Adirondack Park Agency Leadership is Evolving

By: John Sheehan - Adirondack Council Communications Director

The Adirondack Park Agency is undergoing significant changes in leadership. Two long-time board members will retire at the end of the month, including the chairwoman, while three new members were appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and confirmed by the state Senate.

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Richard Booth
Retiring at the end of June are chairwoman Leilani C. Ulrich of Old Forge and board member Richard Booth of Ithaca. Ulrich was first nominated to the APA board in 2004 by Gov. George Pataki. She was elevated to chairwoman in 2011. Ulrich was a co-founded of the Adirondack Common Ground Alliance.

Booth was first appointed to the APA board in 2007 by Governor Eliot Spitzer, to fill the unfinished term of Katherine Roberts, of Garrison, who stepped down before her term expired. Booth is a professor in the City and Regional Planning department at Cornell University. Before joining the APA board, he held elected office in the City of Ithaca and Tompkins County governments. He also spent 10 years as a trustee of the Adirondack Council, ending in 1992. Booth has served as a staff attorney for the APA and the Department of Environmental Conservation. He is considered one of New York’s leading environmental lawyers.

Another vacancy on the APA board was created by the 2014 retirement of F. William Valentino, Jr. of Albany County, who had also served on the NYS Energy Research and Development Authority board.

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Sherman Craig and his wife Annette
Photo: NCPR - Brian Mann

Replacing Ulrich as chair is current board member Sherman Craig of Wanakena, a retired teacher, school administrator and Adirondack furniture maker. Craig was appointed to the APA in 2011 by Governor Cuomo.

Filling Booth’s vacancy will be Chad Dawson, a professor emeritus at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. He is a scientist and an author, who has published two college text books on wilderness.

Appointed to fill Ulrich’s seat was Barbara Rice of Saranac Lake. Rice is a Franklin County legislator and business owner who has been active in planning and zoning issues as a member of the village board.        

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Barbara Rice with
Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau
Photo: NCPR - Brian Mann

Taking Valentino’s out-of-park seat will be John Ernst, owner of Elk Lake Lodge, which makes him the largest employer in the Town of North Hudson. John also manages Bloomingdale Properties. Ernst is a former Adirondack Council board member and has twice won the Council’s Conservationist of the Year award (2013, along with his wife Margot, and 2015). His family donated the Adirondack Park’s first conservation easement to the state, opening public access to the Dix Mountain Wilderness from his property. He is a supporter and current or former board member for most of the park’s major institutions, including the Adirondack Museum, North Country Public Radio and the Adirondack Foundation.

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John Ernst

Ernst donated a conservation easement on the Elk Lake/Clear Pond Preserve surrounding the lodge in 2013, which permanently protects the lake and surrounding forests, wetlands, rivers and mountain summits from development. This donation expands on a conservation easement the Ernst family negotiated with the state in 1963, which was the first conservation easement in New York. Ernst also carried out a land swap with The Nature Conservancy that placed the Casey Brook tract into the “forever wild” Forest Preserve, in exchange for timberlands closer to Blue Ridge Road. Casey Brook is a link between the High Peaks Wilderness and the Dix Mountain Wilderness that would allow the state to consolidate them and manage them as a single wilderness.

The APA board consists of 11 members, with membership divided among local and statewide interests. Three are ex officio, filled by the directors of specific state agencies (Dept. of Environmental Conservation, Dept. of State, Empire State Development Corp.). Five of the eight citizen members must be park residents, while the remaining three must come from counties outside of the Adirondacks. All are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the state Senate. The governor also appoints the chair.

Once they are appointed, members serve four-year terms. They may continue to serve once a term has expired, until they are replaced. There are no term limits. No more than five of the eight citizen members may be members of the same political party.


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For the past 25 years, John has been the voice of the Adirondack Council on radio and television, and on the pages of local, regional and national media.  John develops and executes the Council’s public relations and communications programs. 

He works with the media to explain the unique nature of the Adirondack Park and to help the public understand the Council’s efforts to sustain its clean air, wilderness, wildlife, clean water and vibrant communities.  He is the principal author of our annual State of the Park Report and assists with the editing of all Council publications. 

Born in Troy, NY, John Sheehan is a graduate of Catholic Central High School and the State University at Albany.  Today,  John and his wife Deborah live in Albany and have a family camp in the Adirondacks. Their daughter Hannah attends Clarkson University.


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