An annual report assessing policy affecting the Adirondack Park has just been issued by the Adirondack Council. This year it’s largely positive, driven by the state’s acquisition of wilderness lands and investment in the Environmental Protection Fund.
The Adirondack Council has been issuing its State of the Park Report since 1986. Although there are a few format changes, the 2016 document “Ready for Wilderness” remains largely the same, providing thumbs up or down on issues and actions that impact the Adirondack Park. Overall, Adirondack Council Executive Director Willie Janeway calls it a very positive review. “There is a lot of positive things that happened and we’re poised for some huge historic positive victories for expanded wilderness. There are some specific thumbs down for issues. But overall things are going in a positive direction and there were some huge successes in the last year for the Adirondack Park and for the Adirondack-North Country region.”
Janeway says key actions over the course of the past year include the full funding of the state’s Environmental Protection Fund to $300 million and the completed acquisition of 161,000 acres of Adirondack lands. “That spike of investments is part of the governor and the legislature agreeing that the Adirondacks are a real national treasure and an asset for us here in New York. Ten million visitors a year. It brings a lot of people, a lot of money and we can have a win-win. We can expand wilderness protection and improve protection for clean water in the Adirondack North Country and have that be a boost for communities. But all is not rosy. There are some issues in the report where we flag some concerns. There’s a lot of thumbs up but there are a significant number of issues that we also give a thumbs down to. And when we look ahead we hope those get corrected next year.”
The Council gave thumbs up on tourism promotion efforts, the Remsen to Lake Placid Rail to Trail compromise, invasive species prevention, and the confirmations of DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos and three Adirondack Park Agency commissioners. Thumbs down include short staffing at the APA and DEC, some motorized vehicle approvals and federal delays in fighting climate change.
Council Communications Director John Sheehan says the report illustrates the link between the environment and the park’s local communities. “People coming to the park are going to expect that they will have pure water to drink and that the sewer system won't be polluting the river or the lake that they're coming to visit. We need to make investments in those communities to make sure that they have the facilities that are necessary for people to get into them, to have a place to stay, to have a place to eat and have an opportunity to benefit from having a forest preserve right next door. I think a lot of what we're trying to accomplish with the expansion of wilderness is also community development and that they can go hand in hand and really do in the Adirondacks.”
While some issues were perennial or predictable, Janeway was surprised to discover that the report indicates the park’s water is not as clean as it should be. “We are seeing degradation of water quality in some places. Sometimes it's invasive species. Sometimes it's runoff phosphorous. Sometimes it's road salt. And those are threats to water quality and challenges for compliance with the Clean Water Act. We realize that hasn't received a lot of attention and going forward it needs to receive more.”