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An Adirondack Park Agency Poised to Change

Monday, April 18, 2016
By Kevin Chlad - Adirondack Council - Director of Government Relations

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/images/Boreas Ponds heilman_WM.jpgWe are at a tipping point in the Adirondack Park. Both threats and opportunities seem greater than ever, with excitement swirling over the state acquisition of the Boreas Ponds tract and recent concerns expressed by Adirondack Park Agency (APA) board member Dick Booth about the trajectory of the agency. There is no question that this is a critical time for Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Adirondack legacy. There are a number of very important decisions set to take place in the next year. Beyond his decision about how to protect water quality, support healthy wildlife, and foster vibrant communities in classifying the Boreas Ponds and other new and adjoining tracts, the Governor has the opportunity to determine the composition of the APA Board. This board acts on high profile Park policy issues and permit applications during Agency meetings.

As of June 30 of this year, five of the 11 APA seats will be vacant or held by board members serving expired terms.

APA board members are tasked with the great responsibility of developing and overseeing long-range land use plans for both public and private lands within the boundary of the Park. They do this by acting on Park policy issues and permit applications at their monthly meetings. Their burden is best understood by reading an excerpt from the legislative intent of the Adirondack Park Agency Act:

Continuing public concern, coupled with the vast acreages of forest preserve holdings, clearly establishes a substantial state interest in the preservation and development of the park area. The state of New York has an obligation to insure that contemporary and projected future pressures on the park resources are provided for within a land use control framework which recognizes not only matters of local concern but also those of regional and state concern.(Executive Law §801)

This intent recognizes a statewide interest in the preservation of public lands and development on private lands. To accomplish this task in a manner that recognizes the need to balance differences of opinion between local interests and state-wide interest, the APA board construct requires that five of the 11 seats are filled by full-time residents of the Adirondack Park. Three of the 11 seats are to be filled by out-of-Park residents that represent statewide interests. The remaining three seats are filled by the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Secretary of State, and the Department of Economic Development, or their chosen designees. APA board members are nominated by the Governor and serve once confirmed by the Senate. Once appointed, APA board members serve four-year terms. They can serve on expired terms and also do not face term limits.

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The Adirondack Park Agency Act was carefully constructed, balancing the overwhelming statewide interest in resource protection with the needs and aspirations of those who live in the Park. There is no question that this is an important concept within the act. The current APA board has demonstrated a commitment to representing the voice of communities in the Park in finding balance, which is a good thing. For the board construct to fully achieve the right balance intended for the Agency, there are two crucial out of Park seats (one vacant, one soon to expire) that must be filled with individuals that speak for the broader interests of New York State.

The Governor could reappoint Dick Booth, who has long championed the voice of New Yorkers from across the state, some of whom are intimately familiar with the Adirondacks, and others who may never set foot within the Blue Line. The other out of Park seat that is currently vacant leaves the opportunity for the Governor to appoint another much-needed champion for statewide interests in clean water, healthy wildlife, and the intangibles that make this place so special. Much like noted conservationist Eleanor Brown (who once filled this vacant seat), or Elizabeth Thorndike, this new appointee will need to supply that intended balance in a constructive, positive manner.

As the Governor decides who he will ask to speak for those who live outside but share in the ownership of and love for the Adirondack Park, he will want to recognize that his Adirondack legacy will be strongly influenced by the people he nominates. His father, Governor Mario Cuomo, established his legacy as one of the greatest Adirondack champions. Will Governor Andrew Cuomo establish his own legacy as a champion for a strong, independent and non-partisan, APA that makes decisions based on the science and the law? Key decisions like the classification of Boreas Ponds, and the appointments of APA board members will be very telling.

 
 
 
 

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Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/kevin-chlad.jpgKevin joined the Adirondack Council staff in 2011.

Kevin leads the Council’s Albany-based Government Relations team, building coalitions and lobbying government officials to improve protection and grow funding for the Adirondack Park.

Kevin Chlad graduated in 2008 with a degree in Environmental Studies of the Adirondacks from SUNY Potsdam. Besides his previous time spent at the Adirondack Council as a Clarence Petty Intern in 2009, Kevin has held numerous other Adirondack occupations, including Ausable River Steward, canoe guide, and fire tower summit steward. When not advocating for the Park, Kevin can be found on the golf course, deep in the wilderness, or clinging to the occasional rock face or hanging from an icicle drip. He lives in Delmar, NY with his best friend and wife Michelle.

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