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.
Fifty springs ago, the Upper Hudson River was conserved as a wild, free flowing river. The Schenectady Gazette’s writer Pete Jacobs reported the news in the April 17, 1969 edition of that newspaper:
“Without opposition, the Assembly gave swift approval to legislation prohibiting the construction of the Gooley Dam on the Upper Hudson River, branded by conservationists as a threat to the wild river country.”
In addition to Gooley, the bill blocks construction of any reservoirs on the river from Luzerne to its source in the Adirondack Park.» Continue Reading.
My hometown of Ballston in Saratoga County is poised to make the principles and detailed process of conservation design the standard for major subdivisions. The town’s revised subdivision law comes on the heels of some disastrously bad subdivision approvals here, projects which sprawl new housing, roads and traffic all over this once wildlife-rich, rural, wet, heavily forested and formerly farmed part of town.
Later this month, my town board votes on whether “any major subdivision in the Rural District and Ballston Lake Residential District shall be designed as a conservation subdivision.” If so, that would mean that the Town planning board would require an applicant of five lots or more to conduct: » Continue Reading.
Jack articulates well what many of us baby boomers are feeling as we take up a ski, paddle, hike, or bike with younger friends and colleagues. We think we are reasonably fit, but how to keep up? Especially, as Jack wondered, on the uphill sections? » Continue Reading.
Adirondack Almanack readers may recall that in 2018 Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget office introduced legislation which would have changed the way the state pays taxes on the public’s Forest Preserve. It was proposed to change the ad valorem system, in place since 1886, to a payment in lieu of taxes.
Local school districts and supervisors were alarmed by the negative consequences of the proposed change, as were Forest Preserve advocates. In response, legislative staff sought background information about how the Real Property Tax Law applied to the Adirondack Park, historically speaking. » Continue Reading.
I know one or several who are rooted in their town and who prove instrumental in helping newcomers become rooted there as well – someone who could plow them out; someone who could lend them a rototiller; someone who could repair their water line or dug well; someone who knew the previous occupants; someone who knew what used to be on that piece of land; someone who knew the stories and just how to tell them; someone we laughed with and, gradually, over time, someone on whom we could bestow a favor ourselves. » Continue Reading.
Headlined at this month’s meeting of the Adirondack Park Agency was a vote by the APA members to amend the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP) to allow Rail Trails to be added to the definition of a Travel Corridor, and to support a rail trail in the SLMP’s Travel Corridor management guidance.
Prior to the APA decision, which like all Master Plan amendments must be ratified by the Governor, rail trails were not defined or authorized under the SLMP’s Travel Corridor overlay classification. Travel Corridors applied only to the strip of land constituting the roadbed and right of way of state and interstate highways and the Remsen to Lake Placid railroad right of way, as well those state lands immediately adjacent to these facilities. Such facilities had to be transportation related- not just recreational. » Continue Reading.
Congresswoman Elise Stefanik’s district has one of the great carbon banks in North America, its public and private forests. Governor Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation have, on our behalf, custody of over an even larger carbon bank in the Catskills, Adirondacks, State Forests and Parks and Conservation Easements all across the State.
Yet, despite their vocal and demonstrable commitments to combat climate change, I’ve not heard either official tout the great importance of New York’s forest policies and stewardship to store and offset our carbon pollution. Goals and policies on use of solar, wind, hydro, transportation, batteries, and efficiency are routinely and passionately enunciated and in some cases enacted. Rarely is forest policy in that mix. It’s curious. » Continue Reading.
Currently 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.
I 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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