NYS Governor Kathy Hochul has selected business owner and philanthropist John Ernst as the new chair of the Adirondack Park Agency board. The last person to serve as APA chair was Karen Feldman of Hudson, NY, who resigned in May of 2019.
Ernst owns and operates Elk Lake Lodge in North Hudson, Essex County. He also owns a home in New York City. Like Feldman, Ernst was initially appointed to one of three APA board positions reserved for state residents who reside outside of the park boundary. The APA board has five seats for park residents and three more reserved for state officials, for a total of 11.
“The Governor made an excellent choice,” said William C. Janeway, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council in a statement sent to the press. “John has the respect of everyone with whom he has worked. We know he will work diligently and guide the APA board wisely on behalf of the park.”
“John has been a conservation supporter and practitioner in the Adirondacks for decades. We know he understands the park agency’s authority and its limitations and will work for the good of the park. John is also a businessperson who runs his family’s resort in a careful and conscientious manner, working to bring harmony between Elk Lake and the nearby High Peaks Wilderness Area. We wish him well in his new role.”
Janeway said that Ernst and his wife Margot earned the Adirondack Council’s highest honor – Conservationist of the Year – in 2013. Ernst won the award again in 2015 as part of a group of former Adirondack Council board chairs.
Since then, the Ernsts helped the state to consolidate the High Peaks Wilderness Area with the nearby Dix Mountain Wilderness Area by swapping the intervening private forests (the 1,500-acre Casey Brook tract) to the state in exchange for lands closer to a highway. At nearly 200,000 acres, the enlarged High Peaks Wilderness is the largest in the Northeast.
In addition to his support for, and leadership of, the Adirondack Council, Ernst has supported and led other important organizations, including the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, the Adirondack Landowners Association, the Adirondack Museum, North Country Public Radio, the Adirondack Community Trust, the New York League of Conservation Voters, the Adirondack Center for Writing, the Open Space Institute and Adirondack Lakes Survey Corporation.
Janeway said the Ernsts have welcomed scientific research on their private land, ranging from loon census work to American marten tracking; migratory bird inventories to fish studies.
Photo: APA headquarters in Ray Brook, Essex County, NY.