The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) presented a draft of their joint Visitor Use Management (VUM) and Wildlands Monitoring tool during the State Land Committee Report at the APA Meeting in Ray Brook.
ADK applauds the formation and release of this document, which is seen as a big step towards establishing a visitor use management framework consistent with standards set by the Federal Interagency Visitor Use Management Council (IVUMC), something ADK has routinely advocated for over the years.
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.
There’s an abundance of serendipity in these parts, and in our work.
Often, related themes and stories emerge like magic, to make it appear to readers that we had planned them to run side-by-side in our magazine. Sometimes we do that, but others, like in our upcoming May/June issue, the stars just align. And one of the stars of this issue is an old-time hermit named Noah John Rondeau. (The photo of him here is courtesy of the Adirondack Experience museum in Blue Mountain Lake.)
He lived in the same Adirondack woods where hermit thrushes are now returning for spring, and where hikers and backpackers will soon flock to seek refuge from another pandemic summer. If you’ve been following our online series about the struggle to form the Adirondack Park Agency 50 years ago, you’ve had a preview of the history story in which he’ll make an appearance in print. The writer, author Brad Edmondson, presents him as a sort of bridge from the old and truly wild North Country — squatting on public lands in a time when no one really cared — to the modern, regulated park. He died just as the Northway’s fresh pavement was about to deliver a surge of new visitors.
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.
In the just-approved 2021-22 state budget is a $3 billion-dollar environmental bond act, subject to voter approval in November 2022. If approved, it may make a small dent in the $60+ billion needed statewide to upgrade our state’s old water and sewage treatment systems. If approved, it may help to do even more than we are doing today to prepare and make more resilient New Yorkers and their villages, towns, counties and cities for the more frequent and more severe weather events that will continue during a warming climate. And it may help to create more incentives to protect intact forests in private ownership to offset our carbon emissions.
If approved, maybe a tiny amount, relatively speaking, perhaps as little as a few hundreds of thousands of dollars from the $3 billion could go towards an independent evaluation of how well the Adirondack Park Agency and Department of Environmental Conservation are fulfilling their respective, but also overlapping missions.
This also being the 50th anniversary of the Adirondack Park Agency, the question should be asked: has there ever been an evaluation of the agency’s current and past performance visa vi its legislated responsibilities and jurisdiction? The answer is a qualified no.
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.
It’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.
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.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) was rocked last week with the sudden resignation of Chad Dawson, who served as one of three APA Board members from outside the Adirondack Park Blue Line. Dawson is a Professor Emeritus at SUNY ESF, who not literally, but actually, wrote the book on the management of Wilderness and public lands. See Wilderness Management: Stewardship and Protection of Resources and Values (4th edition). Though Dawson was an authority on public lands management and is recognized widely across the U.S. as an expert, few at the APA and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) would listen to him.
Dawson took words on paper seriously, especially the words of the APA Act and Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. One such case was where the Master Plan calls for carrying capacity studies on public water bodies during the development of Unit Management Plans (UMPs), a clause that the DEC has long refused to acknowledge and fulfill. The APA has never tried to uphold this requirement. At deliberations over UMPs in the last four years, Dawson would point to this section of the Master Plan and he would be met with yawns from other APA Board members that the APA has never asked for these studies before, so why start now.
Last week’s Adirondack Park Agency meeting was a humdinger.
Board members, state Department of Environmental Conservation staff and APA staff all discussed two major projects that have led to plenty of passionate public comment. Those included visions for the Debar Mountain Complex and some changes to the Essex Chain Lakes area.
About three hours into this meeting, with the above-mentioned projects taking up the majority of the time, board member Chad Dawson announced his resignation. Dawson (pictured here) has been a wilderness advocate on the board, whose membership leans toward local government and economic development.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), as co – lead agencies, have determined that the Integrated Series of Proposed State Land Management Actions in the Vicinity of Debar Mountain Wild Forest may have a significant adverse impact on the environment and have prepared a Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) and Final Scope. NYS DEC and the APA announce an opportunity for public comment on the proposed actions.
The APA proposes re-classification of approximately 41 acres of land from the Debar Mountain Wild Forest to be classified as Intensive Use, on the shore of Debar Pond. The reclassification proposal will be reviewed for compliance with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan and will be in conformance with the Programmatic EIS. The proposed reclassification is located in the Town of Duane.
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