The coalition supporting the new Forever Adirondacks Campaign for clean water, jobs and wilderness – led by the Adirondack Council’s Aaron Mair – declared victory as state government moved to approve a budget that includes funding for a series of top campaign priorities.
The Forever Adirondacks Campaign is a coalition of advocates, government officials, business leaders, educators, college administrators, grassroots activists and not-for-profit organizational partners seeking clean water, jobs and wilderness.
The Campaign won approval for critical environmental priorities for the Adirondack Park, including: programs that will help protect the Park from acid rain and climate change; allowing the park to cope with its surging popularity among hikers by completing a formal visitor management framework similar to those in use in national parks, that addresses impacts of recreational overuse, protects wilderness areas and ensures fair access to New Yorkers; and enables Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College to join forces with the State’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry to create a new Climate Careers Job Institute in the Adirondacks. Those projects alone account for $3.2 million in new state programs to benefit the Adirondack Park.
“These new programs are a testament to the value that the Adirondack Park and its unspoiled wilderness hold for all of the people of New York,” said Aaron Mair, Director of the Adirondack Council’s Forever Adirondacks Campaign. “We thank Governor Kathy Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Environmental Conservation Committee Chairs Senator Todd Kaminsky and Assembly member Steve Englebright, as well as our champions—Assembly member Billy Jones , Assembly member Michaelle Solages, Assembly member Deborah Glick, Senator Zellnor Myrie and Senator Rachel May. We are also grateful to the entire Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus for their crucial support. This victory is a testament to this coalition of government, academia, grassroots and not-for-profit partners speaking in a united voice to protect the national treasure that is the Adirondack Park. As advocates, we declare victory and thank all of our supporters.”
“The $3.2 million poised to be approved for these three Forever Adirondacks campaign priorities is in addition to the $4.2 billion Environmental Bond Act approved to go before the voters in November, which would help New York prepare for and prevent some of the worst aspects of climate change,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway. “Plus, the budget contains a record-setting $400 million Environmental Protection Fund. The EPF also has more real cash behind it this year, thanks to Governor Kathy Hochul. While the funding is critical, that the investments truly benefit clean water, wilderness preservation, green jobs and climate justice is what matters most.”
CUNY/ESF Timbuctoo Summer Climate and Careers Institute: A new $2.1 million conservation jobs pathway for City University of New York students and others through a cooperative program with the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Newcomb is being proposed. The program would begin with CUNY’s Medgar Evers College of Brooklyn. The Timbuctoo Institute is named for one of the Suffrage Settlements of the Adirondacks in the 1840s, where 3,000 black men claimed ownership of a 40-acre homestead that entitled them to vote.
Some 20 years prior to the Civil War, the Adirondacks were an important link in the Underground Railroad that led enslaved persons to freedom in Canada. Lesser known is the role of abolitionist and suffragist Gerrit Smith, who helped poor Black men gain the right to vote by granting applicants a 40-acre farm in one of the eight Suffrage Settlements of the Adirondacks. The most famous of these is Timbuctoo, where John Brown brought his family to live with the settlers, prior to his attempt to incite a revolt among the enslaved persons of West Virginia by attacking the armory at Harper’s Ferry. Hundreds of Black men earned the right to vote through property ownership in one of the settlements. Women gained the right to vote in New York in 1917.
The institute can act as a jobs pipeline for students from a broad variety of back grounds who might not otherwise ever visit the Adirondack Park. Other colleges have also expressed a desire to participate.
Adirondack Park Agency Headquarters: $29 million would be provided to allow the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to construct a building better suited to its needs than the tiny log cabin it has been forced to reside within for more than 50 years, sharing a campus with the better-situated Department of Environmental Conservation regional headquarters and the State Police Troup G Headquarters. The APA hosts a large number of hearings and other public gatherings on important issues and needs space to expand its staff and its role within the park.
Adirondack Diversity Initiative Funding: The Adirondack Diversity Initiative would receive an increase in funding, from $250,000 to $300,000.
Healthy Children and Clean Transportation: Janeway also cheered the Adirondack Foundation’s Adirondack Birth to Three Alliance for advances in state support for child care, with roughly $7 billion devoted to programs statewide. He also congratulated the North Country Chamber of Commerce for its success in promoting electric schools buses. The switch from diesel engines to electric buses will prevent air pollution, make students healthier and create new jobs in the Plattsburgh region where new buses will be built, Janeway said.
Broadband Internet Access and Availability: Governor Hochul has said she would use state and federal money amounting to $1.6 billion statewide to bridge broadband gaps long-neglected by prior state administrations and aimed at eliminating all remaining underserved locations and to provide price breaks and subscription subsidies for residents who cannot afford service. Rural communities will benefit from the elimination of a pole-connection fee imposed on new broadband equipment installations.
“That is a key set of changes we highlighted in State of the Park 2021 and advocated for as part of the solution to the broadband puzzle in the park,” Janeway said. “It is important to get this type of work done so Adirondack communities can keep pace and so local residents have the economic and education opportunities that affordable broadband provides.”
Visitor Use, Overuse & Safety Management Framework: The Environmental Protection Fund contains categories for State Land Stewardship in the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves and the proposed state budget will increase funding to address overuse of state owned Adirondack and Catskill Park lands, more education, trails work, shuttles and stewards, and $600,000 to help apply national park-level standards to the care and operation of recreational trails and other facilities designed to accommodate public recreation.
The Adirondacks and Catskills would gain a new set of management tools designed to keep wild lands healthy while they remain popular with visitors. Visitor Use Management Frameworks help officials assess the need to build, redesign or rebuild trails, reroute traffic and to create and maintain facilities such as restrooms, lean-tos, campsites, parking, interpretive centers, and information kiosks.
The Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) expects to issue a request for proposals soon and hire a visitor management expert by the fall, Janeway said. This compliments the recent decision by DEC to designate Forest Preserve coordinators for the Adirondacks and Catskills.
An EPF category for Adirondack and Catskill visitor safety and wilderness protection will fund $8 million in improvements to help managers of the Forest Preserve to cope with overwhelming levels of use and overcrowding on the most popular public lands locations.
Survey of Climate and Adirondack Lake Ecosystems: Following its visit to Lake Placid last fall, members of the Legislature’s Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Caucus joined Senators Kaminsky and May and Assembly members Jones and Glick in supporting a new comprehensive survey of Adirondack lakes, similar to the survey completed in the 1980s that set off nationwide alarms over acid rain. This time, the survey would track the continuing recovery from acid rain and provide a modern snapshot of the impact of climate change on the park’s waters. The State Senate is providing $500,000 for the Adirondack Lake Survey Corporation and a coalition of organizations to start the effort.
Funded preliminarily through the Aid to Localities budget, the survey is similar to a baseline survey of 1,400 Adirondack lakes conducted in advance of acid rain regulations in the 1980s. This one would consist of comprehensive testing on a broad array of lake and watershed types to gain a representative understanding of the entire 11,000-waterbody landscape. This survey would place more emphasis data regarding climate change. This is a three-year project expected to cost about $6 million that will employ a team of scientists working in partnership with the Adirondack Lakes Survey Corp.
Clean Water Grants: In addition, the budget includes $500 million for new grants to communities for new facilities and upgrades to existing facilities that provide clean drinking water and that collect and treat wastewater. Communities across the Adirondacks have received over $80 million from these programs over the past five years.
Grants to communities for new water treatment and sewage treatment facilities can lift an enormous burden from the shoulders of rural taxpayers. Villages and hamlets struggle to build and maintain multi-million-dollar projects in communities with total populations that average fewer than 2,000 residents. State help ensures safe drinking water and purer lakes and rivers for park residents and 12.4 million annual visitors.
Wetlands Policy Change: The budget also included a key policy change expanding protections for wetlands across the state. An Article 7 bill changes state wetlands policy to reduce the minimum size for state jurisdiction from 12.5 acres to 7.4 outside of the Adirondack Park (where 1 acre is already the threshold). It also expands the types of wetlands over which state protections may be offered and expands the scope of Adirondack Park Agency jurisdiction over development on lakeshores and other deep-water wetlands.
Restore Mother Nature Bond Act: This $4.2 billion bond act would provide capital funding for major projects associated with curbing greenhouse gases and combating climate change. Wilderness protection, green energy and energy conservation measures would benefit the park ecology, economy and public health.
Environmental Protection Fund elements affecting the Adirondacks:
State Land Stewardship — $48.7 million statewide, up $14.3 million from this year’s $34.4 million
Open Space Protection – $40 million for new park lands and forest preserve; $10 million higher than current budget
Farmland Protection — $21 million statewide, up from current $18 million
Mohawk River Action Plan – a new program funded at $1 million for watershed management on the Adirondack Park’s southern slopes
Lake George Invasive Species Controls — $900,000 is twice the current budget for preventing the spread of invasive species within the lake. Another $5.75 million will be available to fight invasive species in other lakes
Visitor Interpretive Centers — $150,000 to SUNY ESF for the VIC in Newcomb, up $30,000 from this year; and, $225,000 to Paul Smith’s College for the Brighton/Paul Smiths VIC, up from this year’s $180,000 appropriation
Municipal Recycling — $19 million, including a new food waste program, an increase of $3.7 million above this year
Landfill Closure/Gas Management — $750,000, with $300,000 to Hamilton County and $150,000 to Essex County. Same as this year.
Smart Growth Grants — $3 million, up 50% from this year’s $2 million, to help Communities in the Adirondack Park plan and execute hamlet-centric development.
Climate Smart Communities — $15 million for helping communities create plans to reduce their carbon footprints; up from the current $10.3 million
Photo of New York State Capitol.