Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks!, visited Hamilton on Nov. 18 to deliver a lecture on “The Adirondack Park in The Andrew Cuomo Years: Forever Wild Under Assault.”
Bauer opened by discussing the unique nature of the Adirondack Park. He described it as “an unusual place as far a wild spaces go, since it is a peopled wilderness.” While the Adirondacks contain 85% of the wilderness areas found east of the Mississippi, it is also home to upwards of 130,000 people living in many small towns throughout the area of the park. This combination of public and private lands, one right next to the other, has led to a complicated and intricate legal code governing the many different kinds of restrictions that are placed on land usage within the park’s boundaries. Bauer also walked the audience through the many different kinds of landscapes found within the park ranging from towering peaks and ancient forests to placid lakes and one-of-a-kind wildlife habitats.
Because many parts of the Adirondacks fall under the control of various state agencies such as the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), state government often plays a much larger role in decisions that would be made at the local level elsewhere in the state. As a result, “governors can drive changes more than any other person because of the sheer number of state agencies in the park” noted Bauer. Under Cuomo encouraging economic development has become the top priority for the state where before a more balanced approach had been the norm.
Bauer finished by highlighting the impacts of this shift in policy and outlining specific threats that have arisen in recent years. For example, there has been a precipitous increase in the number of permits issued for subdivisions, a marked expansion of clear-cutting, and a substantial increase in the number of bobcats being hunted that many believe resulted from skyrocketing fur prices rather than scientific evaluation. Finally he raised the case of a new snowmobile trail that was recently approved in close proximity to the Essex Chain (an area recently added to the Forest Preserve) as “an example of policy driven purely by recreational use, which is a departure from the resource-driven management plans of the past.”
Protect the Adirondacks! is a grassroots organizations that seeks to protect and steward the lands and communities of the Adirondack Park. Peter Bauer is the executive director of Protect the Adirondacks! and has decades of experience working in environmental policy and advocacy through the Adirondack Park.
The Dean of Faculty and the Environmental Studies Department sponsored Bauer’s visit to campus.