Press Releases

2022 State of the Park

ADIRONDACK PARK IS ‘STRESSED AND CHALLENGED’
SAYS ADIRONDACK COUNCIL’S STATE OF THE PARK REPORT
Wilderness, Communities, Potential Remedies Emotionally Charged
Defending Environment Means Defending Democracy

ELIZABETHTOWN, N.Y. – The past year has been a period of great change and emotional
strain for the Adirondack Park’s natural wonders, its residents and its visitors, according to the
Adirondack Council’s annual State of the Park report, entitled Stressed and Challenged.

“This year’s report is a bit different than those in past years,” said Adirondack Council
Executive Director William C. Janeway. “We spent more time considering the impacts of
government decisions on the future of democracy and human rights than we have needed to
before. Conservation demands a basic respect for all life, a desire to constantly improve our
relationships with other people and the natural world. Those are not priorities in places where
democracy is absent or endangered.”

“Around the nation, the disruptions of the pandemic have been amplified by political
upheaval,” reads the opening letter of State of the Park 2022, written by the report’s author John
F. Sheehan, the Council’s Director of Communications. “People on both extremes of political
debates perceive imminent doom and are calling for extreme actions. As it did during the Great
Depression and World War II, leadership demands a steady hand and a confident willingness to
bring people together, not divide them.”

Fear and discord are being stoked by a fossil fuel industry that senses its loss of power
and is working to forestall its inevitable replacement by renewable energy. By electing people
who will echo their falsehoods, the industry has set the stage for today’s extreme attempts at
political gaslighting, the report notes.

State of the Park 2022 also pointed to successes in dealing with stress and challenges,
including the recently approved Inflation Reduction Act and bipartisan infrastructure bill, on the
federal level, which represent Congress’s first efforts to combat climate change and restore an
economy that was distorted by the pandemic.On the state level, New York’s Climate Action Plan
and Visitor Use Management Framework funding provided hopeful opportunities to cope with
climate impacts and better manage crowds on wild lands and waters.

On the local level, towns worked to make themselves more sustainable by building
affordable housing, protecting water quality from poorly treated wastewater and protecting
recreational lands.

“We have an opportunity to vanquish that fear and restore our government’s role in
protecting nature and public health,” said the letter Janeway asked Sheehan to write to introduce
the report. “We can do this while promoting inclusion and social justice. As in the past, the
Adirondacks can lead the way to a brighter future for all.

“That’s why this report criticizes the actions of public officials who took advantage of
fear to sharpen the edges of our political divide and prevent progress. We also praise those who
found a way to bridge political gaps. We favor education over ignorance, cooperation over
kneejerk opposition and civil liberties over authoritarian crackdowns. We believe that securing
liberty and justice for all will make us truly indivisible.”

At six million acres (9,300 sq. mi.) the Adirondack Park is the largest park in the
contiguous United States. Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Glacier national parks
combined would all fit inside the Adirondack Park. It is also the world’s largest, intact temperate
deciduous forest and home to 87 rare, threatened and endangered species, most of the old growth
forest -- and 90 percent of the motor-free wilderness -- remaining in the Northeast.

State of the Park is a 32-page illustrated report on the actions of local, state and federal
officials that helped or harmed the Adirondack Park over the past 12 months.The report is broken
into more than 100 topic summaries for which officials are granted a thumb up or a thumb down.
State of the Park also includes a Report Card on whether officials accomplished the
major priorities of the previous years, and a Spotlight section calling attention to the good deeds
of individuals and other not-for-profit organizations.

The centerspread of the publication was devoted to the Clean Water, Clean Air and
Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act, proposed for approval by the voters on Election Day,
November 8, 2022.The report explains the benefits of the proposal and urges voters to remember
to flip over their paper ballots and vote “yes” on the bond act.

Report Card

An assessment of progress in 2022 on goals established in 2021:

Preserve Wilderness: Thumb Down – Opportunities still exist for actions to implement
the 2021 court victory in the Protect the Adirondacks! case against the state, to protect the
33,000-acre Whitney and 14,000-acre Follensby Pond properties; encourage rewilding by
removing obstacles to wildlife movement, including obsolete power dams, fencing and roads;
and reestablish military training boundaries.

Improve State Wildland Protections: Thumb Up – Real progress was made implementing
recommendations of the state’s High Peaks Wilderness Overuse Advisory Group report with
more “Leave No Trace” education, sustainable trails, permit tests, visitor use management,
research, stewards and funding. Opportunity exists for more Forest Rangers and staff.

Protect Clean Water: Thumb Up – State officials moved ahead with the approved road
salt task force, implementing the new invasive species law, new funding for wastewater
treatment/septic infrastructure, and strengthened state legislative protections for wetlands.

Defend the NYS Constitution: Thumb Up – Voters approved the “Environmental Bill of Rights”
Constitutional Amendment in November 2021. The State Legislature successfully defended the
integrity of the Forever Wild clause (Article XIV). Opportunities were missed to improve Article
XIV and address several site-specific issues.

Science and Climate Change: Thumb Up – Progress was material at the federal and state levels,
with new policies combating and adapting to climate change and startup funds to support
science; and a new state climate action plan. Opportunities exist to better support forests and
farms, climate jobs and clean energy.

Adirondack Park Agency: Thumb Down – While some remain hopeful, little progress was
visible on an updated ecological agenda by the summer of 2022. A new Governor, APA staff,
board chair and legislative interest offer opportunities to reform and strengthen the agency and
address threats and opportunities. A new headquarters was funded.

Enhance Park Environmental Funding: Thumb Up –The Governor and Legislature approved for
voter consideration in November 2022, an expanded $4.2 billion Clean Water, Clean Air, and
Green Jobs Bond Act, increased the Environmental Protection Fund by $100 million to $400
million, and moved to increase spending.

Support Communities: Thumb Up – Investments increased for building more vibrant
communities, expanding broadband and communications; efforts expanded to generate local jobs
affordable, housing and childcare options.

Foster Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Safety: Thumb Up – Funding for and efforts by the
Adirondack Diversity Initiative expanded, along with more opportunities for all communities to
enjoy the Adirondacks. There are opportunities and a need to do much more.

Highlights from sections

Governor: In her first full year in office, Gov. Kathy Hochul “calmly steered the ship of
state amid the chaos that followed both the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and
the revelations of corruption and misconduct that led to the resignation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo
in August of 2021. Through it all, Gov. Kathy Hochul stood calmly and firmly on the side of
democracy and the rule of law. She insisted that investigations be completed, then stayed out of
them. Rather than simply demonizing opposing viewpoints and fomenting the anger and
frustration that divides many political rivals, Hochul worked with State Legislators on solutions
to emergent crises. Together, they reached agreements on major issues and reconvened in June to
address widely held grievances over recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court that threatened
public health, civil liberties and human rights. Significantly, she refused to allow any of those
crises to shake her commitment to conservation and environmental protection.”

Legislature: Both houses won praise for approval of the Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Bond
Act, which goes to the voters for final approval on Nov. 8; adopting the Biden administration’s
30-by-30 plan for nationwide wild lands preservation; $600,000 for a Visitor Use Management
Framework similar to those used at national parks; $8million to address heavy use; new wetlands
protections; new pesticide restrictions; clean water grants that protect rivers and cushion the
impact on local property taxpayers; prevent pollution in urban neighborhoods already
overburdened with industrial and transportation-based pollution; celebrating and commemorating
the Adirondack Park’s role in securing voting rights for Black state residents; increasing funding
for the Adirondack Diversity Initiative; and the nation’s first moratorium on mining
cryptocurrency with fossil fuels. Both houses earned a “thumb down” for approving partisan
redistricting maps that were thrown out by courts, leading to a confusing array of primary
elections and last-minute changes that confused voters. Each house’s individual actions were
rated as well.

Courts

The Supreme Court of the United States earned a thumb down for its ruling overturning
the Obama era Clean Power Plan, which had already been repealed, so it could make a political
statement .Other federal judges won praise for restoring vital provisions of the Endangered
Species Act, ruling that the act applies to gray wolves; and for requiring real-world emissions
testing for wood-fired heating units for which buyers can gain clean-energy incentives. State
judges earned thumbs up for offering public hearings on important land-use concerns after the
Adirondack Park Agency failed to do so.

Attorney General

Atty. Gen. Leticia James won thumbs up for urging the Legislature to approve a grant to
initiate a new Survey of Climate in Adirondack Lake Ecosystems ($500,000 was approved), and
for working with other Northeast states to gain federal action to curb diesel truck emissions.

Local Government

Local governments won praise for controlling septic and stormwater runoff; helping
protect wilderness from overuse; creating affordable housing options; supporting renewable
energy; running hiker shuttle buses to divert crowds away from overused areas of the Forest
Preserve; improvements to water systems and outdoor recreation; and traffic calming.Some local
officials drew criticism for poor fiscal management and oversight.

Dept. of Environmental Conservation

The DEC received thumbs up for a good first year working with the Adirondack
Mountain Reserve to pioneer a parking reservation system that provided public access to or
across private lands while helping to control damage to one of the park’s most sensitive and
visited locations; control of invasive species via its boat inspection network; new protections in
other high-use areas of the Adirondack and Catskill parks and smaller state parks; hiring new
coordinators for Forest Preserve management; continuing a public education campaign about
responsible use of public lands that includes local organizations and businesses; new funding to
land trusts; new rules on truck emissions; attempts to prevent new invasive fish from entering
Lake Champlain; new electric car chargers at Adirondack campgrounds; new controls on
methane leaks from oil and gas facilities; a new task force to determine how to build snowmobile
trails between communities without violating the constitutional ban on destruction of the Forest
Preserve; refusing to renew a permit to mine cryptocurrency at a fossil fuel plant; and, for
sounding an alarm about poor dam safety statewide. It earned thumbs down for approving ATV
use on a road in St. Lawrence County; ignoring its obligation to protect the habitat and prepare
for the return of the gray wolf to the Adirondacks; ignoring its responsibility to prevent untreated
(septic) sewage from reaching Adirondack lakes and rivers; and for not objecting when the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency closed four air-quality monitoring stations in Upstate New
York.

Adirondack Park Agency

Won praise for sending a potential developer back to the drawing board by requesting
more information before declaring a permit application to be complete for a 355-acre resort in
Jay; for finally agreeing to measure and limit new road mileage added to the Forest Preserve as
required; for issuing public notices of new applications in time for interested parties to
participate in the review; and for helping its board better regulate solar power installations. It
earned criticism for refusing to hold adjudicatory public hearings on extremely controversial
proposals, including a mine in a residential neighborhood, a chemical herbicide application in a
drinking water supply, and a new septic system in a wetland next to a lake with chronic algal
growth. It also earned criticism for refusing to support legislation designed to give the agency
new tools to prevent suburban sprawl on the park’s wildest lands and authorize the transfer of
development rights, and for failing to measure the carrying capacity of public lands before
approving new, potentially damaging recreational uses.

Federal Government

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer won high praise for his negotiations
leading to Congress’s approval of the nation’s first legislation to curb greenhouse gases and
improve carbon sequestration nationwide. The Biden administration won praise for substituting
federal action plans for inadequate state proposals that were supposed to control the most
harmful air pollutants; moving to reinstate federal rules on deadly mercury emissions; enforcing
the Clean Air Interstate Rule and “good neighbor” provision of the Clean Air Act; improving
national stream protections; fighting climate change and protecting endangered species; moving
to protect 30% of the nation’s forests by 2030 (30-by-30); and a new incentive for electric buses
that could bring many new jobs to the Plattsburgh region. U.S. Reps. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam,
and Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, won praise for efforts to protect clean air and fund the science
that regulators need to protect the Northeast from harm. The U.S. military won praise for taking
it easier on the Adirondack Park’s wildlife and residents’ and visitors’ eardrums.Senate GOP
members and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV, earned criticism for blocking clean air legislation and
funding and for weakening the Inflation Reduction Act. U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, RSchuylerville, earned criticism for voting against the federal infrastructure bill that included
much-needed local public works projects. Stefanik also voted against the Inflation Reduction Act
that includes bold, historic and needed action and funding to address climate and health crises,
and generate green jobs within and beyond the Adirondacks.

State of the Park also includes sections on the actions of other state agencies, a
“Spotlight” section praising the work of other organizations and individuals, and an awards page
listing those who have won special praise from the organization and why. Finally, the last page
of the report sets forth the organization’s priorities for 2023.

Priorities for 2023

Pass the Bond Act: Gain New York voter approval for the $4.2-billion Clean Water,
Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act.

Combat Climate Change: Adopt an effective Statewide Climate Plan inclusive of
protections for the Adirondacks, and advance local, state and federal climate actions.
Invest in Science: Increase and spend funding for research and monitoring, the Survey of
Climate and Adirondack Lake Ecosystems (SCALE), and wilderness visitor use management
framework (VUMF) protections.

Secure Federal Support: Secure federal science funds and policy to protect clean water, clean
air, wildlife, wildlands, and communities.

Advance Protection of Clean Water: Protect water from road salt, aquatic invasive
species; curb wastewater; improve septic system regs. Promote Adirondack Park Agency reforms
and watershed scale planning.

Preserve Wildlife and Wildlands: Advance the preservation of wilderness, rewilding and
wildlife recovery plans, state land stewardship, and Article XIV, Section 1 the “forever wild”
clause of the NYS Constitution. Expand state and partner staffing including doubling and
diversifying the numbers of rangers, stewards, trail crews and educators.

Expand Support for Justice, Equity, and Inclusion: Expand the Adirondack Diversity
Initiative and Adirondack Council efforts in support of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion
and expand and diversify support for the Adirondacks.

Foster Sustainable Farms, Forests and Communities: Ensure environmental protections
include support for working farms and farmers, and climate-smart forestry. Foster more diverse
sustainable and vibrant communities and solutions to housing, childcare, and communications
challenges.

Most Comprehensive Report

Janeway said that the Adirondack Council’s State of the Park Report was the most detailed
and comprehensive report on any park in the United States.

“Our world-class park deserves world-class oversight and management,” said Janeway.
“The Adirondack Council interacts with public officials on every level of government, from the
park’s nine village boards to Congress and the White House.Most importantly, we are nonpartisan. We give credit and find fault with the actions of Republicans and Democrats alike.

“Our freedom to publish a frank and unvarnished critique of the actions of public officials
is due to the support we receive from private citizens inside the Park, in New York, across the
United States and around the world,” Janeway said. “We rely upon private support to maintain
an independent voice for the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park.”

Established in 1975, the Adirondack Council is a privately funded not-for-profit
organization whose mission is to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of the
Adirondack Park. It is the largest environmental organization whose sole focus is the
Adirondacks.

The Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action.
It envisions a Park with clean water and clean air, core wilderness areas, farms and working
forests, and vibrant, diverse, welcoming, safe communities.Adirondack Council advocates live in
all 50 United States.

For more information: John Sheehan, Director of Communications, 518-441-1340

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