Almanack Contributor Gwendolyn Craig

Gwen is the environmental policy reporter for Adirondack Explorer.

Monday, September 25, 2023

The wait for forest preserve plans

unit management plan map

A few newsletters ago I was talking about unit management plans and how difficult it is to make them sound interesting. We have since posted our September/October magazine piece about this online, with some special interactive elements we hope will better tell the story.

About 50 years ago, the state Department of Environmental Conservation was charged to create these physical and natural resource inventories and project lists for more than 50 chunks of forest preserve in the Adirondacks. Former Gov. George Pataki tried to kick start these plans back in 1999. He called for them all to be finished in five years. Nearly 25 years later, about 782,000 acres still don’t have plans.

Why is this important? Without a plan, no major projects can be done in a unit. For a place like Lake George Wild Forest, which has no plan, that means the DEC cannot build a marked trail up Rogers Rock. It cannot reroute the trail up Prospect Mountain, which DEC has already called “dangerous to hikers.” The William C. Whitney Wilderness has no plan, either. Campsites there cannot be moved, which some said needs to be done to protect sensitive shorelines and habitat.

» Continue Reading.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Tree cutting policy 2.0 and more Adirondack policy news

Peter Bauer

In 2021, the state’s highest court ruled some snowmobile trails planned for Adirondack Park forest preserve violated the state constitution. While there were several facets to the decision, one of its cruxes was around the abstract question of what is a tree. Protect the Adirondacks, the group to bring the lawsuit, argued the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s definition of a tree was too small. The DEC was using 3 inches in diameter at breast height in its counts. Protect wanted the state to count trees 1 inch in diameter at breast height.

Last week, the DEC released a new forest preserve work plan policy that includes accounting for smaller trees. This policy will shape all projects on forest preserve—in the Adirondacks and Catskills—going forward. Read more on the policy here.

» Continue Reading.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

The case of the missing management plans

UMP map

The September/October issue of our magazine is out, and in it you can read about unit management plans. It is difficult to make any sentence sound exciting with the phrase “unit management plans” in it, but here’s why they are important. “UMP’s,” as they’re often called, are inventories of physical and natural resources in an area of the park. They also include a list of projects the state Department of Environmental Conservation wishes to accomplish. No UMP? No project. This includes hiking trails, campsites, water body studies, ski trails, parking lots—any variety of recreation or natural resource protection projects.

We found that hundreds of thousands of acres in the Adirondack Park are without UMPs. That includes Lake George Wild Forest, one of the most accessible places in the park. That means the eroded trail up Prospect Mountain cannot be rerouted. A designated trail up Rogers Rock cannot be made. The William C. Whitney Wilderness, dubbed by the state the “crown jewel of the Adirondacks,” is without a UMP, too. The state is relying on a stewardship management plan from the ‘90s, which some say isn’t protective enough.

If you aren’t already subscriber, you can sign up for our bimonthly magazine here: The article includes the map below, provided by the DEC, which shows the status of these plans across the park.

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


Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Hiker surveys, small business loans and more

AMR lot

Remember those hiker surveys at the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR) in Keene? They were conducted by SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and collected data about the three-year pilot reservation system there. The surveys aren’t happening this year, said Jill Weiss, assistant professor of environmental studies at the college. Her students are, however, in the process of collecting more data from focus groups. Weiss is also analyzing survey data from years one and two (we’re in year three currently).

The state Department of Environmental Conservation added that a final report on the surveys will be done by the end of the year. DEC will share it once it’s finalized.

» Continue Reading.

Friday, July 28, 2023

Environmental notice bulletin: Comments due Aug. 2-3

Last week’s DEC environmental notice bulletin showed the following projects on the docket for public comment.

  • The Lodge at Schroon Lake is proposing to add 32 boat slips to a previously permitted dock. The DEC is reviewing a permit under Article 15 Title 27, Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers. The dock is under the jurisdiction of the state Office of General Services, according to the project notice. Public comments must be submitted by Aug. 3 to Benjamin M. Shubert, NYSDEC Region 5 Headquarters, 1115 State Route 86, Ray Brook, NY 12977 or emailed to
  • The new Lake George Visitor Information Center in the Lake George Beach and Battlefield Park, Town of Lake George is seeking to install a concrete accessible path. It will connect to the center and a network of existing paved paths. It will be 5-feet wide and a maximum of 220-feet long. To view the work plan, go to: Public comments will be accepted until Aug. 2. Comments may be sent to Mitchell Krah NYSDEC Region 5, Division of Lands and Forests, PO Box 296, Ray Brook, NY 12983, or email
    » Continue Reading.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Lawsuit updates and environmental notices

white lake quarry

Protect the Adirondacks and the Adirondack White Lake Association have filed an appeal after losing their case against the Adirondack Park Agency and Red Rock Quarry Associates in September in Oneida County Supreme Court. Protect and the lake association sued over a quarry permit the agency granted. The groups argued the APA should have held an adjudicatory hearing, a public hearing before an administrative law judge, before making a decision. The appeal was filed on July 7.

In another lawsuit brought by Protect against the DEC, it appears the parties are trying to settle. In January, Protect sued the DEC, arguing its maintenance of one mile of road in the western High Peaks Wilderness violated the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.  In a June 27 letter, the state Office of the Attorney General told the court, “(t)he parties have now reached a fifth agreement on scheduling intended to allow them additional time to explore settlement.”

A Freedom of Information Law lawsuit filed by former DEC Commissioner Tom Jorling against his old department also appears to be dropped. Jorling had contested the APA’s decision to withhold records involving agency communication with Saranac Lake Marina associates. The APA eventually released staff memos containing little information. Attorneys for the state and Jorling signed a “stipulation of discontinuance” at the end of June.

» Continue Reading.

Friday, July 7, 2023

Attend the bond act listening tour; plus new Adirondack Council leader

rocci AguirreA listening session on the Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act is coming to the Adirondacks next week. It will be from 1 to 3 p.m. on July 14 at the Sparks Athletic Complex Alumni Gymnasium at North Country Community College, 23 Santanoni Ave., Saranac Lake. If you’re interested in attending, you can register here:

Here is a refresher about how the state has divvied up the $4.2 billion:

  • “$1.5 billion for climate change mitigation;
  • $1.1 billion for restoration and flood risk reduction;
  • $650 million for water quality improvement and resilient infrastructure;
  • $650 million for open space land conservation and recreation; and
  • $300 million for other projects not specifically allocated in the act.”

What would you like to see funded in the Adirondacks?

» Continue Reading.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

APA meeting, state legislature recaps

saranac lake marina

At last week’s Adirondack Park Agency meeting, the board approved a variance to its shoreline restrictions for a marina project on Lower Saranac Lake. My colleague Zach Matson had the story here.

The board’s agenda originally suggested it might vote on changes to the Broadalbin Boat Launch unit management plan. If you remember earlier this spring, the state Department of Environmental Conservation had proposed closing a public beach there, causing much upset among residents. We learned last week that the DEC needs more time on its response to public comments.

Executive Director Barbara Rice noted the APA has hired six new staff members in the past six months. When Rice started about a year ago, the agency had 42 employees and it now has 48. The agency is considered full staff at 54 so there are still positions to fill.

» Continue Reading.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Prison property tax bill stalls

Prison closures in the Adirondacks and around the state continue to be an issue for state lawmakers.

Last week, state Sen. Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, ushered legislation through the Senate that would authorize a constitutional amendment for Camp Gabriels. Camp Gabriels, a Franklin County prison closed in 2009, cannot be redeveloped by a private entity without a constitutional amendment. The property is now technically on forest preserve, lands the state cannot sell or lease. A constitutional amendment has passed the Senate multiple times, but it hasn’t passed the state Assembly. The legislation gets another chance at that second step this session.

Another prison closed in the park, Moriah Shock in Essex County, is in the same situation. State Assemblyman Matthew Simpson, R-Horicon, introduced legislation that would have provided communities tax revenue for closed prisons. The bill will likely not make a floor vote this session, however. Simpson blamed Democrats. Six Democrats voted to hold the bill in committee, while three Republicans voted against the hold.

“I am flustered by the interference of partisan politics in what is otherwise apolitical legislation that unilaterally helps residents across the state,” Simpson said in a news release. “My goal was to hold New York responsible for the dozens of closed correctional facilities throughout the state that are currently squeezing taxpayers. We have to hold the state accountable for the facilities it abruptly closes down which leaves hundreds of corrections officers and staff unemployed or forced to relocate. The closure of these facilities has had destructive consequences on surrounding communities.”

You can read the bill language and see the committee votes by clicking here.

Aerial shot of Camp Gabriels from the Almanack archive

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

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Highlights from the APA’s May meeting

Members and staff of the Adirondack Park Agency sit around a table listening to a presentation during the March 16 meeting in Ray Brook. Photo by Gwendolyn Craig

Last week’s Adirondack Park Agency meeting generated several news stories. The highlights include:

    • The board passed a resolution allowing for herbicide use on Lake Luzerne to combat invasive Eurasian watermilfoil. This is the same herbicide that the Lake George Association and others did not want applied in Lake George without more research.
    • The board adopted a policy capping an increase of roads in wild forest areas at 11.6%. This gives the state Department of Environmental Conservation and APA about 13 miles of roads available for the future. While this interpretation wraps up a 50-year-old question, the APA gave itself an exit plan allowing for a “contrary interpretation.” Some speculate lawsuits could come of the interpretation, too.
    • The APA also backed down on its proposals to limit public comment and shorten its review time for policies.
    • And state Sen. Dan Stec made a surprise appearance at the end of the APA’s meeting and complained about cell tower regulations.

» Continue Reading.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Adirondack budget wins

state budget graphic

We have a budget!
New York finally has a state budget for 2023-2024 tapping in around $229 billion. It was over a month late, but the final budget had some notable differences from Gov. Kathy Hochul’s executive budget proposed earlier. For one, carve-outs for Adirondack projects were put back in the $400 million Environmental Protection Fund.

You can read our round-up of some of the funding highlights for the Adirondacks here.

» Continue Reading.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

State budget takeaways for the Adirondacks

a rowboat in a lake

The state budget is one month late, but we are finally seeing some budget bills. As of 4 p.m. on Monday, lawmakers were just beginning to vote on some of them. Of particular interest for Adirondack Park projects is the capital projects budget bill. This bill includes the Environmental Protection Fund, where many Adirondack-specific projects are appropriated. The recently released bill has the EPF at $400 million.

I’m in the process of noting some proposed spending, and will have a story if and when the bill passes. But in my quick skim so far here are a few things that stood out:

» Continue Reading.

Friday, April 28, 2023

High Peaks management meeting in May; Broadalbin beach update

broadalbin beach on a cloudy day

The firm the state Department of Environmental Conservation hired to start a High Peaks visitor use management framework is hosting a public meeting. DEC announced Otak Inc. will present their project’s goals and timeline at 5:30 p.m. on May 9 at the Harrietstown Town Hall Auditorium, 39 Main St., Saranac Lake. Following the presentation, “interactive discussion groups” will meet “to gain an understanding of public interests and concerns,” DEC said.

Otak is holding a meeting in the Catskills, too, to discuss its visitor use management project in the Kaaterskill Clove Area.

“DEC’s sustainable use initiatives require public participation to be successful,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, in a release. “Listening to public and stakeholder perspectives about the High Peaks and Kaaterskill Clove project areas will provide DEC with the important data to support successful strategies for balancing conservation and public access in these popular Forest Preserve destinations.”

» Continue Reading.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Bond Act on the road

bond act boat launch

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office announced today a statewide listening tour on the Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act. New York voters passed the $4.2 billion initiative in November. A public meeting will be held in the Adirondacks, though it’s not confirmed as to when or where.

Hochul said the listening tour will take place over the next few months. It “will offer an opportunity for the public, municipalities, and other potential applicants to learn how they can leverage these funds to help New York State reach our climate goals while growing our economy.”

» Continue Reading.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

APA could have new headquarters

The Adirondack Park Agency is studying the feasibility of moving its headquarters to the historic Paul Smith’s Power and Light building at 3 Main St. in Saranac Lake. Photo by Chloe Bennett

The Adirondack Park Agency could be moving four miles up the road to Saranac Lake. The APA and Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office said a feasibility study is underway to move the agency’s headquarters to the historic Paul Smith’s Power and Light building on Main Street.

The village police currently occupy that building, but there are discussions of creating a public safety complex on Petrova Avenue. The APA has $29 million from the state’s 2022 budget for a new headquarters, but whether it’s brand new or renovated, we’ll have to see (read more here).

For those of you on Twitter, an account called, “DoesNYHaveABudget” tweets a budget status daily, and today’s is “No.” Hochul and lawmakers authorized a second budget extender bill today, meaning negotiations could continue to next Monday.

» Continue Reading.

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