Adirondack Wilderness Advocates Inc. (AWA) has announced three new changes to its leadership positions, including a new Chair of its Board of Directors, a new addition to the Board, and a new Technical Advisor.
Retired Forest Ranger Becomes AWA Board Member
In June 2021, retired New York State Forest Ranger Scott van Laer joined AWA’s Board of Directors. Van Laer served as a New York State Forest Ranger for 25 years, much of that time in the High Peaks Wilderness region of the Adirondack Park, before retiring from the force in 2021. Today he is the director of Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center.
“Having grown up in the Adirondacks as the son of a Forest Ranger I became aware of the majesty of the wilderness at a very early age,” van Laer said. “As I grew older, I learned how rare wilderness really is, worldwide and particularly in the Northeast. Once I became a Forest Ranger myself, I saw the human pressures placed on wilderness and the need for appropriate staffing and stewardship. I admired the advocacy work by AWA for some time and am excited to join the organization so I can remain engaged in protecting the Adirondack Wilderness.”
Stewardship Manager Becomes New Board Chair
This spring AWA’s Board of Directors voted unanimously to elect Kayla White as Chair, succeeding co-founder Bill Ingersoll, whose term was expiring. Kayla has been active in the organization since its founding in 2016, and she has been a member of the board since 2018. White is a decade-long employee of the Adirondack Mountain Club, and now serves as the Stewardship Manager for the Adirondack High Peaks Summit Stewardship Program. She is also on the board of The Waterman Fund, an organization that preserves wildness and Northeastern alpine areas. “I’m excited to take a leading role in AWA,” White said. “With our efforts in the High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group, designing a visitor use management app, and unwavering advocacy for wild places, AWA is growing into a leading environmental advocacy organization.”
Dawson Becomes Technical Advisor
AWA is also pleased to announce that SUNY ESF Professor Emeritus and former APA Board Member Chad Dawson has joined AWA as a Technical Advisor. Dawson recently joined the Board of Directors of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, which has historically been the environmental organization most closely aligned with AWA’s mission and goals. This connection has provided the two organizations an opportunity to form an alliance.
The goal of this alliance is to identify and advance pilot projects to help build a world-class adaptive management model for the Adirondack Park, with Dawson, who is one of the world’s foremost experts on wilderness management, at the center. “Collaboration is the way forward in conservation and preservation,” said Dawson. “Working collectively toward positive actions and activities will probably accomplish more than continuing to turn the political heat up on state government to do its job and do it better. Not that we let the state shirk its responsibility, rather that we find people who want to move forward with sustainable planning and appropriate management whether on county or private lands to set an example and demonstrate the possibilities.”
New Projects on the Horizon
“These changes, which bring a tremendous depth of knowledge to the organization, will uniquely position AWA to engage in some exciting new pilot projects involving the Visitor Use Management Framework (VUMF),” the organization’s announcement said.
AWA co-founder Pete Nelson said “Our new team has a vast amount of experience and credibility, and it’s exciting! We have some significant initiatives underway, and with people like Chad, Scott and Kayla, plus the alliances we’ve cultivated, we’re going to be able to have a significant impact on the welfare of the Forest Preserve.”
Nelson held a seat on the State of New York High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group (HPAG) and is working on several projects to advance the recommendations made in the HPAG’s Final Report.
Founded in 2016, AWA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that began with a campaign to promote an all-Wilderness classification for the Boreas Ponds Tract. For more information visit their website.