John Sheehan, Adirondack Council, 518-441-1340
Ben Brosseau, Adirondack Mountain Club, 518-217-8072
Raybrook, NY – June 9, 2020 – The Adirondack Park’s largest conservation and recreation advocates today thanked Gov. Andrew Cuomo for nominating a full slate of candidates for the Adirondack Park Agency’s decision-making board that includes individuals with experience in environmental law, science, planning, and wilderness preservation.
The new slate is expected to be approved by the NYS Senate this week as the Legislature returns to address police brutality and accountability.
Currently, the APA board has no chair. Of the eight citizen members of the APA board, nominations are needed to fill three vacant seats, four expired terms and one seat whose term expires at the end of this month.
“We urged Governor Cuomo and the Senate to agree on, appoint and confirm a full and diverse slate that combined new and returning candidates including conservationists with experience in land use, planning, environmental science, wilderness management and conservation law, who would together improve the Park Agency,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway. “We are thankful. No one got everything they wanted, but everyone benefits from a full board with diversity and that is what we got.”
“This is much improved over the options the Senate was given in 2019, which was an incomplete slate of candidates,” said Michael Barrett, Executive Director of the Adirondack Mountain Club. “Last year’s list contained some good people, but it was not possible to judge how the whole board would look. This time is different. This list contains people with many of the skills that we were hoping to see on the board, and we look forward to working with them all to sustain the success of the Adirondack Park for everyone.”
Nominated by the Governor were environmental scientist Zoe Smith; Former Supervisor for the Town of Fine Mark Hall; Supervisor for the Town of Johnsburg Andrea Hogan; Lake Placid resort owner Art Lussi; former Lake Pleasant Town Supervisor Dan Wilt; recently retired former Central New York Regional Director for the Dept. of Environmental Conservation, and lawyer, Ken Lynch. Re-nominated to a new term was Elk Lake Lodge owner and environmental philanthropist John Ernst. Wilderness preservation author and college professor Chad Dawson’s term doesn’t expire until June 30.
“Despite difficult times, we thank the Governor for listening to the Adirondack environmental groups and offering an improved full slate of candidates,” said Ben Mastaitis, Chair of ADK’s Conservation Committee.
Adirondack Council Chair Michael Bettmann said “We appreciate the Governor for understanding that the Adirondacks are a unique national treasure that needs strong protetions and a full diverse Adirondack Park Agency board to address unprecedented threats.”
The Adirondack Park encompasses 9,300 square miles of public and private forest lands covering one-fifth of New York’s land mass. It comprises the world’s largest intact temperate, deciduous forest and is the largest park in the contiguous United States.
It includes 2.7 million acres of constitutionally protected public Forest Preserve; more than 750,000 acres of private forest protected from development by state conservation easements; and 90 percent of the wilderness and old growth forests remaining in the Northeast.
The park agency oversees land-use, planning and zoning on both public and private lands, in cooperation with other state agencies.
Serving as an APA board member is a complex task. It requires a detailed understanding of 14 separate public and private land use classifications and how they work together to protect the wild character and ecological health of the park. It requires skill and experience to protect this national treasure while also hosting 12.4 million visitors per year and serving as a home to more than 130,000 year-round residents, and nearly twice as many seasonal residents.
The APA board at full capacity includes 11 members: three represent state agencies, three must live outside of the Adirondack Park, and five must live in one of the 12 Adirondack counties and be full-time residents of the Park. The eight citizen members are nominated by the Governor with the advice and consent of the State Senate. APA Board members serve four-year terms, two of which expire each year. No more than five of the eight members can be registered with one political party. No county may have more than one citizen board member.
The structure of the appointees is designed to represent statewide interests in the Park, while protecting local rights.
When the Legislature created the APA in 1971, it sought to make it independent from the Governor’s day-to-day influence by granting board members four-year terms during which they couldn’t be removed from office, except for official misconduct. However, APA board members whose terms have expired may be replaced with new nominees any time the Senate agrees.