March 28, 2024

The Honorable Kathy Hochul
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

APA nominations – Strengthen the make-up of the APA 

Dear Governor Hochul:

Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve calls upon your administration to strengthen the make-up of the Adirondack Park Agency. We ask that you nominate individuals who will add badly needed  legal, planning, and environmental perspectives, expertise, independence, and competence to APA decisions about major projects having large, regional impacts.

Since 2012, the APA has badly drifted from its core mission to ensure that private development is well planned and designed to be compatible with adjacent, public Forest Preserve, and that these public lands are managed in compliance with the State Land Master Plan. Contrary to its legislative charter, the APA, the lead agency for planning, protection, and administration of the Park, has become a politically reactive and compliant permitting agency and not the proactive guardian of Park resources that it was intended to be, and actually was in prior years.

Just over the past year the APA has made a number of questionable decisions relating to their legal obligations, such as:

  • Defying a court decision and Agency regulations by permitting a large marina development on Lower Saranac Lake without evaluating the impacts of that development on a Value 1 wetland and, notably, without requiring a wetlands permit;
  • Meeting in secret with that marina developer with no notes of that meeting, resulting in a decision not to require a wetlands permit;
  • Defying a court ruling by continuing a pattern of not calling adjudicatory public hearings for complex, controversial project applications. In the last 14 years there have been no adjudicatory hearings, even though the APA has approved thousands of permit applications in that time span, including large shoreline residential subdivisions and a controversial herbicide treatment in Lake George;  
  • Failing, so far, to adopt steps in compliance with the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) requiring State agencies to consider greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions when issuing permits.

As these and other examples demonstrate, the APA is badly in need of new members who have a strong commitment to natural resource protection and to upholding the Private Land Use and State Land Master plans, and to regional planning for the Park. You took laudable actions in 2022, nominating Benita Law-Diao to the APA, and appointing John Ernst as APA Chair. However, as of June 30, 2024, there will be six expired terms and one vacancy on the eleven member APA. These openings provide a crucial opportunity for you to appoint qualified individuals.

We urge you to renominate Benita Law-Diao and Zoe Smith to the Agency, both of whom will continue to offer a strong record of critical thinking and judgement to the APA board’s decisions. There are many other qualified APA nominees with outstanding natural resource and environmental backgrounds for you to consider this year, including but by no means limited to:

  • Heidi Kretser, Essex County
  • Alan Belenz Warren County
  • Barbara Rottier, Franklin County
  • Neil Woodworth, St. Lawrence County
  • John Caffry, Warren County outside the Park
  • James Close, Saratoga County outside the Park

The future of the Adirondack Park depends upon your sending to the State Senate this year nominees like these who will be enthusiastic in their determination to fulfill the Agency’s obligation to protect the resources of the Park and provide rigorous oversight of private development, resource planning, and management of the public’s Forest Preserve.

Thank you for your consideration.

David Gibson, Managing Partner
Chad Dawson, Board Director
Rick Hoffman, Board Director

Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve
P.O. Box 9247
Niskayuna, NY 12309



 John O’Leary, Deputy Secretary for Energy and Environment
Ashley Dougherty, Assistant Secretary for Environment
State Senator Liz Krueger, Chair, Finance Committee
State Senator Pete Harckham, Chair, Environmental Conservation Committee