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Conservation and Advocacy Report – November 2021

The following is a summary of key conservation and advocacy efforts by ADK. Interested in learning more? Subscribe to our email list and to our bi-monthly magazine, Adirondac.

Update: Catskill Advisory Group

Since November 2020, ADK has been participating in the governor-appointed Catskill Strategic Planning Advisory Group (CAG), which has been meeting to develop recommendations for strategies to address impacts and public safety in areas experiencing significant public use. The CAG, which is facilitated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), has met eighteen times to discuss issues related to their charge, such as DEIJ (diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice), natural resource protection, education and stewardship, traffic and parking, tourism and economics, and data and monitoring. The group also developed and conducted a public survey with almost 4000 respondents.

An interim report is being finalized by the CAG and will be submitted to the DEC commissioner before being posted for public review and input. The interim report will include results from the public survey and immediate action items for the Route 23A corridor, and identify management areas where recommendations are needed. This effort parallels efforts in the ­Adirondack Park to address high use in the High Peaks through the High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group (HPAG). The HPAG posted its final ­report on the DEC website in January of this year.

Update: Leave No Trace Catskill ­Assessment Report

Last fall ADK engaged the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics to provide a formal assessment of and make recommendations for management of the effects of increased recreational use in the Catskills. Partnering with ADK are the Catskill Center and Catskill Mountainkeeper, who with ADK are funding the project, along with a steering committee of regional groups and land managers, including the 3500 Club, Catskill Mountain Club, NYNJ Trail Conference, Woodstock Land Conservancy, New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and DEC.

As part of this process, Ben Lawhon, director of research and consulting for the Leave No Trace Center spent three days touring recreational sites in the Catskill Park, meeting with members of the steering committee and other stakeholders, and speaking with DEC and DEP administrators and staff. ADK coordinated the visit with support from the steering committee and project partners.

The Leave No Trace Catskill Park Assessment Report will be provided to DEC and the CAG for review and incorporated into the CAG’s final report, which will be compiled in 2022.

Looking Ahead: Budget Session

In November and December, the New York State budget planning season starts. Under the past administration, this draft has been posted and presented in January of each year. At press time, organizations and the state are still defining their needs and collaborating with partners to refine the goals of the budget and legislative season. One thing that is clear at this point is the Adirondack and Catskill Parks and Forest Preserves are not receiving adequate funding despite collectively represent over 6.5 million acres of land or nearly a quarter of New York State, and serving as home and recreation lands to over one million residents and over twenty million visitors annually.

ADK and other Catskill and Adirondack groups will be advocating for more staff and resources for the DEC and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), which provide planning and management for the Adirondack and Catskill Parks and Forest Preserves. We’ll also be advocating for a significant increase in the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), which is a dedicated source of funding for critical environmental projects statewide. The EPF has been holding steady at $300 million for over five years. This year there must be a renewed plan to increase this critical fund, especially for state land acquisition, combating invasive species, water quality improvement, state land stewardship, and support for visitor centers in the Catskills and Adirondacks.


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