Press Releases

Adirondack Council Urges Action on Wilderness Overuse, Clean Water, Invasive Species, Diversity in 2021

Organization Brings Priorities to Albany as Governor Prepares State of State, Budget 

Friday, January 8, 2021 

ELIZABETHTOWN, N.Y. – The Adirondack Council today reminded Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the NYS Legislature that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused new problems for an Adirondack Park that was already facing overuse of its most popular Wilderness Areas, water pollution, acid rain, invasive species, and a lack of demographic diversity. Click HERE to read the letter sent to Governor Cuomo.

The Adirondack Council laid out Adirondack Park concerns and goals for 2021 as the Governor prepared to deliver his State of the State address on Monday, which is expected to be followed by his FY2021/22 budget plan on Jan. 19. 

“The Adirondack Park once again displayed its priceless value this year as it became the escape hatch for millions of people who sought relief from the pressures of an extended economic lockdown, severe travel restrictions and efforts to avoid the potential contagion of crowded cities,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway. “New York needs to invest in protecting and preserving the park as a place of much-needed refreshment and renewal for generations to come.” 

At 9,300 square miles (six-million acres), the Adirondack Park is the largest park in the contiguous United States. About half is public land protected by the NYS Constitution as “forever wild,” including 20 large, motor-free Wilderness Areas. The rest is private forest, estates, resorts, and 130 tiny rural communities. It comprises 20% of New York’s land area but is home to less than 1% of its population.  

“The Adirondack Park is a national treasure, a landscape of hope for all, and we urge you to keep it open, funded, and preserved,” the Council’s letter noted. The Park “contains economically challenged communities and large expanses of environmentally fragile public and private land, water and wildlife such as the loon, bobcat, heritage brook trout, moose, and the majestic bald eagle. 

“The Park’s wildlands and communities are experiencing negative impacts from overuse and the pandemic. Actions you take can address these challenges and ensure nature and people flourish together ... In the coming year, you have the opportunity to build on your Adirondack legacy. We respectfully submit these recommendations, for your FY’22 executive budget and State of the State proposals.” 

The Adirondack Council letter lists the major issues that require action in the year ahead:

Address Overuse: Keep the Adirondack Park Open 

“Without improved management and protections, the resulting overuse degrades the resource and the quality of the experience that attracts visitors. We applaud the establishment of the High Peaks Wilderness Overuse Strategic Planning Advisory Group, and efforts to ramp up visitor education efforts. Unfortunately, still growing overuse of portions of the Adirondack Park in a pandemic is threatening visitor safety, causing record levels of Forest Ranger rescues, and degrading the health of our natural resources and the wilderness character that so many seek.  

“Communities faced with overuse need visitor education, new trails, enhanced wilderness protections, and more Forest Rangers, to ensure the Park can meet the surge in demand. To secure your successful Adirondack legacy, and preserve tourism that generates jobs and benefits Adirondack communities, we call upon you to provide $500 million from the Environmental Protection Fund, a Clean Water and Jobs Bond Act, and other sources for the Adirondack Park over the next five years. This funding should be dedicated to improving visitor services, community infrastructure, trails, and park access while improving protections for the Park’s waters, wilderness, and communities. Please provide funding for new Forest Rangers and other environmental park staff, who are on the frontlines managing overuse and protecting public health on a daily basis.” 

Environmental Protection Fund and State Land Stewardship 

The Council applauded the $300-million Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) and sought the same level of environmental capital funding in the year ahead, as has the Friends of New York’s Environment coalition and said “… we strongly encourage you to propose an increase in State Land Stewardship funds with a focus on natural resource protection and a dedicated subcategory for Wilderness management and overuse on the forest preserve. We support important education/resource protection programs and partnerships that support rebuilding trails, as well as the High Peaks Alpine Summit Steward program. 

Protecting Clean Water with Infrastructure Funding 

State leadership investing in clean water infrastructure to keep sewage and other pollutants out of drinking water and Adirondack Lakes including Lake George keeps residents, visitors, and businesses healthy and safe. Aging treatment systems, climate change impacts, and a limited tax-base leave Adirondack waters threatened, and more than $100 million in projects currently need funding. The Council respectfully urged the state to continue to make annual investments of at least 1 billion dollars per year state-wide for New York State’s Clean Water Fund. We also urge you to dedicate $25 million to small rural Adirondack Park communities who face extra hardships.  

The Adirondack Council asked the state to ensure that grants meet the original intent of closing the gap between the cost of projects and the amount that communities can actually afford, up to $5 million per project as provided in the statute. Environmental Facilities Corporation grant applications could close the gap. 

Promoting Vibrant and Diverse Communities in the Adirondacks 

The Council applauded state leadership funding the Adirondack Diversity Initiative (ADI) with $250,000 a year in the EPF for the last two years. ADI has made its mark as an invaluable resource for the Adirondack Park. Now more than ever, ADI needs to ensure the Adirondack Park remains a welcoming, inclusive, and safe place for all to live and visit. 

In the coming year, the Council says the Adirondack North Country Association Adirondack Diversity initiative should expand its outreach and influence throughout the Park and needs expanded staff capacity and resources. The Council asks that the state fund ADI at $500,000 for FY 2021-2022. The demand for resources that ADI provides to the Park’s communities has never been higher.

Funding Science and a 21st Century Adirondack Lakes Survey 

Science is essential for addressing the pandemic and for protecting Adirondack waters from cross-state (upwind) pollution, climate change, invasive species, excess road salt and other pollutants. The more than 2,800 lakes and ponds, and over 30,000 miles of rivers and streams in the Adirondack Park are the environmental and economic backbone of the North Country. The original Adirondack Lakes Survey of 1,469 lakes, conducted from 1984 – 1987, was the foundation for the solution to acid rain. An updated assessment or survey will be the basis for protecting the Adirondack Park’s treasures and economy from climate change and other crises. 

The Adirondack Council requests a $2 million investment for the first year of a three year, $6 million 21st Century Adirondack Lakes Survey.  

Supporting the Bond Act 

The Council encouraged the Governor to “champion a new $3 billion Environmental Bond Act to ensure that current and future generations have protected clean air and water and access to world-class open spaces. In addition, we ask that you dedicate at least $25 million of the Bond Act to support the development of Visitor Use Infrastructure in the Adirondack Park. This will support the establishment of visitor information centers, restrooms, parking lots, roadside safety infrastructure, boat inspection, and decontamination stations and launches, intensive use sites like picnic areas and scenic viewing areas. By providing these facilities, we will better protect sensitive forests and waters, enhance visitor safety, and preserve the reputation of the Adirondack Park as a world-class wilderness destination. 

Non-Budget Policy Priorities

The Council applauds the Governor and Legislature for their national leading actions on Climate Change, and for making the 2020 Road Salt Task Force legislation into law. There are more opportunities to address other threats and strengthen protections for Adirondack Waters and Communities through non-budget policy and legislative actions, and appointments: 

Strengthen Aquatic Invasive Species Legislation: The Council applauds the State for all it
has done to support the fight against aquatic invasive species. Thanks to smart investments the Adirondack Park now has a world-class network of infrastructure and stewards dedicated to inspecting and decontaminating watercrafts that spread aquatic invasive species … In the last five years alone, Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program has documented 25 new aquatic invasive species infestations. Without that investments and commitment, the situation would be far worse. But the Adirondack Park has too much to lose not to capitalize on these investments, close loopholes, and protect Adirondack waters. In order to ensure boaters utilize the world-class network of free inspection stations, the Council calls on the Governor to work with the legislature to strengthen the Aquatic Invasive Species Act of 2014 to ensure trailered motorboats don’t bypass staffed inspection stations before launching into a public Adirondack waterbody. 

Adirondack Park Agency Leadership: The Adirondack Park Agency needs leadership and a capable qualified chair non-state agency board member needs to be appointed as Chair. The Governor should also work with the Senate to complete three board appointments by the end of June.  

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. 

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

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