[email protected] Symposium took place on on June 22 and the organizations were happy to host so many lively conversations on the legacy and future of the Adirondack Park Agency. We thank all who attended the live event for your thoughtful questions and input.
All three sessions of the symposium are now available for viewing on our Vimeo page. Links to each session as well as a link to the special preview of the upcoming Mountain Lake PBS documentary on the early years of the APA (based on Brad Edmondson’s new book, A Wild Idea) are below.
In an unprecedented reversal of its prior position, the APA is amending a long-standing 1987 permit to allow a large private residential septic system to endanger to a rare bog and degrade Upper Saranac Lake water quality. The APA has ignored their own 1987 permit requirements.
A coalition of conservationists, engineers, a wetland ecologist, and neighbors of a proposed development within the Class 1 wetlands on Upper Saranac Lake said today that the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) had, over the strong objections of environmentalists, engineers and local landowners, approved an amendment to an existing APA permit. The amendment eases the restrictions normally required for wetlands, and for only the last lot of the Deerwood Subdivision. This amendment allows for an on-site septic system 100 feet from a stream that empties into the Upper Saranac Lake and from the rare Category 1 wetlands boundary.
We 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.
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.
A couple of years ago we started kicking around some ideas for sharing with readers the story of the people who fought to create the Adirondack Park Agency: their fervor and idealism, their mapping and lobbying, and the pushback they encountered then and for years to come.
We had only started to discuss how we might go about assembling such a narrative, and who might be best to write it, when Ithaca journalist and author Brad Edmondson wrote us an unsolicited email suggesting that we might have a use for a bunch of interviews he had conducted with the same characters — both APA proponents and opponents — over the years. He had taped some of them with the understanding that he wouldn’t print anything until after they had died, and now that time had arrived.
In June 1971, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller signed legislation creating the Adirondack Park Agency, and the modern era of Adirondack history began. All private land in the Park was zoned according to how densely it could be developed, and the state-owned Forest Preserve was divided into various categories, with Wilderness Areas designated as the most tightly regulated. No one was happy with the new agency. Local government and business interests predicted economic catastrophe, while conservationists felt the new regime didn’t adequately protect the Park.
The Adirondack Experience: The Museum on Blue Mountain Lake (ADKX) will host a daylong symposium, free and open to the public, on June 22, 2021. This will be a virtual symposium: all presentations will be online.
The long promised public unveiling of the Wildlands Monitoring Guidance by the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), once again, did not occur. It was planned for the March APA Board meeting and was pulled from the agenda during that two-day meeting. What is so secret about it? Nothing, actually. So, why the repeated lack of transparency over multiple years?
It appears that APA and DEC administrators are not understanding that Wildlands Monitoring is a planning and management process and framework – it is NOT a final plan, so it will never be “finished for presentation.” A report would start a process. Or maybe the implied accountability of using monitoring is daunting to administrators? Let’s explore these issues.
Institutional memory is important. It reminds folks who join an institution of any kind what the mission of that organization is, what has come before them, what was considered important then and why, what continues to be the mission today. It strengthens the links in a longer historical chain that can easily be weakened if there is no one left in the institution to remember, to teach and to motivate the newcomers.
Veterans should be empowered to help newer hires understand that they are part of an important historical legacy. This is not to say that the institution cannot adapt to new circumstances and improve. It must. It is to say that there ought to remain a commitment to always keep the legacy in view so that the compass points in the same direction.
Adirondack Park Agency staff are highly skilled resource professionals doing a difficult job on a huge scale, working under difficult legal timelines and, like the rest of us, isolated from their colleagues during the pandemic. However, judging from comments some of them made last week during the permit issuance for the Woodward Lake major subdivision, I believe the Adirondack Park Agency has lost significant amounts of institutional memory. That can lead to mission creep.
In 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.
George Davis is a visionary and practiced land use planner and ecologist. In the early years of the Adirondack Park Agency, George helped to conceive, draft, and implement the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan and the park’s Private Land Use and Development Plan.
George Davis comes to my mind now because of several proposed amendments to the APA’s Adirondack Park private land use map, the so-called “fruit salad” map displaying the private and public land classes. The proposed amendments to the map now up for a decision are for 34 acres to go from Moderate Intensity Use to Hamlet in Lake Placid, sponsored by the Town of North Elba, and for 105 acres to go from Rural Use to Moderate Intensity in Lake Luzerne, sponsored by that town.
It’s obvious to anyone who spends time here that the vast majority of people who live in or visit the Adirondack Park are white. This could have consequences for the Forest Preserve, because the Preserve belongs to all New Yorkers and its future is in their hands.
The latest census data indicate that about 18 percent of the state’s population is African-American (another 19 percent is Hispanic or Latino).
Although few African-Americans live in the Adirondacks, our region is not without its own black history. Most people will think of John Brown’s farm in North Elba and Gerrit Smith’s effort to relocate black farmers. But there is much more to the story.
Sally E. Svenson tells the rest of the story in Blacks in the Adirondacks: A History, a new book published by Syracuse University Press. As it turns out, African-Americans lived and worked in the Park as miners, loggers, musicians, waiters, and baseball players, among other things.
The historian Philip Terrie gives a favorable review to Svenson’s book in the November/December issue of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.
Adirondack Forest Preserve advocacy groups are calling on the Adirondack Park Agency’s board to reject at this week’s meeting all three staff proposals for classifying the 20,758-acre Boreas Ponds Tract.
The major objection is that under all three proposals, a 6.8-mile logging road that leads to Boreas Ponds would be designated Wild Forest, which could allow people to drive all the way to the ponds.
Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), said it’s even possible that motorboats could be allowed on the water. Under the APA’s first alternative, the ponds would be classified Wild Forest, which could allow motorboats. The other two alternatives are silent on the ponds’ classification.
Woodworth said the APA board should direct the staff to come up with new proposals, a step that would delay public hearings on the Boreas classification. “It’s more important to get this classification right than do it fast,” he said.
Prior to his retirement as a member of the Adirondack Park Agency’s board, environmental attorney and land-use regulation expert Richard Booth prepared a memo for all to consider as the APA decides how to recommend classifying tens of thousands of acres of newly acquired Forest Preserve lands — including the Boreas Ponds tract in North Hudson and Newcomb.
After eight-and- a-half years as an APA board member, Booth understands that the 11-member board has some discretion when it comes to making decisions. However, his memo reminds them that state policy strongly favors the creation of new wilderness (motor-free) areas in the Forest Preserve and places important limits on the board’s discretion in future classification decisions. » Continue Reading.
New home construction in large subdivisions in the Adirondack Park would be friendlier to wildlife, forests and water quality under legislation introduced by Assembly Conservation Committee Chairman Steve Englebright.
Four Adirondack conservation groups are praising the introduction of a bill that would amend the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) Act to require conservation-oriented design for large subdivisions in the Adirondack Park. The Adirondack Mountain Club, Adirondack Council, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve and Protect the Adirondacks support the legislation, calling it the most important set of reforms to the APA Act since it’s enactment in 1971. » Continue Reading.
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