ELIZABETHTOWN, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Progress on reducing road salt, managing visitors to the overused High Peaks Wilderness Area, and making the Adirondacks more welcoming to New Yorkers led the Adirondack Council to create a list of 10 reasons to be thankful for 2020. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has overshadowed almost every other issue this year,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway. “Contrary to its influence on urban areas, the park has seen a surge of new visitors and home buyers.  Lake Placid hotels reported their busiest year since the 1980 Winter Olympics. The overall impact may be hard to track for a while, since it happened while the 10-year census was being taken.  But amid all of the unexpected growth and uncertainty, we were able to accomplish some things to help the Adirondacks. 

The Council’s 2020 highlights: 

The Adirondack Council and partners secured funding for clean Adirondack waters and wildlands in the state budget. New York State approved a $300 million Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). There was a total of $1 billion for new clean water infrastructure. Both are sources of funding that keep Adirondack waters free of invasive species, sewage and pollution. Additionally, the budget included dedicated funding to combat overuse in the Adirondacks.  

The Adirondack Council and partners sponsored an Adirondack Park Environmental Lobby Day at the state Capitol in Albany. The lobby day featured over 100 Adirondack supporters who held meetings with over 65 legislative offices.  It was the largest Adirondack environmental rally in over a decade. The participants made an impact in affecting the state budget and policy. Issues such as road salt legislation, Adirondack Park Agency appointments, and state land stewardship funding to address overuse were all advocated for at the lobby day, later resulting in state actions.

Gov. Cuomo signed into law a bill to establish an Adirondack Road Reduction Salt Task Force and Pilot Program. The legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay, and Senator Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, will look into ways to reduce the impacts of road salt in the Adirondack Park. By bringing together experts in various fields such as highway management and water science, the task force will make recommendations as to how the state can update its winter road management practices to preserve clean drinking water while ensuring safe winter road conditions. 

The High Peaks Advisory Group (HPAG) was tasked by the state to develop a set of long-term recommendations on how to manage overuse in the High Peaks Wilderness Area. This spring, the group released a set a short-term recommendations that embraced the Leave No Trace recommendations for the Adirondack Park. Recommendations included a focus on improved long-range planning, upgrades to aging infrastructure, visitor education programs and limits on capacity. A final long-term report from HPAG is due to be released early in 2021.  

The New York State Senate approved a new slate of Adirondack Park Agency (APA) appointments nominated by Gov. Cuomo. The appointees came from a variety of backgrounds such as environmental science, local government and economic development. There was a full board but no chair. In December, Chad Dawson resigned in protest. As the year ends, the APA is in crisis again. 

The New York State Climate Action Council (CAC) was formed after the passage of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). The CAC is tasked with developing a scoping plan on how the state can reach its nation-leading targets in greenhouse gas reductions and renewable energy production. The CAC and a variety of advisory panels have been regularly meeting to discuss a path forward for New York State. This includes supporting Adirondack communities with climate change adaptation tools and ensuring Adirondack forests remain intact and healthy. 

The FY2020-21 New York State budget included new funding for the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) as well as a host of other community investments. These include $2 million for smart growth grants, $10 million for Climate Smart Communities and $4.5 million for Climate Resilient Farms. Additionally, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recognized the Village of Saranac Lake as a bronze-level certified climate smart community for their efforts to fight climate change. 

The Adirondack Council awarded 13 micro-grants to local farmers in an effort to help fight climate change and Covid-19. The micro-grants, supported by generous individual and foundation donors, went to fund a variety of environmental projects such as solar-powered refrigeration and crop diversification as well as projects to help combat Covid-19 like masks and gloves for farmers. Additionally, the Essex Farm Institute, a program of the Adirondack Council, provided support for Hub on the Hill’s food package distribution service to support those in need across the North Country.  

For the second year, the New York State budget included $250,000 for Adirondack Diversity Initiative (ADI), a program that engages communities in the Adirondacks and promotes strategies to help the Park become a more welcoming, safe and inclusive place for all. With the events of this past summer, ADI is more important than ever to ensure a positive future for those who live and visit the Adirondacks.

Due to the disruption of the state Legislative Session due to the pandemic, legislative leaders extended a statewide aquatic invasive species law for one year. The law requires boaters to take reasonable precautions to remove any invasive plants or animals from their boats and trailers before entering a waterbody. With commitments from legislative leaders to strengthen the law in the Adirondack Park, the Adirondack Council will continue to advocate for all boats to be inspected before entering any Adirondack waterbody. 

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