The Adirondack Council publishes an annual report analyzing legislation and actions that have impacted the 6 million acre Adirondack Park over the past year. The organization has just released a preview of the upcoming State of the Park review, out next week. Council Executive Director Willie Janeway tells WAMC North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley it focuses on positive developments, and focuses on the park as a “A Landscape of Hope” to reflect its importance during the pandemic.
"We here in the Adirondacks hold in our hands this treasure not only for ourselves and our neighbors for people around the world and it's more precious now than it's ever been with all the crises the world is facing. The demand for the Adirondacks has gone through the roof. We need the Adirondacks more than ever. The Adirondacks really are a "Landscape of Hope" and it's amazing how people from all over the country are coming here to get away from everything else they're facing."
Bradley: "Landscape of Hope": you're looking at this both environmentally and socially correct?
Janeway: "Absolutely. It's so clear at a time like this people need something positive to cling to and the Adirondacks present that. And the State of the Park today is people from all around the world are going wow, we need the Adirondacks. So while there are many threats still we looked at the Adirondacks and concluded that the glass is more than half full and there's reason to be hopeful about the future."
Bradley: "The preview that you have issued on the State of the Park, which is your annual report, states that it's focused on three areas: road salt, diversity, and acid rain. Why focus on those three?"
Willie Janeway: "Those are three things where something very specific and positive has happened in three different branches of government. On road salt the state legislature passed legislation that will now go to the governor, to finally help us start to address the pollution of road salt. The governor put in funding that was in the final budget of a quarter million dollars for funding the Adirondack Diversity Initiative and making the Park more welcoming and inclusive. And the court stood up with support from the New York Attorney General and turned back the Trump EPA's attack on environmental protections and acid rain. So we picked three items that celebrate the legislature the executive, the Attorney General and the courts positive defense of the Adirondack."
Bradley: "So when we look at the three focus areas, let's take a look at road salt right now. We've moved forward on that but we are still seeing some damage. For people who may not realize what road salt is doing can you explain what it's been doing and why this positive move in passing the bill becomes so important."
Janeway: "Millions of tons of road salt have been poured on Adirondack roads to keep them safer and have inadvertently caused pollution of groundwater, drinking water and harmful environmental impact. And now what's needed is to find a safer way of keeping the roads safe without threatening public health, without contaminating Adirondack groundwater with unacceptable levels of salt. So this legislation would create a task force and come up with recommendations and pilot some of them here in the Adirondacks."
Bradley: "Diversity is the second issue you're focusing on. A director was hired for the Adirondack Diversity Initiative. But that also faced some challenges, some controversy, not because of the initiative itself but because of graffiti, racial graffiti, that was discovered. A lot of people tend to think of the Council as an environmental group. So why would a group like the Adirondack Council be concerned about diversity in the park?"
Willie Janeway: "The Adirondack Council has always wanted to defend the East's greatest wilderness. And we still do and we want to defend it and preserve it and enhance it for everyone's benefit not for the benefit of a few. It's critical that the resource be available to everybody and that the Adirondack Park be welcoming and inclusive to everybody. It's the right thing to do."
Bradley: "The other focus area in the State of the Park report is acid rain. It seems like we were talking about acid rain 15 or 20 years ago and it's resurfaced again."
Janeway: "Acid rain came back like a bad replay on a movie. We thought it was done, most of the recovery complete. The administration in Washington and Environmental Protection Agency started rolling back rules that have helped address acid rain not enforcing them. We have sued them in federal court in partnership with others. New York state has been part of cases, Environmental Defense Fund., we have won. And we are celebrating the Attorney General of New York being lead on some of those lawsuits in defeating efforts to rollback protections of public health and the Adirondacks from acid rain."
Bradley: "Willie, the State of the Park report traditionally has had a thumbs-up thumbs-down format on various issues. Does it maintain that this year?
Willie Janeway: "Yes, it does. We're giving a preview with these three thumbs-up and next week we will bring out the rest of the State of the Park with more than 100 different actions being evaluated. Federal government, state government, legislative, different agencies, local governments, looking across the full spectrum. It's the only comprehensive evaluation like this for what is the largest park in the contiguous United States."
The full 2020 State of the Park report will be issued after the Labor Day weekend. It will be available on the Adirondack Council’s website by the middle of the week.