Press Releases

Leave No Trace Center Develops Education Plan for Adirondacks

Provides Options for Training Hikers, Land Managers to #KeepItWild  

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of three news releases on the Leave No Trace report.  The first two were released Monday and Wednesday of this week and area available at https://www.adirondackcouncil.org/page/press-releases-16.html 

ELIZABETHTOWN, N.Y. – The comprehensive report produced this week by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics praises New York officials for adopting the center’s tools for hiker and land-manager education program, and urged the state to develop them into a comprehensive program as soon as possible, to minimize the damage being done by record crowds in the Adirondack Park’s wildest and most sensitive places. 

“It is important for us to learn from what others in similar circumstances have done to cope with big crowds in national parks and other wild and fragile landscapes,” said William C. Janeway, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council. “Every hiker should be up-to-date on the skills needed to survive a trip through some of the roughest terrain in the Northeast. Every park land manager should understand state-of-the-art techniques for protecting water quality, wildlife and forest health. Our world-class park deserves world-class management that inspires visitors to treat our park with respect.” 

Janeway noted that the interactive Wilderness Overuse StoryMap recently created by the Adirondack Council is one educational option that explains the problems of overuse in the Adirondack Park. New York needs many such educational tools and a comprehensive plan to integrate them, he said.  

“Every one of the park’s 20 Wilderness Areas is between 9,000 and 200,000 acres – more than large enough to get lost in -- and rugged enough to kill you if you aren’t prepared,” Janeway said. “While many of us enjoy visiting wild places, nobody is born with the knowledge and skills needed to survive in the wild. Everyone can learn more about how to reduce their individual impact while enjoying the outdoors. That’s why the Leave No Trace Center’s work is so valuable. We are thrilled to have been part of bringing their expertise to Adirondack overuse problem.” 

Janeway said the Adirondack Council’s work in tackling the problems caused by overuse of wild spaces is part of its VISION 2050 Project. It is the sequel to the Council’s seminal series 2020 VISION, which was a plan for the completion of the Adirondack Park, published in the late 1980s. Most of its recommendations were incorporated into the current NYS Open Space Conservation Plan. VISION 2050 will look forward another 30 years, identify the challenges we will face in wild lands preservation, and sustaining a park that fosters vibrant communities, and propose solutions.  Managing outdoor recreation will continue to be a top challenge, he said. 

The Leave No Trace final report Managing Recreation-related Impacts in the Adirondack Park and Building a Culture of Wildlands Stewardship is available at: https://bit.ly/3gymPpP 

Some of the elements of a comprehensive education plan using Leave No Trace Principles would include (some elements in use now): 

Catalog existing rules, regulations, and educational messages in the Park – Currently, the lists of rules and regulations are not readily visible or consistent on kiosks throughout the Park, and Leave No Trace-type information is essentially non-existent in much Park-related literature. This is a relatively easy fix, but something that should be remedied over time in order to consistently promote responsible and sustainable enjoyment of the Park. 

Ensure consistency of signage – Some of the more important signage currently found in the Park should be made more prominent and consistent across the Park. When signage does not have an official look or feel, it can lead to non-compliance. Make all signage as permanent as possible. 

Identify and capitalize on missed opportunities to reach Park visitors – While there are active visitor education efforts in many parts of the Park, there are also many more opportunities that have yet to be capitalized on. From agencies, to locations such as the VIC (Paul Smith’s College), to the various Challenges in the Park, as well as locations like the I-87 Exit 17 rest area, and information on shuttle vehicles, there are many potential opportunities to better educate Park visitors on enjoying the Adirondacks responsibly. Also: NY State Camping Guide, Town of Webb Trail System map, I Love NY Roadmap, Frontier Town literature, Old Forge Summer Fun Guide, Adirondack Sports, I Love NY Travel Guide, I Love NY New York State Travel Highlights, DEC day use and campground maps, etc.  

Preventive Search and Rescue – According to the DEC there are accurate statistics on the number of search and rescue operations (SAR) that occur in the Park. Given the increase in SAR in the past few years there appears to be a need (and an opportunity) to develop a Preventative Search and Rescue (PSAR) educational effort and/or program with the goal of reaching park visitors about being prepared and staying safe before they venture into the backcountry of the Park. Such a program would need to be coordinated across the Park, and could involve a wide variety of partners that could all promote a single PSAR message. The DEC completed a pilot PSAR last winter.  

Replicate successful existing outreach efforts – There are numerous existing outreach efforts in the Park (e.g. High Peaks Info Ctr. at ADK Log, summer invasive species/boat inspection stewards, summit stewards, fire tower stewards, etc.).  

Tailor DEC website to what visitors are searching for most – While there are good resources on the DEC’s current website, a review utilizing Google Analytics or a third-party auditor of the most visited pages would allow for the agency to better tailor the website to current Park visitors.  

Search Engine Optimization – When searching the internet for information on the Adirondack Park, the most prominent websites are largely tourism-focused websites (this is a significant marketing/outreach opportunity) and the DEC website isn’t found until the second page of a Google search.  

Create a singular website for the High Peaks – Because of the intense and growing use of the High Peaks, DEC and its partners in the High Peaks should consider a single website for the area that could serve as the comprehensive and definitive information source for those wishing to visit. Such a site could be in both English and French to accommodate visitors from both the US and Canada. There are currently numerous websites that provide information about the High Peaks which creates inconsistencies from one site to the next.  

Publicize existing shuttle services – There are some shuttle services in the Park that have been implemented to remedy the myriad parking issues managers and partners are currently dealing with in the Adirondacks. While well-intentioned, such services are virtually useless unless Park visitors know about the services.  

Ensure Leave No Trace is part of relevant college orientation programs, courses, and outing programs – There are numerous colleges and universities that provide a variety of programming in the Park offering meaningful opportunities to reach students (and staff) with Leave No Trace information for the Park. The DEC and its partners should reach out to all known colleges and universities that operate in the Park in some capacity to ensure they are providing Leave No Trace to their participants before and during any visit.  

DEC Training Recommendations 

Specific training for DEC staff and rangers – Consider sending DEC Forest Ranger, ECOs, and Lands and Forests staff to targeted training on proper use of the Authority of the Resource Technique, a proven method for effectively interacting with Park visitors about Leave No Trace and similar stewardship concepts.  

Train entities operating under a Volunteer Service Agreement (VSA) – Any entity operating on state lands as a volunteer with DEC has the opportunity to provide Leave No Trace education, whether it is explicitly in their mission (such as Front Country Stewards) or not (such as volunteer trail crews).  

Train summer camp staff – There are countless summer camps (both day and resident) in the Adirondack Park. Camps represent a tremendous opportunity to reach both camp staff and youth with Leave No Trace in an outdoor context.  

Make Leave No Trace a required component of NY Guide Licensure – Currently there are approximately 2,500 licensed guides in New York, which represents a tremendous opportunity to educate a professional community about Leave No Trace that has a significant reach in the Adirondack Park. Outfitter and guide services often cater to beginners or novices who are interested in learning new outdoor activities.  

DEC Management Recommendations  

DEC work with media/outdoor industry media – DEC should expand its outreach and engagement with outdoor industry media entities that are promoting the Adirondack Park. These kinds of influencers can play a key role in promoting responsible enjoyment of the Park. An internet search reveals numerous media outlets that are heavily promoting the Park yet provide little to no information on responsible enjoyment of the areas they’re promoting.  

Include Leave No Trace in the DEC Ranger Academy – The DEC’s Environmental Conservation Police Officer and Forest Ranger Basic Training academy should include a robust Leave No Trace component. Given the role of ECOs and Forest Rangers in the protection of the Park, interaction with the public is a key part of the scope of work for these crucial staff. Ensuring that ECOs and Rangers are equipped with Leave No Trace will allow them to pass along critical information to outdoor enthusiasts they interface with throughout the course of their duties. Research has shown that visitors to public lands often first learn about Leave No Trace from a Ranger.  

Create a DEC Junior Ranger Program – Consider the development of an Adirondack Park Junior Ranger Program that contains a Leave No Trace component. Such programs are widely utilized by the federal land management agencies and by some state agencies as well. Generally, these programs are structured to engage youth ages 5 – 15 but some encourage participation of adults of any age as well.  

Visitor Compliance – DEC managers should explore options for greater enforcement of rules and regulations in the Park. If the applicable rules and regulations cannot be enforced adequately, managers will have to rely solely on voluntary compliance, which has been shown to be low for some issues.  

“The Department of Environmental Conservation team has embraced and started to implement with partners including the Adirondack Mountain Club and others, many of these education recommendations since they came out in draft form earlier this year,” said Janeway. “They are to be applauded for embracing this part of the strategy to preserve safe access to world renounced legacy Wilderness.” 

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 IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, August 27, 2020 

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

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