Have you climbed one of the Adirondack High Peaks? If so, you have no doubt entered the ‘alpine zone,’ New York’s rarest and most fragile ecosystem. Comprised of 173 acres across 21 peaks, these areas are recognizable by the presence of small, delicate plants carpeting open, rocky summits.
Several decades ago, New York’s alpine ecosystem was in crisis when a boom in outdoor recreation drew tens of thousands of people to the Adirondacks High Peaks region. Because all it takes are a few boot steps to kill an alpine plant, this delicate ecosystem was imperiled.
In response, the Adirondack High Peaks Summit Stewardship Program was founded in 1989 to educate hikers, perform trail work, and conduct research. Each morning summit stewards carry their heavy packs to the top of some of the busiest alpine summits, regardless of weather, to be present for the first hikers of the day. They spend long days equipping visitors with the knowledge needed to enjoy the backcountry without impacting alpine vegetation.
And the results of their efforts have been remarkable.
Summit stewards have led an incredible recovery in alpine vegetation. By engaging the public in a friendly but informative style, they have generated both an awareness of our environment and the role we play in protecting it.
But a new boom in outdoor recreation threatens this progress. In 2019 summit stewards talked with 40,000 hikers, an all-time high and far above the 15,000 they met in the 1990s. This comes as part of a decade-long increase in visitation to the region. Yet, despite this upward trend, funding for summit stewards has not kept pace, restricting our ability to expand the program in order to protect all of the alpine summits.
As the number of hikers continues to increase, ADK needs your help to put more summit stewards on mountaintops to protect those delicate alpine plants. The survival of New York’s alpine zone depends on it.
When you protect a peak with ADK, you will feel great satisfaction knowing that you are helping to preserve some of New York’s greatest ecological treasures.
Yours in gratitude,
P.S. – Your tax-deductible contribution helps ensure the continued presence of summit stewards on our alpine summits. Thank you for making a difference!