A coalition of 10 conservation and educational organizations has sent a letter to New York State Governor Kathy Hochul urging her upcoming State of the State message and Executive Budget proposal to advance investments and strengthened policies to improve the protection and management of the Adirondack Park.
“The organizations listed above congratulate you on your historic election and passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Green Jobs Bond Act,” the coalition’s letter began. “We’re all committed today to making sure that the New Yorkers of tomorrow, and people from far and wide, will get the opportunity to enjoy the wild places of the Adirondacks that we all have experienced for many years.”
“Today, the Adirondack Park faces unprecedented challenges stemming from climate change, soaring recreational pressures on its trails and waterways,” the coalition continued, citing also “an outdated, 50-year-old Adirondack Park Agency Act that has not kept up with scientific trends and mounting development pressures, and a need to diversify the people it serves. We need new and courageous leadership from your office to ensure that Adirondack Park is well-protected now and preserved for future generations.”
The coalition asked the Governor to reject “the false choice between the Adirondack Park’s environment and economy. We’ve always believed that a healthy environment and healthy economy are not mutually exclusive, but go hand-in-hand.”
The groups called for the investments in the preservation of the Adirondack Park they consider essential to the regional economy and vitality of the region’s small rural communities.
They urged her to include in her proposal to the Legislature:
- $400,000 for the Adirondack Diversity Initiative
- $2.1 million for the Timbuctoo Summer Climate and Careers Institute
- $3 million for the Adirondack Experience (ADKX) exhibit on the African American Experience in the Adirondacks
- $400 million for the Environmental Protection Fund, including expanded funding for Forest Preserve Stewardship, Land Protection,
- Invasive Species Control, studying New York’s coyote and wolf populations, and funding environmental research in New York
- Making new, key investments in Forest Preserve trail development and management
- Funding reform and rehabilitation of the Adirondack Park Agency so that it fulfills its statutory responsibility to be the lead agency for planning in the Adirondack Park
- Making new investments to support affordable housing programs in Adirondack communities by funding an Adirondack Park
- Affordable Housing Task Force
- Committing to doubling and diversifying the Forest Rangers by funding a new Ranger Academy and expanding Ranger ranks
- Funding the critical, 3-year, $6 million research program “Survey of Climate Change and Adirondack Lakes Ecosystems” (SCALE)
- Allocating $1 billion for the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act to help municipalities across New York
Diversity Initiative and Timbuctoo Summer Careers Institute
“The Timbuctoo Summer Climate Careers Institute will expose high school students to green job opportunities and foster the next generation of climate advocates. The curriculum is developed and the first year of this program is set to be implemented in summer 2023. Please fund the Timbuctoo Summer Climate and Careers Institute at $2.1 million once again this year. The Adirondack Diversity Initiative (ADI) works to make the Adirondack region more welcoming and inclusive. ADI currently benefits from a $300,000 sub-allocation in the Environmental Protection Fund,” the letter says.
“Along with many other ongoing efforts, ADI provides critical anti-bias training to Environmental Conservation Officers, and that work continues to grow. We support the Adirondack North Country Association’s proposal to increase its allocation to $400,000 in this year’s budget, in response to the program’s growing impact and effectiveness.”
The Adirondack Experience
“ADKX plans to create a major permanent exhibition dedicated to the untold story of African Americans and their experiences, past and present, in the Adirondacks,” the letter says. “The 2,500-square-foot African American Experience in the Adirondacks exhibition will include hands-on, interactive features to engage 21st -century audiences. The exhibition will provide a focus for encouraging BIPOC communities to visit the region. Please support this $3 million project as it works towards a 2025 launch.”
A $400 million Environmental Protection Fund
“With your leadership, the EPF grew to $400 million in last year’s budget,” advocates said in the letter. “With that increase came notable investments in Adirondack Park open space protection, state land stewardship, climate change mitigation and adaptation and more. This year, we can’t go backwards and urge funding the EPF at a minimum of $400 million as we work towards a goal of $500 million by 2025. The following EPF categories are of particular importance to the Adirondack Park and communities:
- Open Space Protection – currently $40 million; request $50 million
- Forest Preserve Stewardship – currently $8 million; request $12.5 million
- Visitor Use Management – currently $600,000; request $600,000
- Invasive Species – currently $20 million; request $20 million
- Vital Adirondack Institutions – currently $375,000; request $500,000 ($250k each)
- New $5 Million Environmental Research Account – new request for $5 million
- Biodiversity/Landowner Habitat Conservation – currently $2 million; request $250,000 increase for Large Canid Endangered Species DNA Research (gray wolves).”
In addition, the letter address issues such as Forest Preserve Trail Development and Management; Revitalization of the Adirondack Park Agency’s 50-year-old rules for development of private lands; affordable housing; doubling and diversifying the ranger/conservation officer force; the proposed Survey of Climate Change and Adirondack Lakes Ecosystems (SCALE); and Clean Water and Promoting Community Vibrancy.
The coalition signing the letter included leaders of the Adirondack Council, Adirondack Experience; Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve; Adirondack Wilderness Advocates; Citizens Campaign for the Environment; Environmental Advocates of NY; New York League of Conservation Voters; Protect the Adirondacks!; Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter; WE ACT for Environmental Justice.
Photo: Entering Adirondack Park sign courtesy Eric Meier.