Adirondack Council Executive Director Willie Janeway makes a point while Denton Publications Managing Editor John Gereau looks over the Council’s newly released 2013 State of the Park report.
Adirondack Council Executive Director Willie Janeway met with members of the Denton Publications Editorial Board Oct. 17 to talk about current issues a day after the environmental group released its annual State of the Park report.
Members of the Denton staff were Managing Editor John Gereau, Assistant Managing Editor Andy Flynn, Times of Ti Editor Fred Herbst and Valley News Editor Keith Lobdell. They asked Janeway questions about the plan, and the following are his answers.
Editorial Board: You said you support Prop 4 and Prop 5 on the ballot because they follow the Adirondack Council’s criteria for land swaps. What is that criteria?
Willie Janeway: There are really six points to our criteria for a land swap. The lands that came out cannot be critical or unique ecologically. The lands coming in should be ecologically superior to the land that is going out. It should not establish a precedent. There should be a specific use. It should be for an important community benefit, and you do not have a community if you do not have jobs. Also, it has to be a win-win for the Forest Preserve and for the community.
He added, “NYCO has been challenging and we have not always seen eye-to-eye, but we laid out our principles and said if you meet these, then we will support it. It is going to be a big lift because people see it as a land sale for $1 million. I wish it were called the Jay Mountain Wilderness Expansion Proposition instead because that is a more representative title.”
EB: One of your consistent “thumbs down” themes concerned the changing of the DEC permit allowing Essex County to begin work on Little Whiteface before a study on the Bicknell’s thrush mating patterns was completed. Why was that a concern?
WJ: The concern was more about the process, and the issue was the last-minute modification of the permit. Everyone had come together, and we thought there was a deal. What happened then undermines the ability of everyone to come together.
EB: What are ways to secure infrastructure within the Park without tampering with the natural habitat?
WJ: We have gone into Jay and looked at the buyouts and talked about specific things that we as a Council will say, these are things that you will not have to worry about us commenting on. When community groups and environmentalists go to Albany and they go together, it turns heads.
EB: You give a “thumbs up” to a merger between two school districts. Is that something you support throughout the park?
WJ: We believe communities should talk with each other and look for opportunities to share services. We also realize there is a narrow set of communities, and the distances are long in the park and the schools are a focal part of the communities. We want to facilitate and offer support for these kinds of conversations.
EB: Is there a responsible way to create a series of connected snowmobile trails to maintain and promote the industries’ importance to the economy?
WJ: I hope so. I can stay optimistic about this. We have been very public that even though we sued the state over the Unit Management Plan, we do support the idea of connected trails. You manage wilderness, but you do not just lock it up and set it aside. I think that we can find places for communities where we can connect.
EB: The whole locals versus downstate thing, what do you tell local residents when they ask, “Whose park is this, anyway?”
WJ: It’s everybody’s. It belongs to all of the people of the state, and the residents of the park have a special position. As residents, they get the benefits of living in a place with clean water and clean air, but there are responsibilities and obligations that come with that as well.
EB: How do you balance the needs of public use and conservation in the Essex Chain Lakes?
WJ: For me, the stronger economic future for the park and the communities is in protecting those natural resources that people want to come and see. When you open it to the public, the challenge is that the state has not been very good at saying OK, there’s only this many people allowed to go in there. We wanted to try and come down with a very balanced approach.
EB: What do you see as the vision for the Park, short term and long term?
WJ: My hope would be if we can focus on what the Park should look like in 2050, and then work backwards from that, it is going to be a lot easier to resolve the next round of questions. What is the real vision here and how do we make some bigger changes? The politics always drives you to smaller, incremental changes, but if you just do that, the Adirondack Park continues to struggle economically and environmentally.
EB: What is the biggest challenge facing the Adirondack Park?
WJ: Missing the opportunity that we now have and if politics or ideology will get in the way of caring about the park. If we can’t, we will have missed a chance to finish the park in a way that works for everyone. I think that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is really concerned about moving the park forward. He likes it up here and he does not ignore the Adirondacks. With this governor, there is an opportunity that has not existed for years.
EB: What are the main themes to the report?
WJ: The theme of this report is people are now talking and working together. There are a lot of successes, but they are moderate. If we can have these discussions and disagreements yet still talk and work together, it shows how much the Adirondack community has changed. At one of the first meetings I attended, a person started talking about being upset over the APA boathouse restrictions and I thought, “Here we go with a get rid of the APA rant.” But at the end of his statement, he asked if we could help him work with them to change these. That was refreshing.