"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s
peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.
The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms
their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves."

— John Muir


A Rudderless and Weakened APA in Ray Brook
By Dave Gibson, Managing Partner Adirondack Wild

As Adirondack Wild said recently on WAMC Public Radio, the NYS Adirondack Park Agency is currently rudderless and lacking in critically needed background qualifications.

The situation is serious and demands wise choices for the APA by Governor Cuomo and his staff before the State Legislature ends its session in mid-June.

The APA’s Board Acting Chair, an energetic and communicative person dedicated to her job and desirous of being named Chair by the Governor, felt she had no choice but to resign in mid-May. That in and of itself tells us that Governor Cuomo has not paid enough attention to the incentives needed for a motivated, well-qualified APA board.  Karen Feldman’s resignation was regrettable and, we believe, avoidable. Her departure means there are now three vacancies on the eleven-member APA board and five other members whose four-year terms have expired. Two of those members were originally selected by Governor George Pataki.

The Governor of New York has the authority to name all eleven APA members. Eight citizen nominees must be confirmed by the State Senate. Three state agency designees are entirely in the Governor’s control. All current APA members are fine people volunteering extensive time each month to the agency. However, only one of those members, Chad Dawson, has a strong background in an important field, wilderness recreation resources management, relevant to APA’s responsibilities.

The Adirondack Park is treasured by all New Yorkers and by people from around the world. To do its job to protect the Park, the APA board badly needs board members skilled in environmental law, ecological science and land use planning, all of which are central to its mission.  None of these fields are well represented around the APA table today.

 Dave Gibson presenting to the APA Board.

Adirondack Wild joined a coalition of Adirondack groups who have given Governor Cuomo the names of many excellent candidates in all of these fields. These candidates have the knowledge and readiness to serve. The Governor has many strong candidates to choose from.

 Given a Park of such statewide and national importance as the Adirondack Park, we will also expect the NYS Senate to reject unqualified individuals who lack the skills and backgrounds to contribute to the Park’s protection and stewardship.  The statewide interest in the protection of the Adirondack Park’s natural resources must come first.

The lack of qualified APA board members in recent years contributed to a series of ill-informed decisions. APA voted to approve the largest and most fragmenting private land subdivision in its history, allowed other large subdivisions in the Park’s Resource Management zone without a thorough natural resource survey, approved State Land management plans that fail to comply with legal requirements, allowed motor vehicle access to the fragile Boreas Ponds and, for the first time, weakened environmental protections in the State Land Master Plan.

Adirondack Wild’s report Adirondack Park at a Crossroad: A Road Map for Action documents a steady erosion of the APA’s regulation of private land development and its oversight of management of State-owned lands in the Park. The report also pointed out the lack of environmental, legal and land use experience among APA board members.

Contrasting with the current situation at APA, here are some backgrounds of prior APA members, all well suited to APA’s mission:

  • Nonprofit leader Elizabeth Thorndike promoted public awareness and understanding of the impacts of and solutions to acid rain falling throughout the Adirondacks.
  • Ecologist Anne LaBastille increased the APA’s awareness of the consequences of a loss of biological diversity. 
  • Attorney Peter Paine brought a demonstrated concern for and experience in wilderness protection and land use planning. 
  • Forester John Stock offered APA experience in forestry practice and forest management.
  • Fisher Bill Roden informed the APA board of fish and wildlife issues in the Adirondacks. 
  • Educator John Collins was an articulate and fair Park advocate who guided APA through a series of important regulatory improvements. 
  • Attorney Arthur Savage was an experienced environmental attorney who helped to found the Adirondack Nature Conservancy. 
  • Educator Richard Lefebvre championed visitor centers and better interpretation of the Park for visitors and residents.

This session’s APA nominations will be a litmus test for how serious Governor Cuomo is about protecting the Adirondack Park.

We expect the Governor to give serious consideration to the many promising candidates the coalition of Adirondack groups worked hard to develop.
Time is running out in this legislative session.

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ADK ALMANACK - Writings by David Gibson

Wilderness 50th

The mission of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve is to advance New York’s ‘Forever Wild’ legacy and Forest Preserve policies in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, and promote public and private land stewardship that is consistent with wild land values through education, advocacy and research.

Top left, Autumn © Ken Rimany; Maple Leaves and Lichen ©Ken Rimany

Peter Brinkley, Honorary Chair
Terry Jandreau, Chair
Kenneth J. Rimany, Partner
David H. Gibson, Managing Partner
Mobile: 518.469.4081

Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve    Founded 1945   PO Box 9247 • Niskayuna New York 12309 | ©