Almanack Contributor Gwendolyn Craig

Gwendolyn Craig

Gwen is the environmental policy reporter for Adirondack Explorer.


Tuesday, August 17, 2021

The next governor

kathy hochul

Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave himself and New Yorkers two weeks notice following a damning report by private investigators that found he had sexually harassed multiple women for years. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will take over soon and be the state’s first female governor.

What does a Hochul administration look like for the Adirondacks? I talked to a few different groups here in the park to find out their thoughts. And with little time left in office, Cuomo has plenty of loose ends to tie in the park. If he doesn’t, Hochul will have some work to do including appointing members to a road salt task force and filling some Adirondack Park Agency vacancies. You can read more about all of that here. Since that story, we also learned that Hochul plans to run for governor in the next gubernatorial election, so it’s possible she could stick around for a while.

We’ve had lots of other news to share in the Adirondacks, including the new High Peaks hiker shuttle set to kick off Aug. 21. Let us know if you take the shuttle and what you think.

Photo: Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul participates in 2018 Adirondack Challenge in Indian Lake. Photo courtesy of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office

Editor’s note: This first appeared in Gwen’s weekly “Adirondack Report” newsletter. Click here to sign up


Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Harmful algal blooms are here

harmful algal bloomsIt’s harmful algal bloom season, and Lake George had its first reported one of the season last week.

Getting information about it was messy. The Lake George Association first reported the suspicious bloom, found during a routine Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program survey, to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. DEC staff confirmed it was a harmful algal bloom and posted that information on its notifications page. I saw that report and requested information from both LGA staff and the DEC. What then ensued was a back-and-forth between DEC and LGA, via email and phone. It was clear that though the bloom was documented a couple of days before, no one was on the same page about how to get information out about it. There was even discrepancy over whether to call it a harmful algal bloom.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, July 15, 2021

A chat with Gov. George Pataki

patakiIn mid-May I took a trip up to Willsboro to meet up with former Gov. George Pataki. I wanted to get his take on a few different things happening in the park, one of which you’ll read about in our July/August issue in a story about trash in the Adirondacks.

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Friday, June 18, 2021

NYS legislative session: It’s a wrap

boat inspectionsThe state legislative session is over. What a weird, hybrid year of remote meetings and some in-person, masked meetings. The Capitol remained closed to the public, but more lobbyists held press conferences outside these last few months. Some of my colleagues continued to work out of the Legislative Correspondents Association offices in the Capitol while others, such as myself, worked from home. Everyone adapts.

Now that the whirlwind is over, though, we can reflect on what was done and what wasn’t. In the last flurry of bills this week, lawmakers made an aquatic invasive species inspection law permanent for the Adirondack Park. The bill also gave more authority to the state Department of Environmental Conservation do require these inspections and boat washes. The bill received unanimous support in both houses–a perhaps rare example of an Adirondacks issue that rallied bipartisan support, environmental groups’ support and local governments’ support. Now the governor has to sign off and make it official.

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Friday, June 4, 2021

Albany session is winding down

lake champlainI’ve had a few folks write me asking about the progress of the Adirondack Rail Trail.

Phil Brown actually rode some of it! In case you missed his story, take a look here.

The state legislative session is winding down, but that just means the work is ramping up. There are so many bills to keep track of, and I doubt legislators will get to all that were proposed this year. For example, I haven’t seen any movement around the conservation design bill. I also haven’t seen any movement on some of the constitutional amendments in the pipeline, such as Hamilton County’s request to put an emergency communications tower on Cathead Mountain.

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Thursday, May 27, 2021

Fish Creek Pond campground and a hike up Crane Mountain

crane ladder

But in case you missed it, we had two stories published online last week on Adirondack Park Agency happenings. One included a look at what the state Department of Environmental Conservation is hoping to do to its largest campground, Fish Creek Pond. The DEC’s proposal is out for public comment, this time looking for feedback on how the proposal meshes (or does not) with the Adirondack Park Agency’s rules and regulations. Here’s the story.

We also had a look at the APA and DEC’s presentation on managing visitors to the Adirondack Park and monitoring wildlands. It was interesting to hear from staff that the scientific method has been missing, at least in a consistent way, from state management of the forest preserve. While there’s no formal public comment period for these guidelines released last week, the APA and DEC still want to hear your thoughts. Click here to read more and to learn how to comment.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Bugs on the brain

Bugs that eat Hemlock woolly adelgidI’ve had bugs on the brain the last couple of weeks.

That’s because the New York State Hemlock Initiative invited me out to the Huyck Preserve in Rensselaerville to see the release of a predator fly that eats the invasive hemlock woolly adelgid — a forest pest that has afflicted the Lake George area of the Adirondacks. I went. About a week later, the Adirondack Park Invasive Plan Program held its annual partner meeting and guess what was a major highlight? Hemlock woolly adelgid. Check out adirondackexplorer.org for our coverage.

Of course, it was snowing when I went out to see these predator bugs released, so we missed the excitement of unscrewing a jar lid and sending them off. I confess that upon seeing these HWA predators in a jar, I was a bit underwhelmed by their size. They look more like fruit flies, hardly what one thinks when you hear the word “predator.” In my imagination, I whipped them up to look more like the size of house flies. I thought they’d be swarming in jars, thick and dense, so when they were let out, “release the flies!” would be a good thing to yell.

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Thursday, May 13, 2021

This week’s APA meeting and the tree-cutting decision

fish creekWe have another jam-packed Adirondack Park Agency meeting to look forward to this week.

The board will hear from staff about solar projects in the park, upgrades to the Fish Creek Pond Campground and the long-awaited visitor use management and wildlands monitoring guidance that has been delayed the last couple of meetings. I have a preview of the meeting up on our website. I’ll be covering the meetings, too, for you.

If you’d like to listen in for yourself, go to apa.ny.gov for the agenda and the virtual meeting info.

It’s not on the agenda, but I’m also wondering if the Adirondack Park Agency will discuss the Court of Appeals ruling that was handed down Tuesday last week. The state’s highest court ruled that Class II community connector trails, which are trails big enough and graded to accommodate snowmobiles, were unconstitutional. The majority said the trails required cutting too many trees and violated the “forever wild” clause of the state constitution. The 4-2 decision was in favor of Protect the Adirondacks, which brought the suit against the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Adirondack Park Agency.

What we don’t know yet is how far-reaching this decision is. Protect the Adirondacks and several environmental organizations in favor of its side have said they believe the decision only impacts these community connector trails. Others worry that the decision will impact more than that, including hiking trail maintenance, new hiking trails and campground maintenance. So far the APA and DEC are consulting with the state Attorney General’s Office to get guidance on that. As we learn more, we’ll have more information for you.

Editor’s note: This first appeared in Gwen’s weekly “Adirondack Report” newsletter. Click here to sign up.

Fish Creek Pond Campground photo by Mike Lynch/Explorer


Thursday, April 15, 2021

Adirondack Report: Preview of this month’s APA meeting; state budget update

The state budget was late, but it finally passed both houses last week.

I had a quick overview on our website highlighting that the Adirondacks and Catskills are getting $1.55 million for visitor use management. Of that funding, up to $800,000 will go to Essex County to assist with its pilot shuttle system, front country stewards and infrastructure, like portable toilets. We also have a renewed $3 billion environmental bond act.

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Wednesday, April 7, 2021

The buzz around AMR hiker permits

AMR lotLast Monday after this newsletter went out, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Ausable Club announced a new pilot reservation system at the Adirondack Mountain Reserve. The reserve, for those who may not know, is a gateway to nearly a dozen High Peaks and some very popular hikes like Indian Head and Rainbow Falls. It is also private property, accessible to the public through a foot traffic easement. The original press release left many questions, including whether or not this reservation system included a fee, or if it was free. The answer–it’s free to make a reservation.

It was also confusing because the state has called it a pilot parking reservation system, but it’s not. It is a full-on reservation system. You cannot be dropped off and walk in without a reservation. You cannot bike to the AMR and walk in without a reservation. The only way you are allowed to be on the AMR property without this permit is if you have a Greyhound or Trailways bus ticket from within 24 hours of your arrival to Keene Valley.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Court hears tree-cutting lawsuit

court screenshotOne of the stories I wrote for this past issue of Adirondack Explorer was about a “forever wild” case before the state Court of Appeals brought by Protect the Adirondacks against the state Department of Environmental Conservation. In case you missed it, last week the court heard oral arguments from both sides, which I wrote about here.

If you click on that link above, too, we embedded the YouTube clip of the hearing so you can watch it for yourself. No matter what side you might take, it is interesting to watch the judges ask so many good questions. This whole case can get very abstract when you’re looking at the question of what is a constitutionally protected tree. But I thought the judges also got to some very specific questions about constitutional amendments and work that has been impacted thus far from this litigation.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, March 22, 2021

Remembering an Adirondack archaeologist

David Starbuck reached into the center console of his car and pulled out a polished stone. He dropped it in my hands. After I admired it for a moment he happily told me it was dinosaur poop.

He had pulled that prank on so many students. Some of them would drop the “polished turd” and yell “ew,” the archaeologist told me. In case I was about to do the same, he assured me that there was no harm in holding it now. He slipped it back into a labeled sandwich baggy.

A few months later, he would put the most beautiful blue, 18th century glass cufflinks in my hands, freshly dug from the site of an officer’s hut. It was one of his most exciting finds before he died at the end of last year.

Whenever you met Starbuck, something amazing was always going to happen.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

After months of delay, DEC releases High Peaks advisory group report

Friday was a humdinger.

In the morning, we published a story about how the state Department of Environmental Conservation had delayed a report by an advisory group tasked with brainstorming strategies for managing an increase in visitors to the High Peaks.

It was time to write this story. At first the report was possibly going to be sent to the DEC in October. Understandably, the pandemic has slowed things down. But time and again we were hearing from advisory group members that the report would be released any day now. Days turned into weeks, turned into a couple of months. So on Wednesday last week, I asked DEC when we could expect the report to be released, and I got back “soon.”

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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

A different kind of lobby day

lobby day 2020It’s hard to believe it’s already March 2021. One year ago I was getting my feet wet at the state Capitol, setting up shop at a table in the Legislative Correspondent’s Association offices on the third floor. Gov. Andrew Cuomo was beginning to hold more “Red Rooms,” meaning press conferences, about the coronavirus.

As of mid-March, I had stopped going to the Capitol. Since then, as with so many other folks, I have made home my workshop. While I am lucky to be able to conduct my job over email, the phone, Zoom and a few distanced in-person visits, I noticed just how different things are when advocacy groups posted on Twitter about the Adirondack Park lobbying day last week. 

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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Proposed campground for Hinckley and more from this month’s APA meeting

hinckley day use areaIn case you missed last week’s Adirondack Park Agency meeting, here are a few highlights.

The APA is collecting public comments on the Hinckley Day Use Area unit management plan proposed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Specifically, the APA will look at how this plan meshes with the Adirondack State Park Master Plan. DEC is proposing a revamp of the area, including new multi-use trails, additional camping opportunities and a pavilion at Price’s Point. Click here for more info, including how to comment.

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