Advocacy and Grassroots Organizing
Protect the Adirondacks undertakes a number of activities each year to advance environmental protections in the Adirondack Park. PROTECT works to organize members and the public to take action on a variety of issues to defend the Forest Preserve and expand protections for the forests, open spaces, waters, and wildlife of the Adirondack Park. We undertake independent oversight of state agencies and local governments to monitor management planning for the public Forest Preserve and to ensure that regional land use planning laws, policies and regulations designed to protect the natural resources of the Adirondack Park are upheld. These are the highlights of current advocacy efforts issues to improve management of the public Forest Preserve or to protect or strengthen the natural resources and wild lands of the Adirondack Park.
Open Space Protection
PROTECT advocates for land acquisition funding in the state budget and for new state acquisitions in the Adirondack Park. There are numerous opportunities where willing landowners seek to permanently protect lands in the Adirondack Park through state purchase for the Forest Preserve or by conservation easement. In addition to making sure that there are state funds available for land acquisition, PROTECT advocates for state agencies to protect lands in the Adirondacks.
High Peaks Wilderness Overuse and Under-Investment
The High Peaks Wilderness is in the midst of a major boom in the number of hikers, which has stressed the region’s management. The allure of the High Peaks is immense for hikers, which is understandable. There is simply no other place anywhere east of the Mississippi River that provides the experience like that found on the summit of an interior High Peak surrounded by dozens of others. The views from the summits of Gothics or Colvin or Colden or Haystack mountains, or any number of other High Peaks, are simply stunning. In 2018, state agencies combined the Dix Mountain and High Peaks Wilderness areas into one grand 275,000-acre Wilderness area, which is now celebrated as the 3rd largest Wilderness area east of the Mississippi River, behind the Florida Everglades and the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. This action certainly merits heralding as a major accomplishment in the history of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve. It shines a spotlight on the High Peaks Wilderness as a world-class landscape and it begs the questions of how and when will state agencies start to put together a world-class management system that the High Peaks Wilderness deserves. The 3-million-acre Forest Preserve in New York State is finest state lands system in the U.S., but it does not enjoy the finest management in the country. Now is the time to press for improvements in the management of the High Peaks and demand that the Cuomo Administration make adequate investments to build a network of sustainable trails, build proper facilities for parking and shuttles, invest in public education, adequately staff the High Peaks with planners, scientists, Rangers, and permanent trail crews, and effectively monitor and evaluate public use impacts. Protect the Adirondacks is advocating to rebuild the trail system in the High Peaks and strengthen and improve management of this Wilderness area.
These pictures show the poor state of many of the trails in the High Peaks Wilderness. The State of New York and the Cuomo Administration need to invest in building sustainable trails in the High Peaks Wilderness and improving its management.
More Forest Rangers
There are only around 130 Forest Rangers in New York State, spread far and wide from Staten Island and Long Island to Buffalo and all spots in between. The majority are in the Catskill and Adirondack Parks. The demands for pubic education, forest fires, and search and rescue operations are immense and have changed the nature of Forest Rangers in the Adirondacks. The time that a Forest Ranger can dedicate to patrols in the Forest Preserve is minimal as a great deal of their time is dedicated to search and rescue given the high levels of public use of the Forest Preserve. Protect the Adirondacks has been campaigning to expand the number of Forest Rangers in the state. We believe that an increase to 175 is necessary to protect public safety and preserve the natural resources of the Forest Preserve.
PROTECT is campaigning for more motorless waters in the Adirondack Park to provide quiet paddling experiences for the public. There are few things more beautiful in the life than a quiet Adirondack lake or river free of motorboats. The great majority of big lakes in the Adirondack Park are overwhelmed by motorboats and float planes. PROTECT believes that there should be more opportunities of motorless waters in the Adirondack Park. Click here to read a report on the need for motorless waters.
Strengthen Water Quality Protections
Fighting Efforts to Motorize the Forest Preserve by the Cuomo Administration
The Cuomo Administration is committed to expanding motorized recreational uses of the public Forest Preserve. State agencies have subverted longstanding state laws, policies, and regulations to enhance motor vehicle and snowmobile access to the Forest Preserve. The state’s efforts have come at a great cost to the Forest Preserve. The Cuomo Administration has placed a priority on building new class II community connector snowmobile trails in the Forest Preserve. These road-like class II community connector snowmobile trails simply do not have the character of a foot trail and violates both the wild forest character and the wild forest atmosphere of the area. PROTECT has consistently stated that class II community connector snowmobile trails do not conform to these three standards. There is no way the new class II community connector snowmobile trail around Harris Lake bears any rational resemblance to something having the “character of a foot trail.” This class II community connector snowmobile trail surface has been graded, leveled, and flattened by a multi-ton excavator. Extensive bench cuts were dug into side slopes that parallel the trail for long distances, protruding rocks were removed, extensive tree cutting was done, all understory vegetation was removed, and oversized bridges are being built to support multi-ton groomers. In many places the grading has been so significant that straw has been placed over the trail surface to help stabilize the area. These types of activities do not occur on foot trails. A “foot trail” is where people walk single file. They step over roots and rocks. The trail surface is uneven and follows the terrain. There are scarcely any stumps of cut trees. Vegetation on the side often encroaches, and the trail is canopy covered. Steppingstones and split logs are commonly used to pass over streams and wet areas. A class II community connector snowmobile trail is road-like corridor that is very different from a foot trail. These “trails” are supposed to be 9 feet wide on straight sections and up to 12 feet wide on slopes or turns. Many parts of the trail to Harris Lake are 15 feet or wider.
Adirondack Park and Climate Change Wildlife Protection
In the past, Protect the Adirondacks has successfully campaigned for a Wilderness classification of the Boreas Ponds lands and expansion of the High Peaks Wilderness by over 25,000 acres, defeated a plan to store thousands of oil tanker railcars on remote rail lines in the Adirondack Park, campaigned for motorless designation for the Essex Chain Lakes, brought a legal challenge against construction of road-like snowmobile trails that destroy over 1,000 trees every mile, advocated for a strong new law to protect New York State waters from invasive species, and advocated for legislation to be introduced for an amendment to the Adirondack Park Agency Act to require conservation design standards for major subdivisions, to name just a few things.