2018 Annual Report – Conservation and Advocacy

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Index

ADK’s Conservation and Advocacy program engages in lobbying the New York Governor and State legislators on environmental legislation and the New York State budget, creates calls to action for members and supporters to send letters on issues to their representatives, drafts formal comments on planning decisions and rule changes, and organizes boots-on-the ground opportunities for volunteers to put advocacy issues into action (e.g., monitoring public lands for invasive species, or illegal motorized trespass). The Conservation and Advocacy program works with the ADK Conservation Committee.

This report is a summary of the activities of ADK staff and members during 2018. This year the report does not reflect projects initiated by chapters, but recognizes that there is a great need to recognize and report the important conservation and advocacy work conducted on the chapter level. Links to ADK Chapters and their work are available on the ADK website.

In 2018, the program drafted 36 formal comments or policy statements on many issues and public land unit plans. These are listed at the end of the report with links to the comments or policy documents. Calls to action generated over 5,000 letters to legislators by members and supporters. Calls to action included the need for more New York State Forest Rangers, opposition to the Trump Administration’s Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule, a call to protect Boreas Ponds from motorized use (public parking at Boreas Ponds), a ‘Thank You’ letter to legislators for a budget with $300 million EPF and without an ATV weight increase or changes to taxable state lands, and letters to Federal legislators to save the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

The issues covered by the program’s 2018 work are summarized below.

New York State Budget and Legislation

Catskill Park Lobby Day. Photo by Jeff Senterman

Your many letters to New York State legislators and Governor Andrew Cuomo, and your presence at Lobby Days made a huge difference in 2018. The New York State budget, which was finalized by April 1, included a fully funded, $300 million Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). The EPF protects open space, revitalizes waterfronts, supports recycling, preserves farmland, enhances water quality, and helps connect New Yorkers with the outdoors. The EPF provides funding for New York State to acquire and steward state public lands, including support for trail building, maintenance, and summit and trail stewards. Because of this funding, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) extended the Professional Trail Crew contract, authorizing up to $375,000 for up to 50 weeks of work in the Adirondacks and Catskills. It also provided $30,000 to help support our High Peaks Summit Stewardship program.

ADK staff and volunteers helped to organize and participated in both the EPF Lobby Day and the Catskill Park Lobby Day. The budget also included much of the funding requested for the Catskill and Adirondack Parks, including support for critical maintenance, access, interpretation, and stewardship projects. It included support for the Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center, and for protecting hemlocks and the forests that ensure good drinking water quality for the New York City water supply. Thanks to your help with getting letters to legislators, the final budget also did not include the State Land Tax Cap and Pilot Proposal (see discussion below), which could have put future state land acquisitions in jeopardy. It also did not include changes to the definition of ATVs which would have allowed larger heavier machines without the needed protections in place.

State Land Tax Cap and Pilot Proposal

New York State Lands and Senate Districts. Image produced in ArcGIS.

A budget surprise that had the potential to halt future state public land and state park acquisitions, involved a change proposed by the Governor to Real Property Tax Law

(RPTL) Article 5, Title 2, Section 544 which defines the type and process of New York State’s payment of taxes to local municipalities that have public land in their districts. The change would have put the power of property value assessment of state lands into the hands of New York State government, an authority which currently rests with local assessors. The proposed change to Section 544 would have also required a tax cap on assessed values for State Land, which was highly likely to result in higher taxes for communities as state payments decreased. In effect, the change would have created a Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) system as opposed to the current ad valorem tax that New York State pays to municipalities.

In 1885-1886, a legislative compromise was made to allow for the creation of the Forest Preserve which was the passage of a law in 1886 that provided for all lands then or thereafter included in the Forest Preserve to be “assessed and taxed at a like valuation and at a like rate as those at which similar lands of individuals within such counties are assessed and taxed.” This was the predecessor of RPTL discussed above. Since all NYS residents benefit enormously from these “forever wild” state forests, it was thought then, as now, that all NYS taxpayers ought to share in full taxes to the hundreds of affected small towns and school districts in the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains.

The Executive proposal to cap these taxes at current levels, to increase the payments only according to a state determined growth factor and to consider these annual payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT), not an ad valorem tax for all purposes, would have short changed many Adirondack and Catskill communities. Many of these communities are comprised of more than 50% Forest Preserve. Fifty percent or more of their tax payments come from State land. In that eventuality, private landowners would invariably be asked to make up the difference through tax shifting. Local government leaders are unified in their belief that this would cost communities statewide millions of dollars in state tax payments and a massive shift of property tax levies on private property owners in those counties. ADK could have been affected by this tax shift to private property owners because we voluntarily pay taxes on the Heart Lake and Johns Brook Lodge properties.

The proposal would have affected not only the Adirondacks and Catskills, but districts that host state land across New York State. Although the practice of taxing state land began with legislation in 1886 that permitted taxation of the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve, since that time taxability has been extended to reforestation lands, some institutional properties, and parks including Letchworth State Park (1914), the Palisades, Bear Mountain, and Harriman State Parks (1916), the Allegany State Park (1924, 1928), the Saratoga State Park (1930), and the Hudson Highlands and Baird State Parks (1941-42). In 1932 reforestation lands were made taxable, including the beautiful lands of our state forest system, and unique areas such as Zoar Valley.

The PILOT and tax cap proposal represented a radical and unlawful departure from the current method of determining the amount of real property taxes paid by the state for the three million acres of Forest Preserve in the 16 Forest Preserve counties, and in hundreds of thousands of acres of other state lands across New York. Section 542 of the real property tax law (RPTL) states that the assessment of value of state forest lands made by the town assessors was binding and conclusive on the State Board of Equalization and Assessment (SBEA) in the same way that it would be binding on private property owners. See Section 542 of the RPTL and Town of Shandaken v. State Bd. Of Equalization and Assessment (3rd Dept., 1983) 97 A.D. 2d 179, affirmed 63 N.Y. 2d 442 (Court of Appeals, 1984). Section 542 and the Shandaken decision clearly limits the role of the SBEA in the valuation and assessment of state lands to “determination that the assessment made by the local assessors is in conformity with the applicable equalization rate. Authority for determination of valuation is vested in the local assessors.” See Town of Shandaken, 63 N.Y. 2d 442. The Court of Appeals opined that nothing in RPTL sections 532, 534, and 542 granted initial or final valuation authority to the State Board (SBEA). See 63 N.Y.2d at pg. 447.

Governor Cuomo has made great progress in gaining the confidence and support of local government leaders to accepting and even supporting the purchase of public lands as an economic benefit to their towns and counties. This very ill-considered proposal by Tax and Finance and the Division of Budget represented a great threat to all that the Governor had accomplished. The fact that local Government approval is needed for the purchase of new land parcels (a legislative agreement enacted during the creation of the EPF) must not be forgotten in this context. The proposed change to Section 544 of the RPTL created great uncertainty for local government leaders and school districts as they attempt to maintain and grow their communities.

On March 14, both the State Senate and Assembly in their own 2018-2019 budget proposals flatly rejected this ill-advised proposal by the Governor’s Division of Budget. ADK advocated to ensure that this proposal was not enacted in the Final Budget.

NYS Forest Ranger in Rescue Operation. Photo by Scott Van Laer.

New York State Needs More Forest Rangers

he New York State Forest Ranger force, with just 106 field level rangers, oversees five million acres of State Public Land and 42 public campgrounds.  With search and rescue episodes exceeding 350 in 2017 and a higher trend in 2018, the ranger force is spread very thin.  Most rescues have involved 1 or 2 rangers, but require more than 5. The Forest Ranger force has been exceeding overtime targets, which can cause fatigue and injuries.  For the first time New York Forest Rangers have not been loaned to western states to fight fires or to the Carolina’s and other flooded areas for boat rescues because of the over extensions of the force. During this budget year, the Forest Ranger Force (and visitor safety on Public Lands) would greatly benefit from the addition of 40 field Rangers along with funding for a Ranger Academy to train them.  However, Governor Cuomo must suspend his cap on state employee levels to allow this much needed expansion of the New York State Ranger Force.

Public Lands Are Threatened by ATVs

In 2018, as in nearly every budget and legislative session, there was again the threat that changes to

ATV. Photo by USMC

existing law would make it into final budget bill language which would open state public lands to ATV use and increase the weight and size of ATVs. In 2018 the Senate budget bill introduced language to allow larger and heavier ATVs. There were also no fewer than 15 bills introduced by Senate and Assembly members that would accomplish similar disastrous outcomes (see links to bill memos at end of document and below).

ADK staff and member volunteers teamed up with the Adirondack Council, the Catskill Center, the Nature Conservancy, Environmental Advocates of New York, Sierra Club, among other Conservation Organizations, in participating in legislative meetings, Lobby and Awareness Days, and public outreach to members and supporters to thwart these threats.

Legislative Update

Lobbying in the NYS Assembly Chamber Hall. Photo by Cathy Pedler.

The 2018 Legislative Session ended quietly with not much movement, good or bad, on bills relating to public lands and environmental issues (see links to bill memos below). Subjects ADK addressed during 2018 legislative session included Conservation Subdivision Design in the Adirondack Park, maintaining the prohibition of ATVs on NYS public land, maintaining weight limit of ATVs in NYS, protecting citizens from dangerous roadway use of ATVs, the right of New York State Citizens to clean water, clean air and a healthful environment; the right of New York State Citizens to initiate civil enforcement actions for violations of environmental law; Cathead Mountain in-holding in the Silver Lakes Wilderness; Camp Gabriels in the Adirondack Forest Preserve;  ORDA proposals for four-season recreation infrastructure; an addition to the Township 40  legislation; legislation to identify over one thousand acres to be added to the forest preserve in exchange for the 250 acre land bank for the Adirondack Park;  legislation relating to alleged historic buildings in  the forest preserve; legislation relating to the management of Camp Santanoni by office of parks and recreation (please note that not all subjects addressed have a bill memo).

Despite months of meetings and significant progress on Adirondack Park Conservation Design legislation (Assemblymember Englebright sponsored A5451), the bill stalled in June. The Conservation Design legislation would have fixed issues with the outdated regulations used in approving large subdivisions of private lands inside the Blue Line of the Adirondack Park. The legislation would provide a framework of proven subdivision techniques that create highly marketable real estate products while protecting water quality and sensitive habitat. Other legislative actions in the mix during the legislative session that ADK opposed included some of the priorities identified by the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages (AATV). The AATV supported legislation which would open ATV use and trails on New York State Public Land with an increase in allowable ATV weight, and Minimum Maintenance Road Legislation which could, in effect, shut down access to trailheads across New York State.

2018 Bill Memos and Positions

  • Constitutional Amendment: New York State Citizen’s Right to Clean Water, Clean Air and a Healthful Environment –Support A6279 and S5287. CONCURRENT RESOLUTION OF THE SENATE AND ASSEMBLY proposing an amendment to article 1 of the constitution, in relation to the right to clean air and water and a healthful environment. Read memo
  • Grants Citizens the Right to Initiate Civil Enforcement Actions for Violations of Environmental Law–Support A8965 and S3269. Read memo
  • Memorandum in Opposition S7509-A/A9509-A, Proposed Executive Budget Article VII Language Bill – Revenue, Part F  Read memo
  • Memorandum in Opposition S7508B, Part XXX, Proposal to Change the Definition of ATV Read Memo
  • Undermines CP3 Policy–Allows ATVs on Public Land–Oppose S1467 and A319
    An Act to amend the environmental conservation law, in relation to authorizing special access to hunting and fishing grounds on state land for handicapped individuals. Read memo.
  • Undermines CP3 Policy–Allows ATVs on Public Land–Oppose A2634 AN ACT to amend the vehicle and traffic law, in relation to use of  all terrain vehicles by certified handicapped individuals on public property. Read memo.
  • Creates Trail Fund in Parks Law, Opens State Land to ATVs, Increases Weight Oppose–S3838 and A3182 An Act to amend the parks, recreation and historic preservation law, the vehicle and traffic law and the state finance law, in relation to the creation of an ATV trail fund. Read memo.
  • Increases ATV Weight Limit–Oppose S1909 and A4412 An Act to amend the vehicle and traffic law, in relation to the definition of an all terrain vehicle or “ATV.” Read memo.
  • Creates Trail Fund in Parks Law, Opens State Land to ATVs, Increases Weight Oppose–S3920-A and A8908-A An Act to amend the parks, recreation and historic preservation law, the vehicle and traffic law and the state finance law, in relation to the creation of an ATV trail fund. Read Memo.

State Land Management Planning Projects and Decisions

Throughout 2018, ADK has taken advantage of the public comment opportunities provided for in the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) and Regulations. Every week the Environmental Notice Bulletin (ENB) on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s website posts actions and decisions from across the state that could be impacting public lands and our shared natural environment on which we all depend. Comment opportunities are also posted on the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) website, and are regularly reported on the Adirondack Almanac website.  ADK submits comments on many of these actions, particularly those that impact public lands and waters.  Follow the ‘read comment’ links below to view submissions on 2018 projects.

2018 Comments

  • Draft Amendment to the Blue Ridge Wilderness Unit Management Plan (UMP) Read comments
  • Hammond Pond Wild Forest Draft Unit Management Plan (UMP) Read comments
  • West of Hudson Unit Draft Unit Management Plan (UMP) Read comments
  • Sundown Wild Forest and Vernooy Kill State Forest Draft Unit Management Plan (UMP) Read comments
  • Proposed Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule Read comments
  • Long Pond Conservation Easement, Joint Comment Letter of Adirondack Conservation Organizations Read comments
  • Cedar River Bridge (Essex Chain of Lakes) Read comments
  • APSLMP Compliance of the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest proposed Final Unit Management Plan (UMP) Read comments
  • Gore Mountain Ski Center Classification Read comments
  • Canisteo River Basin Unit Management Plan (UMP) 7,727 acres of wildlife management area and state forest land in Steuben County Read comments
  • Hewitt-Cayuga Highlands Management Unit, Unit Management Plan (UMP) Read Comments
  • High Peaks Wilderness Complex Draft Unit Management Plan (UMP) Amendment and the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest Draft Unit Management Plan (UMP) Amendment Read Comments
  • scoping for Draft Niagara Frontier Unit Management Plan (UMP) for state lands in Erie and Cattaraugus Counties (Zoar Valley) Read comments
  •  Peekamoose Blue Hole  Read comments
  • Speculator Tree Farm and Perkins Clearing Interim Recreation Management Plan (IRMP) Read comments
  • revised dGEIS on the Proposed Amendments to the State Environmental Quality Review Act Regulations-Proposed Amendments 2017  Read comments
  • Cranberry Lake Wild Forest UMP Read comments
  • Black River Wild Forest Unit Management Plan (UMP) Amendment APSLMP Compliance Read comments
  • Inter-Agency Guidelines for Implementing Best Management Practices to Control Invasive Species on DEC Administered Lands of the Adirondack Park Read comments
  • St Lawrence Rock Ridge Unit Management Plan (UMP) Read comments
  • NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) plans to Amend the High Peaks Wilderness and the Vanderwhacker Wild Forest UMPs  Read comments.
  • ADP-ADK Comments on CAMA Chapter 105 Water Obstruction and Encroachment Permit Application Read comments
  • Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) Proposed Draft Regulations Addressing Hydraulic Fracturing and Additional Clarifying Amendments Read comments
  • Primitive Tent Site BMPs for the Adirondack Park Read comments
  • Devil’s Tombstone Campground UMP Read comments
  • DEC-APA Guidance on BMPs to Control Invasive Species Read comments
  • ADP-ADK Objection to USFS  Draft Decision Notice for the proposed Tracy Ridge Shared Use Trails and Forest Plan Amendment Project Read comments

Boreas Ponds and the High Peaks Wilderness Complex

Boreas Ponds Alternative 2B. Image by the Adirondack Park Agency.

In late January 2018 the APA posted the classification proposal for the Boreas Ponds Tract in the Adirondack Park. The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for 2016-2017 Amendments to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (APSLMP) presented Alternative 2B as the preferred alternative for the Boreas Ponds Tract. See Alternative 2B image above.  Alternative 2B defined Wild Forest Areas south of the Gulf Brook Road and Boreas Ponds Road, and Wilderness north of these roads. The Ragged Mountain Area, as well as a 75 foot-wide Wild Forest corridor along the Boreas Ponds Road (extending to within 0.1 mile of the Boreas Ponds dam), is also proposed as Wild Forest. Alternative 2B describes a total of 11,412 acres of Wilderness, 9,118 acres of Wild Forest, 11 acres of Primitive (connecting the Wild Forest corridor to the Boreas Ponds dam and surrounding the dam), and two, one-acre areas that are State Administrative (gravel pits for road maintenance). Alternative 2B is a compromise which is very close to the proposal endorsed by ADK, The Adirondack Council, The Nature Conservancy, and Protect the Adirondacks.  Alternative 2B classifies 11, 412 acres north of the Gulf Brook and Boreas Roads as Wilderness, including the 345 acre Boreas Ponds, ensuring that the lands and waters would be motor free, including motor vehicles, snowmobiles, and mountain bikes.  ADK particularly opposed the Governor’s proposal for hut to hut or luxury glamping facilities on the Boreas Tract and this idea was dropped in the proposed Alternative 2B.  Local government had also pressed for snowmobile and mountain bike use around the Boreas Ponds, but the Wilderness designation precludes these activities.

The APA classification proposal provides for 9,118 acres of Wild Forest, which will permit a community connector snowmobile trail to utilize Gulf Brook and Boreas Roads as a part of the snowmobile trail connection between Newcomb and North Hudson.  It will also allow motor vehicle use of these existing roads to enable the public to reach parking areas.  The 2B proposal provides for a wild forest corridor, 75 feet wide, which will provide people with disabilities and mobility impairments to access a 4-6 car parking lot about 560 feet from the southern shore of Boreas Pond.

Beyond this lot, there will be an 11 acre Primitive Area around the south shore of the lake around the Boreas dam so DEC can reach the dam for maintenance purposes.  Since the road to the dam inside the Primitive Area is likely to be designated in the unit management plan as a state administrative road, bicyclists will be able to bike from the Gulf Brook Road all the way to the Boreas dam.  Not far north of the Four Corners, if approved in the UMP, there will be a small parking area for 8 to 12 vehicles for those wishing to canoe and kayak.  This parking lot will be a little over 8/10ths of a mile from Boreas Ponds and paddlers would have to carry or roll their boats to the lake.  ADK believes that use of this parking lot should be by permit only.

The main parking lot for hikers, campers, backpackers, and cyclists would be located at the site of the current interim lot about 3.6 miles from the dam at the Boreas Ponds.  So most of the people exploring the Boreas Ponds will park at this lot.  We expect DEC to construct a hiking trail from this parking lot to a viewpoint near the Boreas Dam to avoid a long tedious road walk. All of these parking locations and the trail have been identified, but will have to be approved through the preparation and approval of a unit management plan (UMP).

Proposal 2B, if approved by the APA board this week, will result in a very large increase in the 200,000 acre High Peaks Wilderness Area.  In addition to the 11,412 acres of the Boreas Ponds Tract to be classified as Wilderness, the MacIntyre East (7,400 acres) and West (6,000 acres) tracts on either side of the Tahawus Road are to be classified as Wilderness and added to the High Peaks Wilderness Area.  Additionally, the 1,450 acre Casey Brook Tract lying between the Boreas Pond Tract and Upper Ausable Lake is also to be included in the High Peaks Wilderness.  The inclusion of the Casey Brook Tract will make the total Wilderness acres to be added to the HPWA some 25,000 acres.  Moreover, the Casey Brook Tract would connect the 215,00 acre Dix Mountain Wilderness to the SPWA, making its total acreage rise to some 275,500 acres, the third largest designated wilderness east of the Mississippi River.

The proposed Primitive area south of first Boreas Pond would prevent public motorized access directly to the ponds, including the use of snowmobiles.  Under Alternative 2B, bicycling would be allowed on Gulf Brook Road and the Boreas Ponds Road.  If the section of the Boreas Road which traverses the Primitive Areas is designated Administrative Road in the approved UMP, bicycle use might be permitted to the dam.  The Primitive Area would enable DEC to access the dam with motor vehicles for reconstruction or repairs to the dam.  All the lands of the Boreas Ponds Tract are protected as Forest Preserve lands, pursuant to Article XIV of the New York State Constitution and all of the wetlands on the tract are protected by the Freshwater Wetlands Act.  The Primitive classification on the south shore of first Boreas Pond allows for Wilderness protection for the Boreas Ponds themselves, protecting wetlands and bog communities around the ponds.

In 2018 the High Peaks Wilderness Complex and the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest Unit Management Plan (UMP) Amendments were finalized and DEC began implementation of the management actions. Most of the new Boreas Pond tract, the lands providing access to the Santanoni Range, the Opalescent River and the approach to Allen Mountain and the Dix Mountain Wilderness have been added to the High Peaks Wilderness, bringing its total acreage to 275,000 acres.

High Use in the High Peaks 

High Use in the High Peaks. Photo by ADK Summit Steward Program.

ADK educated and assisted in the stewardship of the Adirondack High Peaks in 2018. For over 90 years ADK has been a steward of New York’s wild lands and waters by putting boots on the ground to do trail maintenance, to monitor lakes and forests for invasive pests, by educating recreationists in Leave No Trace skills and ethics, and by advocating for public land protections. ADK continued this legacy in the 2018. The Canadian Victoria Day holiday weekend (May 19-21) unofficially marked the start of the busy hiking season. The High Peaks region has received a significant increase in recreational use over the past seven years, something that ADK has been monitoring and experiencing for many years. Recently released data shows the significant need for management efforts to help address the high use of the High Peaks Wilderness.

The Adirondac Loj, Wilderness Campground, High Peaks Information Center, and the Heart Lake Program Center are sited adjacent to one of the busiest trailheads in the High Peaks – the main access point for Algonquin and Mt. Marcy, where approximately 200 parking spaces fill to capacity on almost every weekend. ADK’s High Peaks Summit Stewards have seen a 64% increase in the number of people they have been interacting with on the summits over the past five years. ADK continued its efforts to alleviate the pressures of so many people using this beautiful landscape. ADK is constantly trying new strategies to instill an outdoor ethic within a new wave of recreationists. ADK has a great opportunity to educate and inspire the recreationists who are coming to the High Peaks region. We can help folks be stewards and advocates for public lands in the Adirondacks and back where they live.

Some news stories in 2018 concerning high visitation to the Eastern High Peaks have misinterpreted the data presented in a parking survey conducted by the Adirondack Council of popular trailheads. The survey correctly noted that ADK’s four finger parking lot had ·a capacity of about 200 cars, but noted that on high use weekends, some 674 cars were parked. The difference of nearly 500 cars stems from cars parked illegally on Adirondak Loj Road or on the South Meadow Road. “No Parking” signs have been posted by the Town of North Elba on both sides of the Loj Road from South Meadow Road to the Loj parking booth. Some of these news stories incorrectly suggested that 674 cars were being parked at the ADK 4 finger lot. The 1999 High Peaks Wilderness Unit Management Plan set the limit at 300 cars to conform to the “carrying capacity” of the trails and summits accessible from the Heart Lake and South Meadow trailheads. A DEC parking lot for from 50 – 100 cars at the junction of the South Meadow Road was never built.

ADK has no control over any parking other than our own lot. Realistically only DEC can enforce the “no parking”‘ ordinance of the Town of North Elba. Neither the State Police nor Essex County Sheriff will divert their patrols from higher priority missions to ticket and tow these illegally parked cars. DEC has occasionally assigned a forest ranger to the junction of the Loj and South Meadow Roads to keep people from parking illegally on the road shoulder beyond. This was proven to be effective, but has rarely been done due to the scarcity of available forest rangers for the High Peaks Wilderness.

ADK has been working closely with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). During 2018 ADK staff participated in focus groups facilitated by DEC on the future management of the High Peaks Wilderness to brainstorm ideas on how to manage the influx in use on this special resource. ADK staff advocated for better educational tools, resources for trail maintenance and creative ideas on management of the High Peaks Wilderness. Twenty years ago DEC took strong measures to protect the High Peaks Wilderness in the 1999 High Peaks Unit Management Plan (UMP) by adopting regulations such as group size limits and a ban on fires. Addressing this new increase in recreational use twenty years later will take new measures and ADK is ready to work with DEC to support them. ADK’s Albany Office continues to advocate for more funding for DEC Forest Rangers along with increasing the amount of New York’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) that provides critical funding for our trail crews, summit stewards and land protection of the Forest Preserve.

New Rules, Parking Lots, and Trails to Address High Use of the High Peaks Wilderness

New Configuration of the High Peaks Wilderness. Image by NY DEC

In 2018 DEC adding the Boreas Ponds Tract, the McIntyre East and West Tracts along with the Casey Brook and entire Dix Mountain Wilderness to the High Peaks Wilderness Area bringing its size to 275,000 acres extending from the Raquette River to Route 73. These new areas as well as the Western High Peaks will be designated as the Outer High Peaks. The remainder, including the Eastern High Peaks will be called the Central High Peaks where camping will be only allowed at designated campsites and no campfires, stove only use rules will apply. New rules will include mandatory user registration and bear canister use for the entire area. Group size limits of 8 overnight and 15 for day use parties will apply to both Outer and Central High Peaks areas. The rule for mandatory ski and snowshoe use everywhere will be changed to a snow depth of 12 inches off the trail surface.

The current Route 73 parking lots and trailhead for Cascade Mountain will be closed and moved to the Mt. Van Hoevenberg Cross Country Ski facility. The new trail adds four miles roundtrip to the climb to the summit of Cascade. ADK’s our professional trail crew helped build this new hiking trail to the latest standards and design. DEC plans to replace the herdpaths up 21 “trailless” peaks with hiking trails designed and built to protect the resource. ADK expects our trail crews to be part of these projects as well. DEC will create new parking areas for climbers and hikers ascending Giant Mountain from Route 73 in the Chapel Pond area. DEC will also work on management actions to prevent roadside shoulder parking along this stretch of Route 73.

ADK Works to Address High Use and to Protect the High Peaks Wilderness

The ADK Professional Trail Crew will spent at least twenty-two weeks working on the trails in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness. Besides the new Cascade trail, their work focused on the trail to the summit of Big Slide Mountain. The Trail Crew started the season patrolling over 50 miles of trails in the High Peaks by clearing blown down trees and debris along with cleaning water bars and drainage structures. Both the Big Slide and patrol work is being funded by the Adirondack Forty-Sixers.

ADK continued its boots-on-the-ground stewardship efforts in 2018. An additional full-time educator helped increase Leave No Trace skills and ethics education by reaching 137,000 people, an increase from 47,000 people the year before. Programs for the public, as well as for camp and college groups, continued throughout the year. These programs are geared to help High Peaks users have the knowledge to recreate as responsibly as possible.

By the end of the season, ADK’s professional trail crew will have spent at least thirteen weeks working on the trails in the Central High Peaks Wilderness.  The crew’s work will be focused on Big Slide Mt. to help protect the natural resource in heavily used travel corridors. The crew started the season patrolling over fifty miles of trails in the High Peaks, clearing blown down trees and debris along with cleaning water bars and drainage structures.

ADK continues to make investments in the Heart Lake Program Center. This year ADK will be completing its multi-year $1 million infrastructure investment so it can better serve the hiking public and to take some of the recreational pressure off the HPWA. Investments include renovations to the High Peaks Information Center (HPIC) to improve visitor education, a new wash house and septic system to manage human waste, a new campground loop to take camping pressure off the High Peaks, and a new yurt village for educational programming.

ADK volunteers continue to inspire the hiking community. ADK piloted a volunteer HPIC host program last August, when volunteers helped staff educate hikers in the parking lot before they set out on their adventures. This program will continue this year. Recently, ADK Summit Steward Coordinator Kayla White and Education Director Julia Goren trained forty Adirondack 46er Cascade trailhead volunteers.

ADK initiated a new volunteer stewardship ambassador program in 2018 that uses social media to inspire outdoor enthusiasts to protect New York’s wild lands and waters; The hope is that this new program will use these powerful platforms to motivate recreationists to recreate responsibly.

(See Trails, Education, and Summit Steward Reports for additional information)

Leave No Trace Hot Spot in the High Peaks

Leave No Trace Hot Spots. Image by The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics

In July 2018, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Skills and Ethics (The Center) announced that the Eastern High Peaks in the Adirondack Park would be one of the 19 National Hot Spots for 2019. As part of our work to address the recreational impacts in the High Peaks, ADK staff, including efforts from both the Education and Conservation and Advocacy Programs, nominated the Eastern High Peaks as a Leave No Trace Hot Spot. The Hot Spots Program identifies areas suffering from severe impacts of outdoor activities that can be addressed with Leave No Trace solutions. Each Hot Spot location receives a unique blend of education programs, service projects, recreation planning recommendations, and community building activities. The Center reports that the 19 Hot Spots of 2019 were chosen from over 120 nominations. The sites chosen include landscapes under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, state agencies, non-profits, and land trusts in 13 states across the country.  ADK’s successful nomination of the Peekamoose Blue Hole as a Hot Spot in 2017 resulted in significant behavior change in visitors to the area and a greater understanding in the recreational community about the power of Leave No Trace Outdoor Skills and Ethics in protecting public lands from recreational impacts. The Peekamoose Blue Hole will also be part of the 2019 Hot Spot agenda as a follow-up to the work done in 2017.

The High Peaks Wilderness Area is the most heavily used area within the Adirondack Forest Preserve. At the busiest trailhead, at the Heart Lake Program Center, there were over 73,000 visitors in 2017 (both novice and experienced users). With only 173 acres across 21 summits near the Heart Lake Program Center, the alpine zone in the Adirondacks contains some of the most critically endangered plants in the northeast. This project has the potential to reach the thousands of visitors who enter this endangered area through the Heart Lake Program Center, as well as the local populations of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Keene, Keene Valley, Newcomb, and Wilmington, NY—all towns that surround the High Peaks. Visitors to the High Peaks come from many areas across the country and abroad. As such the High Peaks Wilderness Area (HPWA) is a hub for recreationists who are highly likely to travel to other high use recreational areas across the country and around the globe. This characteristic makes the HPWA extremely valuable as an education center in meeting the goals of The Center in their Leave No Trace in Every Park Program and in growing a culture and movement in which every person who ventures outside puts Leave No Trace practices into action. It is highly likely that focused educational efforts at the HPWA will have a greater lasting impact because of the recreational reach of HPWA visitors.

Some of the intended outcomes of the High Peaks Hot Spot Project include specialized Leave No Trace Training that addresses the unique issues of the High Peaks for volunteers, partner organizations, local leaders, legislators, DEC, and APA. The Hot Spot Project will teach new skills that help trainees to encourage recreational users to protect and restore the resource, to increase the quality of experience for all users, and to create a safe recreational environment. Workshops will include Authority of the Resource Training (ART), which is an especially helpful tool for those with the duty of enforcing resource protection regulations. The Hot Spot Project will also explore the model The Center is using with other states in messaging through tourism offices and outlets.

The Hot Spot Project will create a dialogue with users around wilderness ethics, including a social media and educational campaign around planning ahead and preparing to help introduce Leave No Trace to novice users in the HPWA. Based on surveys conducted by the DEC and Wildlife Conservation Society, approximately 40% of the visitors annually are recreating in the High Peaks for the first time. With good information on planning ahead, proper skills, and wilderness ethics, resource impacts can be minimized. Planning for the High Peaks Wilderness Area Hot Spot Project began in July 2018 and will continue through the Hot Spot week which will be in the summer 2019 August 7 to 14.

Acid Rain and the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Act

In 2018 almost 800 ADK members and supporters sent letters to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) telling the Trump Administration to clean-up aging coal fired power plants and reduce CO2 emissions. The letters were sent in response to the administration’s proposal to replace the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which called for a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector of 32 percent of 2005 levels by 2030, with the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule which would basically make the current situation worse by allowing coal-fired power plants to increase the amount of their emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.   Many of you also donated to help fight this abomination of a plan that would drive the earth closer to dangerous atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and cause sickness and death of thousands due to poor air quality, and respiratory issues. The next environmental and public health protection that the administration is sharpening the ax for is the Mercury Rule–the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for Power Plants, the revision plans to be revealed in November would make it possible dismantle the requirement to reduce mercury emissions. Mercury, a neurotoxin, causes damage to the nervous system in adults and neurological damage in infants. People become exposed through ingestion of contaminated fish, seafood, and wildlife.

Is Acid Rain Coming Back? Hope for a cooler planet, and a healthier Forest Preserve, has waned with the Trump Administration’s introduction of the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule and notice of plans to dramatically weaken the Mercury Rule—the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for Power Plants. If the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ACE Rule is implemented, and the Mercury Rule is weakened as proposed, it is likely that use of aging coal-fired power plants will increase substantially without any requirement to reduce acid deposition, or mercury and greenhouse gas emissions.

How could this happen? You may remember the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which was proposed by the EPA under the Obama Administration. ADK members sent hundreds of letters in support of the CPP, which called for a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector of 32 percent of 2005 levels by 2030. The CPP was the primary tool for the U.S. to meet the emissions reduction target pledged at the U.N. climate talks in Paris in 2015.

Unfortunately, the CPP was put on hold by the Supreme Court in 2016. Twenty-seven states, including the leaders West Virginia and Texas, along with various companies and business groups, challenged the CPP because it mandated that the states must phase out coal-burning power plants.

Gutting the Clean Power Plan
The proposed ACE Rule is the current administration’s replacement for the CPP. The Washington Post of August 18, 2018, predicts that it will result in the release of twelve times the amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere compared to the CPP, and reports that “The (EPA’s) own impact analysis, which runs nearly 300 pages, projects that the proposal would make only slight cuts to overall emissions of pollutants, including carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides—over the next decade.” The analysis predicts a cut of CO2 emissions from 2005 levels by between 0.7 and 1.5 percent, or the equivalent of taking 2.7 million to 5.3 million cars off the road. Conversely, the CPP would have cut CO2 emissions by 19 percent, or the equivalent to taking 75 million cars off the road.

Researchers from Harvard University predict that the impact of this significant difference will be felt close to home, estimating that failure to reduce emissions will result in 36,000 deaths due to poor air quality, and respiratory issues for an additional 630,000 children.

For decades, the coal industry has been attempting to change the process used to determine whether or not a power-generating facility must incorporate emission reduction devices during power plant maintenance and upgrades, under New Source Review (NSR) regulations. Under ACE, they have succeeded in replacing the current standard of an annual emissions rate increase test with an hourly test. This creates a loophole to avoid a threshold trigger mandating the use of emission reduction devices.

About a dozen years ago, ADK filed a legal action in the federal courts to challenge the very same changes in NSR acid rain provisions that are contained in the ACE proposal. The industry’s objective then (and now) was to allow coal-burning power plants to evade the NSR requirement to install flue gas scrubbers, precipitators, and other air pollution control equipment when owners of these plants proposed to make major service life extension projects.

We won at every level, including the U.S. Supreme Court, and as a result of this successful defense of the NSR requirements, pollution control equipment was installed on a number of coal-burning plants, many plants were shut down and replaced by natural gas–powered generating plants, and some plants were retrofitted to burn natural gas. The effect was to reduce acid deposition particulate matter and smog.

We also successfully defended EPA regulations to reduce the amount of mercury emitted by coal-burning plants. As a result, many plant owners modified their equipment when they made other NSR modifications, or they switched to natural gas, which does not create mercury emissions.

Now, at this writing the current administration proposes to repeal a 2011 EPA finding of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards that in regulating a toxic pollutant (i.e., mercury from coal-fired power plants), the federal government must take into account additional health benefits, or “co-benefits,” of the simultaneous reduction of other pollutants that happens in the course of complying with the regulation. This is important in considering the cost of compliance. The economic benefits of these “co-benefits” help provide a legal and economic justification for industry’s cost to comply with the regulation. As power plants have complied with the Mercury Rule by installing technology to reduce emissions of mercury, there has been a “co-benefit” of a reduction in soot and nitrogen oxide, which are linked to asthma and lung disease. With a repeal of the 2011 finding, it is likely that the Trump Administration, along with industry law suits, will be able to dismantle the requirement to reduce mercury emissions.

Acid rain trends
Acid rain deposition from emissions has been a long-standing issue for the New York Forest Preserve. In recent years, there has been a strong recovery trend. Monitoring of Adirondack waters by groups like the Adirondack Lakes Survey Corporation shows that lakes and ponds assaulted by acid rain are coming back to life and wildlife in these aquatic habitats is thriving. The University at Albany Atmospheric Science Research Center, which monitors precipitation near the summit of Whiteface Mountain, has seen a remarkable decrease in acidity, which is great news for the Adirondacks.

The bad news? The current administration is working diligently to undo this critical recovery by actions such as the ACE Rule and the dramatic weakening of the Mercury Rule.

Upwind coal-fired power plants emit high levels of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which are significant contributors to the formation of ozone, acid rain, and acid deposition in the Adirondacks and the Catskills. These emissions react with other compounds in the air to form acids, which reach earth through rain, snow, and fog, or as dry particles. The burning of bituminous coal also results in emissions of mercury.

In the Northeast, numerous acid sensitive forest and freshwater aquatic regions suffer from ecological damage and health problems associated with acid rain and acid deposition. As one example, acid deposition sets off a deadly chain of events for fish. High levels of acidic deposition and high soil acidity, to which power plant emissions contribute, occur in the forested regions in the Adirondacks and Catskills. When combined with low soil calcium levels, acid deposition often fosters the release of aluminum from the soil to water bodies. Aluminum, in combination with high acidity levels, is highly toxic. It disrupts the salt and water balance in fish, which can rupture blood cells and thicken blood, placing an enormous strain on internal organs, leading to illness and death.

Acid deposition also has a deadly impact on other plant and animal life in the Northeast. Where it accelerates leaching of calcium from soil, it adversely affects plant life by depleting soils of this essential nutrient. Elevated levels of acid in soil cause nutrients to leach out of trees, which can cause a nutrient imbalance, reducing the trees’ ability to respond to environmental stresses such as cold weather, drought, and insect infestation. At high elevations, red spruce trees have suffered serious decline as a result of acid deposition. In turn, animals that depend on plant life for food suffer as plant growth is affected. Mercury depositions in waters and soils also result in the buildup of the neurotoxin methylmercury in the food chain in lakes in the Northeast.

Controlling pollution from power plants will reap important environmental benefits throughout the Northeast. Not only will it help to continue to reduce harmful acidification of lakes and rivers; it will also improve visibility and human health by decreasing low-level ozone.

Emissions must stop
Clearly, we must end harmful emissions from coal-fired power plants. In 2018, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) exceeded 411 parts per million (ppm), a value that pushes us closer to extremely dangerous concentration levels, compared to 280 ppm in 1880 — a 46 percent increase in a short period of time. While it is true that the Earth in its history had much higher atmospheric concentrations of CO2, these were not environments in which human beings or many of our current species existed. At the boundary of Eocene-Oligocene Epochs, around 34 million years ago, when atmospheric carbon dioxide was at much higher levels, the earth was a much different place with high temperatures, high precipitation, and no ice. The changes we are seeing now are happening very quickly, in terms of geologic time and trends, and are clearly connected to human activity through the burning of fossil fuels and production of greenhouse gas emissions.

The proposed ACE Rule and the weakening of the Mercury Rule are actions in the wrong direction at a critical time. When we should be working to protect the Adirondacks and Catskills, the health of our families and communities, and the future sustainability of life on Earth, these rules create loopholes for industry to continue to pollute and exacerbate atmospheric CO2 that is already too high, increase toxic mercury deposition, and continue to cause harmful emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

The ACE proposal is intended to give new life to coal-burning electric power plants that were being phased out or converted to run on natural gas, which is increasingly cheaper and more plentiful. Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind are rapidly increasing their share of the electric-generation market. These market-driven forces may help to temper the impact of ACE, which it can be hoped will not be able to reverse the decline of coal-fired power plants. Inevitably, the ACE Rule and changes to the Mercury Rule will be challenged in court, with ADK likely joining in that litigation.

Rail Car Storage in the Forest Preserve

Oil Tankers on the Tahawus line. Photo by Brendan Wiltse

It seems that several of the most important issues in the Adirondack Park concern trains and railroads. The saga of the obsolete oil tank car junkyard on the Iowa Pacific/Saratoga-North Creek Railroad’s Sanford Spur appears to have come to a close in 2018. In early May, Iowa Pacific Holdings removed the last of the stockpiled tanker cars from near Tahawus. The Chicago-based railroad company, the Iowa Pacific, had been storing obsolete tanker cars on a section of railroad line commonly called the Tahawus line or the Sanford Spur. The story of this rail line, and how it almost became a junkyard for USDOT 111 rail cars, which normally carry crude oil, has many twists. This nearly thirty-mile stretch of track runs from just north of North Creek, crossing the Hudson River at the confluence of the Boreas River and continuing north in the Boreas River corridor to terminate at the old National Lead (NL) mine at Tahawus. The railroad crosses 13 miles of state-owned Forest Preserve.

The Tahawus line was built on private and public land that was condemned by the federal government by means of wartime eminent domain in 1942 so that ore containing titanium oxide could be shipped from Tahawus to processing plants elsewhere in the country. Because the Forest Preserve has a special status under the Forever Wild clause of the state constitution, the federal government did not condemn full ownership of the railroad’s one-hundred–foot right-of-way (ROW), but was granted a temporary easement for the duration of World War II, plus fifteen years. In addition, use of the railroad was limited to the “transport of strategic materials vital to the war effort.”

By 1962, titanium was no longer strategic and the federal government’s Office of War Production, now replaced by the General Services Administration, sought to sell the “temporary easement” for the ROW and tracks. It persuaded the Federal Court in Albany to extend the temporary easement for one hundred years, to 2062, then leased the easement to NL in 1989. The last load of processed ore left the mine by rail in 1982, but waste rock for road fill left the mine by rail until 1989 when all ore or tailings rock hauling operations ceased on the Tahawus line.

In 2011 the Iowa Pacific, doing business as the Saratoga and North Creek Railroad (SNCRR), acquired the Tahawus ROW and rails, intending to operate a tourist train over the 29.71 miles of the Tahawus line. Passenger service on the Tahawus line never happened. The SNCRR made one unsuccessful attempt to transport rock from Tahawus in early 2017. Edward Ellis, president of Iowa Pacific, told the Public Works Committee of the Warren County Board of Supervisors that the railroad needed a new source of revenue to pay for track maintenance on the corridor between Saratoga and North Creek. He proposed entering into contracts with the owners of obsolete USDOT 111 oil tankers to store large numbers of these railroad cars on the Tahawus line. He explained that the number of railroad cars to be stored might be between 1000 and 2000. Ellis claimed the cars had been cleaned internally and did not pose a hazard to the environment.

By early November 2017, the Iowa Pacific had started moving USDOT 111 oil tankers to the 13 miles of track crossing the Vanderwhacker Wild Forest of the Forest Preserve. Fifty-three oil tankers had been stored on a siding about four miles north of the Hudson River. The Tahawus line has only 2.97 miles of siding, which we estimated could store between 230 and 250 tank cars. In order to store any more tank cars, and especially 1000 cars, the SNCRR would have to block the single-track main line, thereby preventing any freight or passenger trains from operating between Tahawus and North Creek.

The Adirondack Park is no place to store obsolete oil tank cars. Any storage of cars on the main line would have violated the purpose of the original condemnation, abandoning the operation of the Tahawus line as a means of transporting processed titanium ore. The New York State Attorney General could have sued to force a reversion of the condemned rail ROW and return it to the Adirondack Forest Preserve. The storage of derelict rail cars in the scenic river corridor of the Boreas River also violates the rules and regulations of New York State’s Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act. The SNCRR claimed that federal law preempts state law, but if the Tahawus railroad was choked closed with 1000 rail cars, it would no longer be connected to or part of interstate commerce, a fundamental basis for federal preemption. Article XIV of the state constitution would then trump any claim of federal preemption.

A 2014 decision of the Federal Surface Transportation Board (an independent adjudicatory and economic-regulatory agency that resolves railroad disputes and reviews proposed railroad mergers) ruled that a section of railroad line that was no longer connected to or capable of being used for interstate commerce was held to be subject to state law prohibiting storage of rail cars and not governed by federal preemption. With rail transport on the Tahawus line blocked by the storage of rail cars on the main line, the original purpose of the federal easement to transport ore would be precluded, therefore there is no federal preemption and Article XIV’s commandment that “no lands of the Forest Preserve shall be sold, exchanged or taken by any corporation, public or private” would prevail and mandate that the temporary easement and ROW for the Tahawus Railway be extinguished and revert to the Adirondack Forest Preserve.

There are several strong legal arguments against the creation and maintenance of a junkyard of obsolete oil tank cars in the Forest Preserve.ADK, Governor Cuomo, the Department of Environmental Conservation, other Adirondack advocacy groups, the Towns of Newcomb and Minerva, and the Essex County and Warren County Boards of Supervisors all oppose rail car storage on the Tahawus line. At the end of 2017, Berkshire Hathaway’s Union Tank Car Company responded to requests from Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYS Comptroller DiNapoli to remove 65 rail cars from the Iowa Pacific/Saratoga-North Creek Railroad’s Sanford Spur, a portion of the rail line that runs through the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest and along the Boreas River

Subsequently, the Iowa Pacific indicated that it would withdraw the rail car storage plan and sell the Tahawus line for 5 million dollars. A larger and more efficiently run railroad corporation OmniTRAX negotiated with the Iowa Pacific for purchase of the Tahawus rail line. As of December 2018, OmniTRAX was willing to enter into a contract with the DEC to preclude any use of the Tahawus rail line for rail car storage. OmniTRAX believes it can make a profit hauling stone out of the Tahawus mine site.

What happens now? Another proposal for the rail line involves a rail trail, as proposed on the Upper Hudson Rail Trail website, which calls for a conversion of the rail line to an eighty-seven-mile multi-use trail. Although some of the rail line runs across a mix of public and private land, the fifty miles from North Creek to Saratoga Springs is owned by Warren County and the town of Corinth and travels through an area where there are communities and businesses that could support the tourism generated by a popular rail trail. While the multi-use trail plan unfortunately includes snowmobiles, the concept of converting the rail line to a trail along the Hudson River certainly is one we are eager to consider.

Backcountry Water Monitors (BCWM)

Preparing for a Survey at Greenland Pond in the Lake George Wild Forest. Photo by Cathy Pedler

In 2018 ADK again invited volunteers to help survey backcountry ponds and lakes in the Lake Champlain Basin for Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS). Two training workshops and four guided outings were offered to volunteers. Invasive Species Awareness Week (ISAW) was July 8 to 14 with many programs and outings offered state-wide to the public through the eight regional PRISMs (Partnerships for Invasive Species Management). One BCWM training was offered with the Capitol-Mohawk PRISM in early June, and the second training was held with APIPP on July 12 at Heart Lake as well as a guided outing during ISAW. The BCWM program also advised members and the public to Clean Drain and Dry their boats, kayaks, canoes and gear to ensure that we protect our sensitive aquatic habitats. The BCWM program has engaged 103 volunteers and surveyed 65 backcountry waterbodies over the past four years. Since many of our members are paddlers, backcountry recreationists and dedicated conservation stewards, the education, conservation, and stewardship goals of the project are very attractive to ADK members.

The project has continued to grow with training and educational support from the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP), the Adirondack Watershed Institute (AWI), the New York Natural Heritage Program, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Bureau of Invasive Species & Ecosystem Health, and with guidance and funding provided by the Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP) and the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC).

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA)

Hemlock Hike in Moreau Lake State Park. Photo by Cathy Pedler.

In January 2018, the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP) organized a HWA affected stakeholders meeting in Lake George at the Village Hall with presentations by Dr. Mark Whitmore, Dept. of Natural Resources at Cornell University and the NYS Hemlock Initiative, Jason Denham, Division of Lands and Forests Bureau of Invasive Species & Ecosystem Health, Chris Zimmerman, Conservation Ecologist with the New York Nature Conservancy, Zack Simek Terrestrial Invasive Species Project Coordinator, and Brendan Quirion Adirondack Invasive Species Program Manager. The participants learned about the current initiatives underway to combat Hemlock Woolly Adelgid and specifically learned of a new plan to combat and mitigate the presence of HWA in the Adirondack Park. After an overview of the spread of HWA across New York State, which was most recently discovered in the Adirondack Park on Prospect Mountain in Lake George, APIPP presented a response plan for the Adirondacks. The plan includes, remote sensing and analysis to identify priority hemlock stands in the southeastern Adirondack Park, targeted surveys of priority stands by professional staff, and treatment of affected hemlocks following the protocol used to respond the affected hemlocks on Prospect Mountain. The protocol is outlined in the DEC/APA Interagency Guidance for Best Management Practices to Control Invasive Species. Across the state, volunteers to survey hemlocks remains a critical need for identification of old growth and priority stands, early detection of HWA, monitoring hemlock stand health after infestation, and phenology monitoring of site-specific populations of HWA to identify life-cycle stages.   Over the past year the state-wide response has involved creating a lab at Cornell to grow predator species for release in New York. ADK advocated for funding this lab which has grown its first generations of predators for release. Funding to continue the lab was secured in the EPF again in 2018. The goal of the bio-control effort is to create a balance between predator and HWA populations which would allow hemlocks to thrive despite HWA presence. This balance exists in hemlock forests in the northwestern part of the United States.