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North Country News

Adirondack Council Director Discusses Adirondack Issues

Willie Janeway
Adirondack Council
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Willie Janeway

The Adirondack Park is the largest park in the contiguous U.S. — bigger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier and Grand Canyon National Parks combined. But the park is unique due to its combination of public and private lands. The Adirondack Council is among the groups that work to minimize human impacts on the Adirondack Forest Preserve and its wild areas.  Council Executive Director Willie Janeway tells WAMC North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley one of the biggest successes in the state legislative session that wrapped last month is passage of a bill strengthening the aquatic invasive species law.

Janeway: “The Legislature's unanimous passage of the aquatic invasive species law this year is really important. For five years we've had a law on the books that has the best of intentions but essentially relies on voluntary compliance. And so now we're able to celebrate that with the leadership of Assemblyman Billy Jones, others, lake associations, local government, the Adirondack Council was able to help amplify and work with those partners so their desire that that law be made permanent and stronger was successfully achieved. And we are optimistic that the governor will sign that bill when it reaches his desk.”

Pat Bradley:  “Do we have the staffing to be able to implement what's in this bill?”

Janeway:  “Yes, because we already are spending close to a million dollars a year. And it's stretched even further thanks to the partners at Paul Smith's and Adirondack Watershed Institute. So we have boat inspection and boat decontamination stations throughout the Adirondack Park today as we speak. The issue has been that it's essentially been a voluntary system. So with this new law it will give those boat stewards the opportunity to say you have to tell me and show me the certificate that your boat has been inspected; that if it needed it it's been decontaminated. And then it's like an Easy Pass. If you had that certificate because you stopped at the drive through inspection station on the Northway or one of the many others that are staffed and funded already you just get right into the water much easier than you would have otherwise. You get to pass the line. Boom and go right into the water. And it's this is all about protecting that clean water. Letting people get out there enjoy it.”

Bradley: “The DEC has started new training for Forest Rangers and Conservation Officers. How much will these 60 people relieve the need for the services that they provide?”

Willie Janeway:  “Having those rangers go into the academy, graduate, fill positions is critical to maintain the staffing we have now. And there's an opportunity to build on that. The Adirondack Council and others are calling on the state to double the ranger force and diversify the ranger force. And there's a great opportunity to do that now as part of addressing over use.”

Pat Bradley: “I believe you're a member of the Adirondack Mountain Reserve. There is a reservation system that the Reserve and the DEC has put into place. I believe it's been a pilot?”

Janeway: “Correct.”

Bradley: “And they've had to revise it somewhat in the last month or two because of hiker comments and such. But overall, how is it working? What's your assessment of what you're seeing with this reservation system that they're working on?”

Janeway:  “The Adirondack Mountain Reserve and the Department of Environmental Conservation have been working hand in hand in designing and rolling that system. And then there's a website hikeamr. You can go. You can sign up. You can check availability. And yes they've been making changes. They've put in an automatic gate so that if you end up hiking out of the woods late and the staff are no longer there, there's a way you can still drive up to the gate and the gate will let you out. There have been changes made in the system and there probably will be more changes made in response to feedback and comments. Thousands of folks have already taken advantage of the system and there's been a lot of positive feedback received.”

Pat Bradley:  “ROOST, the Regional Office for Sustainable Tourism, and Stewart's have started a campaign called 'Go Before You Go' to promote back country preparedness. What do you make of this effort of theirs?”

Janeway:  “In response to the data that came in showing the negative impacts of over use and the data we had from surveys the Adirondack Council contracted with the national Leave No Trace Center to come in and do an audit and provide recommendations. One of their recommendations was that some program like this be done. Actually implementing this recommendation is critical. It increases the capacity of the Adirondacks to absorb and have more people here, that the benefits of the clean water and clean air and wilderness and it ensures it's going to be better protected. Education is a key part of protecting the Adirondacks. We can't do it without more education. We also know education by itself isn't enough. Which is why there's a need to double and diversify the forest ranger force, to build more trails, to have limits sometimes some places, to make sure the full breadth of incredible scenery and wilderness in the Adirondacks is protected forever.”

The Adirondack Council is a co-sponsor of next week’s annual Common Ground Alliance meeting. The collaborative meets virtually on Wednesday, July 21st to discuss Adirondack issues.  
 

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