He has been working in various capacities on Adirondack Park environmental issues since the mid-1980s, including stints as the Executive Director of the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and FUND for Lake George as well as on the staff of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century and Adirondack Life Magazine. He served as Chair of the Town of Lake George Zoning Board of Appeals and has served on numerous advisory boards for management of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve.
He lives in Blue Mountain Lake with his wife and two children and enjoys a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities throughout the Adirondacks.
The current Forest Preserve classification process underway at the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) for the new lands around the Essex Chain Lakes and the Hudson River is likely go down as the worst administered process in the 40-year history of the APA. Since the close of the public hearing in mid-July, the APA leadership has openly subverted state law and moved decision making from an open and transparent public forum to a smokeless backroom.
The process has gone awry. The train has run off the tracks. This is evidenced by four recent events: » Continue Reading.
Much is already being made about the great victory in passing Proposition 5 – the controversial Constitutional Amendment known as Proposition 5 that was approved by New Yorkers on November 5, 2013 to sell 200 acres of forever wild Forest Preserve in the Jay Mountain Wilderness to NYCO Minerals, Inc., a mining company that plans to incorporate it into its adjacent open pit mine.
I believe that some who are jubilant now will come to rue this day. If Forever Wild can’t be saved from the jaws of a mining company to be clearcut, blasted and mined, then when can it be saved? » Continue Reading.
Governor Andrew Cuomo visited the Adirondack Park on Thursday September 26th and devoted a full day to discussions with various parties about the looming decision by the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) on the Forest Preserve classification of 21,000-acres of former Finch Paper lands along the Hudson River and around the Essex Chain Lakes.
I give the Governor high marks for making the trip and holding these meetings. (In the interest of full disclosure no one from Protect the Adirondacks was invited to these meetings. We are, after all, suing the Cuomo Administration with two pretty big lawsuits.) With Joe Martens, Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), in tow, the Governor met at Follensby Pond (his second trip there) with the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, the Adirondack Council and ADK. Those most closely aligned with the Cuomo Administration, who supported for the Adirondack Club & Resort project and/or the NYCO land swap, get to go fishing with the Governor.
The Governor then went to Gore Mountain and met with seven local government officials as well as Senator Betty Little and Assemblyman Dan Stec. At Gore, the Governor held a press conference. » Continue Reading.
The 1924 sign law that effectively banned billboards throughout the Adirondack Park shows how our forbearers were braver, wiser, and more prescient than we are today.
It was a bold decision that resulted, by some accounts, in the removal of over 1,400 billboards. In the Adirondack Park this law largely prevented an assault of rooftop and roadside billboards that dominate broad stretches of the U.S. – the cluttered strips of Anywhere USA. » Continue Reading.
Adirondack Park Agency (APA) spokesperson Keith McKeever has confirmed that the agency will not make a decision at its September meeting on how former Finch Paper lands recently acquired by New York State will be managed.
The classification of the lands around the Essex Chain of Lakes and Hudson Gorge is one of the biggest Forest Preserve decisions the APA has faced in more than a decade, one that has recently dominated public discussion in the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.
Almost 5,000 pages of written public comments, most supporting Wilderness classification, were submitted as part of the recent public hearing concerning some 46,000 acres of newly purchased and existing Forest Preserve lands around the Essex Chain Lakes area and 22 miles of the Hudson River. The carefully argued and highly emotional comments, were acquired from the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The comments were emailed, faxed and mailed; some were handwritten or sent from iPads and smartphones. They included a variety of form letters and petitions.
The nearly 5,000 pages were part of some 3,600 written comments submitted in total. Only the written comments were included in the FOIA request. An analysis of testimony from the eight public hearings; five held in the Adirondacks, three outside the Park, was not included. Around 200 total speakers made statements at those hearings, many speaking more than once. » Continue Reading.
The idea that the State of New York does not pay taxes on state lands is an enduring myth in the Adirondack Park. At the June-July 2013 APA Forest Preserve classification hearings some speakers erroneously made this charge. Different state laws require property tax payments by the state for both Forest Preserve and conservation easements. The NYS Real Property Tax Law defines most categories of state tax payments.
The State of New York pays local property taxes on Forest Preserve lands it owns just like any other taxpayer. In 2011, it was estimated that combined town, county, school and special district taxes topped $75 million from the state for over 3.4 million acres of Forest Preserve and conservation easement lands in the Adirondack Park. Here is information from NYS Real Property Services organized by town-level data and county-level data. » Continue Reading.
Three new interesting data points have recently come out from the US Census and the NYS Department of Education that provide a state and national context for the Adirondack population debate. In previous posts I have argued that we need to look at Adirondack Park population trends against a backdrop of state and national rural demographic trends, especially those impacting rural America. Others disagree and argue that Adirondack Park population trends are immune to national forces and trends, but rather are shaped by the distinct and negative impacts of the Forest Preserve and Adirondack Park Agency (APA) Act regional land use controls.
I think that the blame-the-Park lobby could benefit from a hard look at state and national trends because a better understanding of what rural areas in the US are facing will help develop a long-term population retention and recruitment strategy that might work for the Adirondack Park. The controversial APRAP report was notably devoid of larger state and national trends in its population analysis.
I believe that the Park’s modest population decreases, which are much less than many other rural areas in the US, have been eased by the protected landscape of the Adirondacks, which supports active tourist-small-business-public sector economies. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park is held up as the great wilderness area in the eastern United States. It’s the place where people come for a wilderness experience and to enjoy the great outdoors. One great myth about the wild Adirondack Park is that there is an abundance of motor-free lakes and ponds. In fact, the Park faces a scarcity of quiet waters where one can paddle a canoe or kayak without interruption from motorboats, jet skis, floatplanes, and other types of motorized watercraft.
Of the 200 largest lakes and ponds in the Adirondack Park, from Lake Champlain, with 262,864 acres, to Round Pond in Indian Lake, covering 134.9 acres, the overwhelming majority of big lakes and ponds provide abundant opportunities for motorized watercraft—but scant opportunity for quiet, motor-free waters. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) has promulgated seven “alternatives” for public hearing for the official classification of new and existing Forest Preserve lands on the Hudson River and around the Essex Chain Lakes. But these public hearings seem like pure theater because one of the alternatives is the preferred option of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and it sure seems like a sure thing that the APA will end up approving the DEC’s plan.
The DEC’s preferred option is alternative 4b [pdf] in the APA classification package, centered on a “Wild Forest Special Management Area” around the Essex Chain Lakes. The other six alternatives, which include two Wilderness options, one Primitive option, two Canoe options and one other Wild Forest option for the Essex Chain Lakes, are mere props to the DEC’s preferred alternative. These six alternatives were created by the APA staff through the usual process, but in reality they all revolve around the DEC preferred option like planets around the sun. (In the interest of full disclosure Protect the Adirondacks supports alternative 1a.) » Continue Reading.
Legislation is pending in the State Legislature for “second passage” of a Constitutional Amendment to transfer 200 acres of Forest Preserve lands in the Jay Mountain Wilderness to NYCO Minerals, Inc. This legislation has strong support from North Country elected state representatives. The Governor supports it and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is taking an active role stalking for the bill.
There are two big problems with this effort. First, this land swap sets a terrible precedent for the “Forever Wild” Forest Preserve. Second, the bill is riddled with inaccuracies, outright falsehoods, and misstatements. » Continue Reading.
The protection of water quality is of singular great importance for the Adirondack Park and Adirondack communities. In the coming decades, if we are able to maintain stable water quality trends, this will help Adirondack communities enormously, not only for protecting the area’s high quality of life, but economically too. Clean water will be our edge.
Clean water is going to be a commodity that becomes less plentiful in the future. Communities that provide good stewardship for their waters will be communities that have something special to offer in the coming years. » Continue Reading.
Dave Mason and Jim Herman have received a lot of commendations for their Adirondack Futures project. It’s high time, the Adirondack Futures project tells us, for a grassroots, bottom-up, inclusive planning process that is professionally facilitated to shape a plan for a new and positive direction for the Adirondack Park.
Mason and Herman have met with several hundred people about the future of the Adirondacks and created a handful of scenarios for what the future may hold 25 years down the road in 2038. They have presented these plans to government at all levels and many groups throughout the Adirondacks. They are now actively implementing this work through a half dozen work teams. » Continue Reading.
In the Adirondack Park we face many persistent myths and shibboleths about the impacts of environmental protections, land use controls and the Forest Preserve. One that has received recent play goes something like this:
In the Adirondack Park our population is aging at a rate that will soon make us the 2nd oldest region is the U.S. That we are aging rapidly is the result of the out-migration of families resulting from a poor economy, which, in turn, results from excessive public ownership of land and a restrictive regulatory environment.
This month the Center for Biological Diversity notified the US Fish & Wildlife Service of its intent to sue for protection for the Bicknell’s thrush (Catharus bicknelli) under the federal Endangered Species Act. The Bicknell’s thrush uses the high elevation forests of the northeast as its breeding habitat.
I had a chance to talk with Mollie Matteson, long-time environmental advocate in the West and Vermont, about her work for Center for Biological Diversity on the future of the Bicknell’s thrush and the Endangered Species Act.
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