Small species slithering unseen within the forest leaf litter, or croaking and peeping from the edge of wetlands rarely take center stage in either conservation or Adirondack land development discussions.
In fact, they are often completely overlooked, but that is changing with the leading work of Dr. Michael Klemens. An internationally recognized biologist, herpetologist and scientist-advocate for conservation design, Dr. Klemens has been retained by Adirondack Wild to give much needed attention to frogs, salamanders, and reptiles – key to the base of our Adirondack forest ecosystem and food chain. » Continue Reading.
Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve is proposing newly acquired Forest Preserve in Newcomb and Minerva to be classified Wilderness in honor of one of the Park’s most influential conservation leaders of the 20th century.
The group wants New York State to recognize Paul Schaefer’s historic legacy of protecting the Upper Hudson River by advocating for a Paul Schaefer Wild Rivers Wilderness that is inclusive of the recently acquired Essex Chain of Lakes-Cedar River tract (13,000 acres), Hudson River Stillwater tract (5,000 acres), the Indian River tract (1,400 acres), and the OK Slip Falls tract (2,800 acres). » Continue Reading.
“We are part of a movement,” Dale Penny reminded the 50 people and representatives of 25 organizations gathered for the workshop on Nov. 3, 2012. Stewarding the Wild Adirondacks was the first workshop of its kind to bring as many of the Adirondack Park’s natural resource stewardship programs as possible together in one place to discuss ways to better collaborate. Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve was the workshop sponsor, and Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center its host. International Paper helped provide underwriting support for the event.
Dale Penny is president of the Student Conservation Association, America’s conservation service organization which places over 4,200 young people annually in demanding conservation and stewardship jobs in rural and urban settings across the country, including the Adirondack Park. » Continue Reading.
The president and chief executive officer of the Student Conservation Association and Dr. Curt Stager of Paul Smith’s College will be among the speakers featured at a November 3 workshop seeking to connect the Park’s various natural resource stewardship programs together to improve communication and collaboration. The workshop is underwritten by a grant from International Paper and organized by Adirondack Wild.
“Stewardship programs for the Adirondack Park’s wild summits, lakes, backcountry and biota have proliferated as natural resource challenges have grown, yet there are few opportunities for all these programs to communicate among each other. Adirondack Wild wants to start that process,” Dan Plumley of Adirondack Wild said in a statement to the press. “Through this workshop, which has never been attempted before, we will connect a variety of programs which train and sponsor field stewards, educators and researchers.” » Continue Reading.
In a field bordered by forested hills and rocky ridges, Dan Plumley unfurled a zoning map of the Adirondack Park. The color-coded map was a reminder of how much private land lay before him, and how potentially fleeting the natural views from Marcy Field could be.
He pointed to a bald patch on Corliss Point above the valley, where lights from a house inconspicuous by day blaze into a flying saucer at night, one of many signs that growth in the backcountry is creeping higher.
“Hundreds of thousands of people drive by on this road every year,” said Plumley, gesturing toward Route 73. “They see this view and think it will always be there. I’m here to say that the way this land-use plan is being implemented, the transcendental beauty and ecological integrity of this scene is in jeopardy.” » Continue Reading.
At the Bar Association’s Environmental Law Conference in Lake Placid on October 13, Pace University Law School professors Nicholas Robinson and Philip Weinberg released twelve edited papers – eleven by their law school students – that review the history, and relevancy today of New York’s Article 14.
Effective since 1895 and known as the “Forever Wild” provision of our State Constitution which protects the State’s Forest Preserve in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, Article 14 states that “the lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands.” » Continue Reading.
Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve will present an awards program tomorrow, Friday, September 28, at its Annual Meeting at VIEW, the arts center in Old Forge.
The awards recognize individuals from the area who have made outstanding contributions to the conservation and stewardship of wild lands, to ecotourism based upon the area’s wilderness, and to educating others about the importance of safeguarding wild nature in the Adirondack Park. The annual meeting begins at 10 AM. The awards program begins at 11 AM. The public is welcome to attend. Those being recognized are: » Continue Reading.
This Thursday, August 16 beginning at 1:30 PM there will be a public tour of the river restoration project now taking place along the East Branch of the Ausable River in Keene Valley.
The tour will be at Rivermede Farm. For more information, contact Dave Reckahn of the Essex County Soil and Water Conservation District, 518-962-8225, email@example.com, Corrie Miller at the Ausable River Association, firstname.lastname@example.org or Dan Plumley at Adirondack Wild’s regional office in Keene, email@example.com. » Continue Reading.
At the 40th Anniversary of the State Land Master Plan (SLMP), Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve has issued a report that calls upon Governor Andrew Cuomo and state agencies “to advance and expand upon the many positive values of wild lands in our Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve.”
“The Forest Preserve was placed into state laws and its Constitution. It is where wilderness preservation began,” said Adirondack Wild’s David Gibson in a prepared statement (Gibson is a regular contributor at Adirondack Almanack). “However, government often approaches such an important landscape with a muddied sense of mission, and in an uncoordinated and shallow way. We are urging parties to venture deeper, and with greater purpose.” » Continue Reading.
Rivers policy and history, stewardship of our Forest Preserve, and positive interactions with young people from Albany came together on Arbor Days, April 27-28, north of Lake Luzerne. Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve was pleased to play a role. First, let’s review some history.
The role of Paul Schaefer’s Adirondack Hudson River Association: Many years ago, the utility giant Niagara Mohawk power company owned land along the upper Hudson River in Luzerne, Warrensburg and North Creek. One of their goals was to create large hydroelectric dams at Hadley-Luzerne, and the shoreline was considered flowage, where water levels would fluctuate up and down 50 feet or more during power generation, and reservoir filling. Other mega-dams on the Upper Hudson were being planned by the Army Corps of Engineers, which would flood the river as far north as Newcomb. » Continue Reading.
1988 was a long time ago, and not just in years. It was a different time in America. It does seem like yesterday in my life, but that’s because I’m in my mid 50s and time is speeding up. In the Adirondack Park of 1988, as in the rest of the country, a real estate boom had been underway for some time. Speculators were getting into the game. At the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), the number of permit applications was way up.
The park’s Resource Management and Rural Use lands – the “backcountry” – were under considerable real estate pressure. The Commission on the Adirondacks in the 21st Century would be established by Gov. Mario Cuomo the following year. In contrast with today, in 1988 a majority of Agency commissioners viewed themselves as agenda setters. » Continue Reading.
Will New York build upon its historic leadership as a steward of our protected Adirondack Park, home to people and wild nature, exhibiting the highest standards for ecosystem management? Or will that promise be lost to the lowest common denominator, where the most specious claims to the economic bottom line win the argument, a “go along-to-get along” mindset? Following the issuance of a permit by the Adirondack Park Agency for the sprawling Adirondack Club and Resort, citizens around the state are wondering.
Remember what APA permitted in January: 706 residential units, 332 buildings, 39 large “great camps,” 15 miles of new roads, sewer, water and electric lines, fences and posted signs spread across 6,200 mostly undeveloped forest acres – 75 % of which is in the most protected private land classification in the park, Resource Management. Remember what this permit jettisons: a variety of traditional backcountry recreational uses, including hunting leases as well as forestry operations. The permit sanctioned real estate estimates shown to be highly exaggerated and completely unreliable. The applicant’s payments in lieu of taxes scheme is probably illegal. This is speculative development at its worst. » Continue Reading.
Citing the lack of wildlife and ecological information in the hearing record, Adirondack Wild, a nonprofit membership organization which advocates on behalf of the New York Constitution’s “Forever Wild” clause, petitioned the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) on Friday to reopen its hearing on the Adirondack Club and Resort (ACR) “to secure additional evidence.” ACR is proposed development of 719 dwelling units spread across 6,200 acres near Tupper Lake.
Adirondack Wild, a party to the adjudicatory hearing reviewing the large Adirondack resort project in Tupper Lake issued the following statement via press release: “The hearing should be reopened to obtain substantive information and assessment without which the members of the Agency cannot make the requisite findings of ‘no undue adverse impact’ to the Park’s ‘natural, scenic, aesthetic, ecological, wildlife, historic, recreational or open space resources, or upon the ability of public to provide supporting facilities and services.'”
“Every expert witness, as well as Agency staff, found the ACR project application seriously flawed due to the lack of on-site studies of wildlife, sensitive habitats or rare, threatened or endangered species,” Dan Plumley, partner with Adirondack Wild. said. ”Our motion also highlights the fact that Agency staff admit that the applicant failed to sufficiently examine alternative project designs, as the law requires.”
“Moreover, the project’s purported economic benefits have been put forth with no factual data, or other basis upon which the Agency can make an informed judgment about commercial and other benefits of the project. The lot value and sales projections were pulled out of thin air,” Plumley said. Adirondack Wild argues that the APA Act states that such benefits must be taken into account in order to evaluate possible burdens on the local community to provide supporting facilities and services to the development.
Agency Regulations permit any party, or the Agency itself, to move to reopen an adjudicatory hearing to secure additional evidence. The Agency has been deliberating about the ACR hearing since November, and is expected to render a decision on the permit at its January 20 meeting in Ray Brook. The Agency’s Executive Director informed its members in November that it has three choices: to deny the project, approve the project with conditions, or send the project back to hearing.
“The APA executive staff are trying to persuade the Agency board to make a blind inductive leap by purporting that open space, natural and wildlife resources are adequately protected with no basis for this conclusion in the evidentiary record given the failure of the applicant to complete the requisite wildlife studies,” Bob Glennon, Adirondack Wild’s advisor on the motion, said.
“The applicant bears the burden of proof that the project will be compatible with the character, description and purposes of Resource Management lands, will not have an undue adverse impact, and that reasonable alternatives have been thoroughly examined. The applicant has completely failed to meet all of these burdens,” states Glennon, who is a former APA Agency Counsel and Executive Director. ”The Park Agency cannot legally make their required finding of no undue adverse impact without substantial evidence that is competent, material and relevant. Instead, the staff is offering mere speculation that adequate habitat protection can be assured.”
“The Agency should deny the project without prejudice to resubmission, or reopen the hearing so that the applicant finally conducts the natural resource inventory and assessments, and the alternatives analysis that he should have provided years ago,” according to David Gibson, Partner with Adirondack Wild and a regular contributor here at Adirondack Almanack.
“Collecting this evidence will not require years of study,” Gibson said. “While two full field seasons would be preferable, one full field season of work by qualified experts would gather a considerable amount of information about the presence of wildlife and sensitive ecosystems that is presently not available to Agency Members as they seek to render an informed determination whether this is an approvable project or not.”
The project developers have not yet completed applications for permits from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, NYS Department of Health and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, or for a proposed payment-in-lieu-of-taxes plan (PILOT) with Franklin County. Developers are proposing taking out approximately $36 million in taxpayer supported bonds to finance the construction.
“Reopening the hearing to obtain vitally needed new evidence will not be holding up progress on the project at all. The applicant can pursue these other permit applications while he is obtaining the additional evidence we believe is essential for the hearing record and for an intelligent, well-reasoned, legally-defensible decision by the Agency,” Gibson said.
Photo: The view over the proposed development area from the summit of Mt. Morris, with Cranberry Pond and Lake Simond in distance.
What follows is a recent press release from Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, a not-for-profit, member supported organization devoted to wilderness and wild nature. Adirondack Wild seeks to advance New York’s Forever Wild legacy and promote policies and land stewardship consistent with wild land values through education, advocacy and research. Adirodnack Wild has been among the most vocal opponents to the Adirondack Club and Resort project now under review by the Adirondack Park Agency. The group argues that the resort development “threatens to undermine 38 Years of Adirondack public policy to preserve backcountry for forest management and open space recreation”. What follows is a press release issued by Adirondack Wild, in its entirety. This Thursday, the NYS Adirondack Park Agency (APA) began its review of the adjudicatory hearing record of the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort (ACR) near Tupper Lake. That review is expected to take several months, and poses a severe test for APA Chairwoman Lani Ulrich and Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The test is whether APA commissioners will seriously examine the public hearing record, honor their statute, and the APA’s past track record for addressing similar large subdivisions. If the commissioners do all three, they will deny a permit for this damaging, illegal and precedent-setting project.
ACR is the largest subdivision and development proposal to come before the APA in 35 years. It’s comprised of 719 residential units, 332 buildings, and 15 miles of new roads, sewer, water and electrical lines spread all over 6235 mostly undeveloped acres with sensitive water resources on rugged terrain several miles from Tupper Lake in the heart of the Adirondack Park.
As a party to the hearing, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve is asking the APA to deny the project a permit without prejudice to the applicant’s resubmission of an alternative, conservation design which would be compatible with the conserved character of the Adirondack Park and would minimize risks to local taxpayers and service providers.
“The Adirondack Park Agency has served as an institutional advocate for the protection of large tracts of private forest land since 1973,” stated Adirondack Wild’s Dan Plumley. “This is fully in keeping with the APA Act’s requirements for the park’s back country lands. The ACR project, however, if approved in its sprawling, fragmenting design would drastically change all that. If approved during Governor Andrew Cuomo’s watch, this one project would radically upend the protection of the park’s open space resources that all other Governors before, including Governor Mario Cuomo, sought to protect.”
“The 125 conditions listed by the APA hearing staff do not make this an approvable project,” added Adirondack Wild’s David Gibson. “They do nothing to materially alter the subdivision design, or to protect a large contiguous block of the backcountry, or to avoid many undue adverse impacts on the Park’s sensitive natural ecosystems, water resources and iconic wildlife.”
The adjudicatory hearing record is replete with evidence that ACR will cause undue adverse impacts to the Park’s natural resources, and undue financial risks to the community, including:
– ACR is deficient and defective in its required survey of biological resources.
– Wildlife characteristic of the Park, but either uncommon or not found elsewhere in NYS would be seriously impacted.
– ACR violates the purposes, policies and objectives for land classified Resource Management, 77% of the project site.
– ACR is unmarketable as presented, speculative, fails to take its competition into account, can not be completed as projected, understates fiscal vulnerabilities to the community and overstates employment and economic benefits.
– The application fails to present meaningful alternatives, as required by the APA regulations.
Adirondack Wild wrote in its closing statement: “Not once in our professional experience has the APA contemplated permitting 82 new principal buildings, and associated roads, driveways (some as long as half a mile), guest cottages, outbuildings and infrastructure spread all over 4800 acres of Resource Management land…A permit for APA Project 2005-100 risks violating the fundamental purposes and objectives of Resource Management…constituting well over a million acres of the Park’s private backcountry.”
In its closing statement, Adirondack Wild described seven large-acreage subdivisions reviewed by the APA between 1988 and 2009. These were:
1. Patten Corporation, 1988-89 2. Butler Lake, 1991, APA Project 89-312 3. Veteran Mountain Camp, 1992 4. Whitney Park, 1996, APA Project 96-138 5. Oven Mountain Estates, 1995, APA Project 91-110 6. Diamond Sportsmen’s Club, 2001, APA Project 2001-217 7. Brandreth Park Association, 2009, APA Project 2007-117
All of these projects were located either on Resource Management or Rural Use land classification. All were substantially reconfigured or modified by the APA as a result of information revealed through public hearings or staff review. All ensured that large, contiguous forest acreages were preserved for open space recreation and forestry, and all concentrated housing within one relatively small area on the project site. These past projects reveal an APA responsive to its legal mandate to protect areas which the legislature directed to be reserved largely for open space recreation and forestry in order to conserve the special character of the Adirondack Park.
The Adirondack Club and Resort application stands in stark contrast with these past projects. None of the proposed “open space” is contiguous, and large housing developments fragment natural resources by spreading across all 6200 acres, making forest management infeasible, hunting impossible, and threatening those species of native wildlife which require large, undeveloped blocks of forest. Resort housing is not concentrated where the law says it belongs in the Moderate Intensity Use areas near the Big Tupper Ski Area. Furthermore, there is no adequate wildlife inventory or assessment. A respected conservation biologist, Michael Klemens, testified at the hearing that “the club and resort is classic sprawl on steroids. It spreads negative ecological impacts out across the landscape. It is a train wreck resulting from a process that does not allow for understanding natural systems in the first place.”
Hearing evidence also showed highly inflated sales projections. The application alleges that annual sales of raw forest lots in Tupper Lake would exceed those in well-established Stowe, Vermont. An independent ski and resort development expert, David Norden, said the project is founded upon the applicant’s promises and “does not possess the primary characteristics of resorts most likely to succeed as we come out of the recession.” With sales likely to fall well below projections, Norden and others said the tax revenues projected to be reaped by local taxing districts are also likely to fall well below the applicant’s projections. Investment in Big Tupper Ski Area, the most broadly supported local objective, has been relegated to latter phases of the development. Funding for project infrastructure and payments in lieu of taxes also remain highly problematic aspects of the proposal.
Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve will host an annual meeting of its members, donors and friends at the Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center this Saturday, September 17.
The meeting begins at 10 AM with an overview of Adirondack Wild’s achievements in its first year, a report on its programs, and a brief business meeting to elect officers and directors. The annual meeting is followed by keynote presenter Michael Klemens at 11 AM, and a guided walk of the VIC trails with Ecology Professor Celia Evans of Paul Smith’s College at 1 PM. Participants are asked to bring their own box or bag lunch. Morning refreshments will be provided. The meetings are free of charge, but reservations are appreciated. To reserve, please contact Ken Rimany by email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 518-928-4501. The Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center (formerly the Adirondack Park Agency VIC) is located off State Rt. 30 one mile north of Paul Smith’s College.
The public is invited to attend a keynote presentation by Michael Klemens, Ph.D. at 11 AM, who will address the question Does Science Matter? Dr. Klemens will offer his thoughts and promote a dialogue about the role of science in advocacy and conservation, and explain why conservation biology is a critical discipline needed to assess the health of wild lands. Dr. Klemens is a conservation biologist with three decades of experience in assessing biodiversity and the impacts of various land use practices and patterns of development on sensitive wildlife species and their habitats. Dr. Klemens founded a not-for-profit that works with planning boards and other local government agencies to increase ecological literacy among local land-use decision makers and to deliver tools to make land use choices that better protect and sustain ecosystem functions.
In the spring, Dr. Klemens was Adirondack Wild’s expert consultant at the Adirondack Club and Resort (ACR) public hearing in Ray Brook and Tupper Lake. He conducted a rapid assessment of amphibian populations in the western portion of the ACR site, and found many salamanders, frogs and habitats that could be negatively impacted by the proposal before the Adirondack Park Agency. For more about his testimony at the ACR hearing, go to www.adirondackwild.org.
Paul Smith’s College’s Celia Evans will help lead a walk along the VIC trails at approximately 1 PM. She teaches General Ecology and Winter Ecology among many other courses at the college.
Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve is a not-for-profit, member supported organization devoted to wilderness and wild nature. Adirondack Wild advances New York’s Forever Wild legacy and promotes policies and land stewardship consistent with wild land values through education, advocacy and research. For more information visit them online.
The Adirondack Almanack's contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The Almanack is the online news journal of Adirondack Explorer. Both are nonprofits supported by contributors, readers, and advertisers, and devoted to exploring, protecting, and unifying the Adirondack Park.
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