Advances on Invasives and Renewable Energy Top Adirondack Council’s State of The Park Report

     Many of the Adirondack Park’s environmental organizations and local governments stopped fighting one another and worked together in this year on issues of common concern, advancing agreements that better protect the park’s environment while also encouraging community development, according to the Adirondack Council’s 2013 State of the Park Report.

            State of the Park is a 20-page, illustrated review of more than 100 actions taken by local, state and federal government officials, briefly explaining what they did to help or hurt the ecology and economy of the Adirondack Park over the past 12 months.  The non-partisan account has been published each October since 1986 as a report card intended to hold government officials accountable.

“The Adirondack Park can be, and should be, the world’s greatest example of how a modern society can live in harmony with nature,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway.  “Local officials are recognizing more than ever that their communities depend upon the health and beauty of the public Forest Preserve for their survival.

“At the same time, environmental organizations such as the Adirondack Council are recognizing that sustainable, successful communities are vital to the public’s enjoyment of the Adirondack Park and its wild lands and waters, which translates into support for conservation,” Janeway explained.  “This year, community leaders and environmentalists collaborated and made modest progress on issues of mutual concern.  Next year we hope to accomplish more.”

The Adirondack Park is 9,300 square miles, making it the largest park in the contiguous United States.  It is also one of the only American parks designed to include rural villages and towns.  About half of the park’s six million acres are privately owned, dedicated principally to commercial forestry, outdoor recreation, private homes and about 130 rural communities.  The park’s constitutionally protected public lands contain most of the old growth forest and roadless wilderness remaining in the eastern United States.

Janeway noted that environmentalists and local governments both lobbied the state government for money to halt invasive species, rebuild water and sewage treatment systems and pay for local planning efforts.  The two sides worked together to gain the Legislature’s approval for two proposed Constitutional Amendments authorizing land swaps involving the Forest Preserve.  Both will appear on the November statewide ballot (Proposition 4 and Proposition 5).

“On their own, local governments took on major environmental protection roles this year, with the Town of Chester instituting the Park’s first mandatory boat inspection program to protect Loon Lake from nuisance aquatic species carried by infested motorboat trailers, bilge water and motors,” Janeway said.  “Meanwhile, communities in Warren, Washington and Essex counties banded together to persuade the Lake George Park Commission to create a mandatory inspection program on Lake George starting in 2014.

“Other communities created new ecological education programs along river courses, to encourage both tourism and conservation,” he said.  “Still others improved local zoning, restored riverbanks that had been damaged by storms and switched from imported fossil fuels to renewable, local Link to fuels.”

Link to State of the Park 2013:  http://www.adirondackcouncil.org/uploads/sop_archive/1381887090_SOP2013.pdf

The Adirondack Council has urged the governor to protect the magnificent Hudson River Gorge Primitive Area, above, along with the newly acquired Essex Chain of Lakes, OK Slip Falls and Indian River tracts (former Finch Pruyn & co. lands) and create a new Wilderness Area.  Photo is by Carl Heilman II/Wild Visions, Inc.

Other highlights of the report include:

Governor Andrew Cuomo received praise (thumbs up) for increasing the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) for the first time since 2007; buying important lands and waters for addition to the “forever wild” Forest Preserve; embracing the Adirondack Council’s criteria for judging the merits of proposed Constitutional Amendments involving Forest Preserve land swaps; and, for reducing the state’s power plant carbon emissions cap.  He received criticism (thumbs down) when someone apparently told the Adirondack Park Agency to modify a construction permit affecting a rare songbird species; failing to reappoint an environmental advocate to the Park Agency board of commissioners; weakening rules for waste from concentrated animal feedlots; and, for not better promoting transformational environmental changes at struggling state agencies.

The State Legislature won praise for bills it passed requiring the recycling of mercury-laden thermostats; encouraging state agencies to purchase food locally; banning the importation of wild boars; approving an increase in the EPF, and, for proposing a $5-billion environmental bond act.  It received a thumbs-down for failing to come to agreement on legislation to address climate change or transformational changes in management of invasive species.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman earned five thumbs-up ratings for legal action against air polluters and against an Adirondack rafting company that was giving the industry a black eye.

The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation won praise for tightening the carbon cap for New York power plants; buying important, new lands for the “forever wild” Forest Preserve; for helping to restore the chemical balance to lakes affected by acid rain; removing campsites from an over-loved lake shore; helping to pioneer new acid rain and mercury contamination research; developing public recreation plans for commercial timberlands on which the state owns recreational rights; helping to restore endangered spruce grouse to their home range; better planning over large landscapes in the Park; replanting trees along riverbanks damaged by major storms; and, for new regulations governing large-scale, commercial water use.  DEC earned criticism for failing to propose new regulations to carry out a state law mandating that municipalities quickly report sewage spills to the public; for doubling the length of the Adirondack bobcat trapping season without scientific justification; and, for harming the Forest Preserve by constructing snowmobile trails that are too wide.

The Adirondack Park Agency won praise for dropping its plan to expedite approvals for clear-cutting the Park’s commercial forests; approving an impressive number of new cell towers while still enforcing its policy requiring them to be “substantially invisible;” and, for consolidating management plans for 26 separate parcels of state land in the Taylor Pond Wild Forest into a unified pattern.  The APA received thumbs-down ratings for proposing the clear-cutting plan in the first place and for allowing itself to be intimidated into altering a construction permit designed to protect a rare songbird.

While the Federal Government doesn’t manage the Adirondack Park directly, its actions can have a local impact.  President Barack Obama won praise for his new initiatives on climate change and for appointing Gina McCarthy to head his Environmental Protection Agency.  EPA won praise for adopting California’s tight standards for sulfur in gasoline and for its new standards regulating fine-particle pollution from power plants.  Sen. Charles Schumer won praise for his work to restore funding for stream water-level gauges across the park.  He and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand won praise, along with Adirondack Congressman Bill Owens for their efforts to support invasive species control programs.  Owens and Schumer also won praise for helping establish a local meat processing facility for Adirondack farmers.  The EPA earned a thumbs-down for shirking its duty to establish a national air quality standard for control of smokestack emissions that harm water, forest and wildlife.

The report highlights four significant judicial decisions in which state and federal Courts won praise for deciding in favor of air pollution regulation, local zoning and the state’s right to protect sections of the Adirondack Park as roadless, motor-free Wilderness.

In its Tip of the Hat section, the report highlights the work of other not-for-profit organizations and individuals whose work advanced environmental protection and helped to show that people and nature can thrive together.  They include the Wildlife Conservation Society, The Nature Conservancy, Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, Fund for Lake George, Common Ground Alliance, Open Space Institute, Johanson family of Chesterfield, and Champlain Area Trails.

The Adirondack Council is an independent, privately funded, not-for-profit organization that accepts no public money or taxpayer funded donations of any kind.  The Council’s mission is to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park.  The Council envisions an Adirondack Park comprised of large, core Wilderness areas, surrounded by working forests and farms and vibrant local communities.  The Adirondack Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action.  Council members live in all 50 United States.

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