Press Releases

Adirondack Council: High Peaks Report Urges Immediate Action  

Wilderness Advocates Want State Action on Visitor Mgt, Education, Limits in Some Places

Friday, March 5, 2021   

ELIZABETHTOWN, N.Y. – The Adirondack Council today praised the immediate actions recommended by the state’s High Peaks Wilderness Advisory Group and pledged to work with the state to modernize the management of park visitors to protect sensitive locations, while also increasing visitor safety and ensuring fair access to all state residents. 

The report recognizes that this is a "crisis" moment and recommends using a proven federal method for managing visitors, a three-year pilot program for limiting visitors in some worn-out locations, and funding for education, trail improvement, wilderness protections, and rangers.  

After 13 months of meetings, discussion, research, and writing, the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) High Peaks Wilderness Overuse Advisory Group delivered its final recommendations to Commissioner Basil Seggos in January. Seggos released the report today. 

“These are consensus recommendations, calling for a broad range of immediate and long-term actions that would protect both wilderness and public safety in the park’s High Peaks Wilderness Area,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway.“There is much to celebrate in these recommendations. If adopted, these actions would be a significant leap forward toward world-class management of this world-class resource.  That will mean both a healthier wilderness and a happier visitor.”  

Janeway said the Council is pleased that the focus of the recommendations is on the protection of Wilderness. Of the eight guiding principles recommended in the report, “the paramount priorities [are] protection of wilderness and public safety” the report states.   

The eight guiding principles are: 

    • Wilderness preservation 
    • Public/Visitor Safety 
    • Green infrastructure and climate initiatives 
    • Support for social justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts 
    • Use of science and best management practices to influence decisions 
    • Use establish methodology to monitor and respond to changing conditions 
    • Provide the funding necessary to achieve success 
    • Commit to a transparent process. 

Click HERE to link to report.

The stakeholder group included representatives of local businesses, NGOs, local government, academia, and tourism entities. The Council’s former Deputy Director Rocci Aguirre and Adirondack Mountain Club staff were members. 

The social impacts to wilderness are recognized through a recommendation calling for a three-year pilot program to place limits on use to protect the natural resource, provide for public safety, and ensure the preservation of wilderness character. This pilot program will take place on private land where there is access to state Wilderness, providing an opportunity to obtain baseline data, test protocols, and generate recommendations for future management, he said.  

“Such a step will help offer a spectrum of wilderness opportunities for all, visitors and residents alike,” he said.  

“One of the most important recommendations calls for the creation of a visitor use management initiative utilizing the federal Interagency Council’s Visitor Use Management Framework (VUMF) with ‘an expert third-party facilitator’ as the preferred tool/process to preserve, protect, provide access to and manage wilderness,” said Janeway.  “This is an important commitment to addressing the various problems of overuse comprehensively, rather than in a piecemeal fashion.  Otherwise, we will forever be playing catch-up as we make one improvement here, only to see things falling apart in another location.” 

Comprehensive planning is one of the six best practices for wildlands management, to which the DEC committed at the start of the advisory group process, Janeway explained. While it will require investment from the state and continued involvement from stakeholders, ultimately this is the answer to solving these challenges and providing a better wilderness experience for all. 

Several other recommendations call for transparency, continued stakeholder engagement, and a new state outdoor recreation unit to help advance this work.  

Janeway said the Adirondack Council is committed to assisting and engaging in this process. The Council and its donors have offered to help fund a public-private effort to implement consensus recommendations, including support for the Visitor Use Management Framework initiative.   

Some recommendations have been made before. Janeway said the next year may represent the last opportunity to act before the damage is irreversible and the last chance to secure protected access to Adirondack wilderness for current and future generations. The report concludes that the time for action is now. 

Another important recommendation calls on the state to commit the funding necessary to inventory, improve, and maintain trails as a critical infrastructure need. The Adirondack Council and partners have called for an investment of $500 million over the next five years for this effort and other Park protection, clean water and community assistance efforts. 


In addition, there are recommendations that highlight immediate needs including: 

  • Parking and pedestrian safety along the Route 73 corridor 
  • Creating a pilot shuttle service 
  • Providing enhanced portable toilets 
  • Increasing support for summit steward programs and education efforts; 
  • Outdoor Ethics Training including “Leave No Trace” principles 
  • Implementing actions approved in the 1999 and 2018 amendments to the High Peaks Unit Management Plan, but never carried out. 

Many of these efforts are underway, in spite of the challenges of the 2020 season, and will help address urgent needs, Janeway said.  

“The Council commends Commissioner Seggos, and the state and non-state members of the High Peaks Advisory Group for their work, especially throughout such a challenging year,” Janeway said. “A treasure like the High Peaks inspires passion. The work now falls to all of us to see these recommendations to completion.” 

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. The Council envisions a Park with clean water and clean air, comprised of core wilderness areas, surrounded by farms and working forests, as well as vibrant communities.  

The Adirondack Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy, and legal action.  Adirondack Council advocates live in all 50 United States. It is the largest environmental organization focused solely on the Adirondack Park.  

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

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