left untried or unfinished. And the state legislature just appropriated a lot more money than DEC has ever had before for wilderness protection and management.
The nonprofit advocate Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve presented its annual awards at the Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022. The award ceremony was part of Adirondack Wild’s 12th Annual Members Meeting.
I just skimmed through Eric Stackman’s recent replies to the Adirondack Park Agency. See the APA website, apa.ny.gov, large-scale subdivisions. Mr. Stackman, a Miami, Florida developer, wants to construct a 120-lot resort subdivision in Jay, Essex County, above the East Branch of the Ausable River, apparently within sightlines near Whiteface Mountain, Asgaard Farm and many other viewing locations
As the Adirondacks celebrates the 50th anniversary of the nation’s Clean Water Act (1972-2022), I thought to thumb through a set of old reports to find out what the nonprofit advocate Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks was doing or thinking about at the origins of the Clean Water Act during 1972.
So much of a groundbreaking environmental nature was happening in 1972 that shared the spotlight with the national Clean Water Act. Here is a small sampling from the Association’s 1972 report, authored by its president at the time Arthur Crocker, and by its vice president Paul Schaefer:
The legal challenge was filed this spring because the Adirondack Park Agency in Ray Brook failed to conduct an adjudicatory public hearing that could have, through sworn expert testimony and cross examination, uncovered facts about noise, ground, surface water and other information needed for the APA to render a determination of no undue adverse impact “upon the natural, scenic, aesthetic, ecological, wildlife, historic, recreational or open space resources of the park.”
No hearing about the granite quarry was held by the APA which, after staff review, issued the proposed granite quarry a permit to operate earlier this year.
Between 1931 and 1996, Paul Schaefer substantively influenced the Adirondack attitudes and actions of nine New York Governors, all their conservation commissioners, and many state legislative leaders. Governors Nelson Rockefeller (1966) and Mario Cuomo (1994) personally attended ceremonies to recognize Paul’s many Adirondack achievements.
Fifty-one years ago (1971) the newly created Adirondack Park Agency was granted the authority to draft, revise, and interpret the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, or APSLMP. That plan was signed by the Governor in 1972 and revised by many Governors since. The NYS courts have found that the APSLMP has the force and effect of law.
No Material Increase: This past week, the APA sent the public notice that we have 60 days to comment in order to “inform the APA Board’s interpretation of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan’s Wild Forest Basic Guideline No. 4 – no material increase of road mileage on lands classified as Wild Forest.” The rest of APA’s press release consists of seemingly arcane questions and alternatives that presumes public awareness and understanding of the past and how it relates today.
It’s mud season again in the Adirondacks. During mud season, we are all warned by our NYS DEC to stay off designated hiking trails in or near the High Peaks or Giant Mountain Wildernesses at this time of the year because the scarce, thin, organic soil at higher elevations so easily comes off on our boots and leaves nothing on the former trail but boot holes and pools of water. Save our vulnerable soils, plants and trails. Come back later in May or June, we are asked, when conditions are drier. The request makes plenty of sense.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) last held an adjudicatory public hearing in 2011 – the kind of hearing that involves sworn testimony and cross-examination of evidence before a law judge, followed by a full hearing record on which to base a judicious, carefully examined, evidence-based decision. That 2011 hearing was for the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort subdivision and development near Tupper Lake. In the eleven years since, and despite the many hundreds of permits issued by the APA since, including many large, regional projects, not a single adjudicatory public hearing has been convened by the APA.
It is in Chapter 19 of the NYS Climate Action Council’s Draft Scoping Plan, the chapter on “Land Use,” that I expected the words “Adirondack” or “Adirondack Park” or “Adirondack Park Agency” to get some focused attention. I was disappointed to see that the word “Adirondack” is cited in just four places within the 340-page climate scoping report, all perfunctorily.
The Climate Action Scoping Plan is the result of two years of work by the Climate Action Council, established by state law in 2019 to “establishes the path forward for New York to achieve 70% renewable energy by 2030, 100% zero-emission electricity by 2040, a 40% reduction in statewide GHG emissions by 2030, an 85% reduction in statewide GHG emissions by 2050, and net zero emissions statewide by 2050. The paths to 2030 and 2050 require a comprehensive vision and integrated approach to build new programs while significantly expanding existing efforts. Each economic sector discussed in this Plan establishes a vision for 2030 and 2050 in an effort to paint the picture of the future and show the direction the State must head.”
The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks had hired me the previous winter. It was now the spring of 1987. Windows and doors were again opening to the hope and then the reality of spring’s warmth. The director of the Schenectady Museum William (Bill) Verner had given me, practically rent free, a desk and telephone from which to begin work as the Association’s first executive director in over 60 years.
It helped that Bill was a member of my board of trustees, and that his knowledge and love for the Adirondacks and Adirondack history from a home base in Long Lake was long and deep.
Over the course of time, the Adirondack Park Agency’s permit practice has drifted too far away from what the 1973 Agency Act and the State Environmental Quality Review Act require.
The State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) requires any State or local agency that undertakes, funds, or approves a project to evaluate the actual or potential environmental impacts of the project prior to taking final action. SEQRA clearly sets forth the state’s policy that adverse environmental impacts of proposed actions be fully considered and either minimized or avoided.
An agency must identify all areas of relevant environmental concern with respect to the project, take a hard look at them, and provide a reasoned elaboration for its determination as to whether the action may have a significant adverse impact on the environment. The agency must require preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) if the proposed action may have any significant environmental impacts.
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