ELIZABETHTOWN – In its annual State of the State report, the Adirondack Council says more forest rangers are needed and lauds the state for funding community projects but not enough conservation ones.
State officials fell short of goals for expanded conservation funding, according to the document.
The Environmental Protection Fund stayed at $300 million, but "there was no increase in funding dedicated for clean air, preservation of wildlife and wildlands, parks and state agency operating budgets.
There was no material effort to restore the more than 25 percent reduction in environmental agency staffing from the previous administration," the report says.
It says there was no increase in funding or staffing for the traditional work of forest rangers. The ranks of the rangers have dropped, according to state figures. Rangers manage more than 300 search and rescue missions annually, but only have 134 rangers statewide.
An increase of 40 rangers has been proposed.
No increase in the funding dedicated to stewardship and management of wilderness areas was also in the state budget. The council said that was needed to address the impacts of overuse and to preserve wild lands for future generations.
In summation, the report states, money was scarce for clean air, wildlife, wild lands, forest rangers, trail crews, conservation enforcement and other state personnel.
The State of the State is the environmental group's evaluation of progress by New York state on expanding funding for Adirondack community and conservation priorities.
“The full report, subtitled ‘Challenged by Success’ and awarding a positive or negative rating for 106 government actions from the autumn of 2018 until now will be out after Labor Day,” said Adirondack Council Director of Communications John Sheehan in a news release.
“The report’s 28 illustrated pages will celebrate 2019 successes, the dedication of state employees and a successful tourism campaign that has led to rampant overuse of trails in the High Peaks Wilderness and other popular locations. This has created both problems and opportunities.
"At the federal level, the park is challenged by the Trump administration’s success at rolling back hard-won environmental protections.”
This 38th edition of State of the Park lays out the Adirondack Council’s hopes for the year ahead in top priorities for 2020. The report also profiles 10 conservation and community successes accomplished by other organizations, businesses and individuals, in its Tip of the Hat section.
“Our freedom to publish a frank and unvarnished critique of the actions of public officials at the local, state and federal level is due to the support we receive from private citizens inside the Park, in New York, across the United States and around the world,” Sheehan said in the release.
“As the largest environmental organization focused entirely on the Adirondack Park, the Adirondack Council is in the unique position of interacting regularly with officials who carry out every aspect of the park’s care and management.”
The state was exceptionally generous funding development and projects attempting to foster more vibrant, diverse local communities, Sheehan said.
He said the state invested or made announcements for almost $400 million in aid for Adirondack communities, including $180 million to the Olympic Regional Development Authority; $84.8 million for 70 economic development projects region-wide; $16.2 million for a Visitors Center on the Northway; and a $10 million revitalization grant to the Village of Saranac Lake.
The state provided most of the $25 million for the Frontier Town Campground, Equestrian and Day Use Area and more than $75 million in Forest Preserve property tax payments.
The Adirondack Council applauded the investments "that make Adirondack communities more vibrant and sustainable, consistent with preserving the clean water, and wild land of the park."