"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


Assemblyman Steve Englebright Promotes Conservation Design Legislation
By Dave Gibson, Managing Partner Adirondack Wild

Assemblyman Englebright speaks to Adirondack Wild annual meeting at Keene Valley Congregational Church

Adirondack Wild was honored to host Steve Englebright, the chairman of the NYS Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee, at our 2019 annual meeting during a beautiful October day in Keene Valley’s Congregational Church. The Assembly’s environmental champion has a long and  distinguished record of accomplishment for strengthening New York’s environmental laws. His constituents on Long Island agree - since they have re-elected him 18 times. Despite many obstacles, Englebright has successfully sponsored several groundbreaking laws protective of the rare Long Island Pine Barrens and of the very threatened, sole source aquifer beneath this forest ecosystem which is the drinking water source for 1.5 million people. In 2019, Englebright sponsored the Climate and Community Protection Act, signed into law by Governor Cuomo which, among other provisions, mandates that half of New York’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030. 
Mr. Englebright came to Keene Valley at our request to discuss Adirondack Wild’s top legislative priority, his Conservation Subdivision Design bill to achieve smarter, more ecologically benign, less wasteful and costly residential subdivisions in the Adirondack Park. Chairman Englebright told us that:

  • First, he has abiding faith in the ability of people to apply knowledge and facts to positively address environmental and public health threats;
  •  Second, as the only geologist in the New York State Legislature Steve told us he thinks in terms of geological time, not the next election. Tackling difficult issues now in order to safeguard our environment and benefit our vulnerable landscapes, ecology and human communities many generations beyond our own comes naturally to this legislative leader.

The conservation subdivision design legislation, A. 8123-a/S.6484, places new mandates on the Adirondack Park Agency in Ray Brook for:

  • new pre-application process for early evaluation of the potential adverse impacts of the largest private subdivisions in the most vulnerable places in the Park;
  • rigorous biological inventories early in the design process;
  • alternative spatial designs which concentrate the new homes and roads away from vulnerable natural resources;
  • maintaining open space in contiguous blocks for potentially useful and economically important forest stewardship or agricultural management, or open space recreation;
  • the goal is to keep land use options open in the future and avoid fragmenting, or splitting up large landscapes into smaller, ecologically vulnerable pieces while still providing landowner equity through smarter design alternatives. Those alternatives may also reduce the length and cost of project infrastructure, like roads, water and sewer lines.

Englebright studied ecological principles as well as geology during college. He told our members that conservation design of new development for a Park as nationally and globally significant as the Adirondacks is, to him, fundamental. One of the basic lessons of ecology is that the smaller and more isolated an island of habitat becomes, the fewer species it can support. Avoiding habitat fragmentation that results from breaking up contiguous, connected blocks of land into multiple small lots and ownerships is vital to the future biodiversity, integrity, economic usefulness and resilience of the six million-acre Adirondack Park, he said. This is particularly true during a period of rapid climate change.

Assemblyman Englebright is joined by panelists to discuss Conservation Subdivision Design, from left: David Gibson, Adirondack Wild; Dr. Michale Glennon, Adirondack Watershed Institute; William (Bill) Farber, Hamilton County Board of Supervisors; and Gerald (Jerry) Delaney, Sr., Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board

Following the chairman’s remarks, Adirondack Wild’s David Gibson convened a panel comprised of some of the many Adirondack interests who have studied, debated helped to amend the bill:

  • Gibson extolled the bill and the bill’s review and amendment process facilitated by the Common Ground Alliance, and thanked chairman Englebright for his leadership;
  • Gerald (Jerry) Delaney, Jr. is executive director of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board. He expressed his caution about the bill based on a concern for land-rich, but cash-poor family ownerships needing to subdivide who may be required to undergo a more robust and more costly design process. He said provisions in the bill which provide specific exemptions, a variance procedure and a potential density bonus in exchange for a larger percentage of the project area in permanent open space were important in eventually gaining his endorsement;
  • Dr. Michale Glennon, science director at the Paul Smith’s Adirondack Watershed Institute, emphasized the bill’s requirement for ecological site analysis to know, upfront, the ecological systems, habitats and natural resources on a project site in order to inform subdivision site plans. This provision of “knowing what’s there” is critical to the alternative design process and eventual impact avoidance. It requires professional sampling methods and careful field work, she emphasized;
  •  Bill Farber, chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors and supervisor of the Town of Morehouse, thanked Assemblyman Englebright for giving the working group sufficient time and his trust to deliberate and to eventually recommend modifications, all of which Englebright has accepted. The Senate has a same-as bill in that chamber. Farber endorsed the stakeholder review process and he hoped the legislation will pass this year.

Our great thanks to the Pastor and members of Keene Valley Congregational Church for hosting Adirondack Wild and our productive “Dialogue for the Wild.”

Keene Valley Congregational Church, Keene Valley, NY

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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
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