ALBANY - The Adirondack Council released Friday its annual opinion on the last year of activity in the Adirondack Park.
According to the council, the Park was "subjected to a barrage of extreme outside influences over the past 12 months, some of which devastated small communities and public natural resources, while others brought unprecedented good news to park residents and visitors."
The council includes both praise and criticism for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but Diane W. Fish, the council's acting executive director, said in a press release that he comes out with more praise. It said that Cuomo acted quickly to help after Tropical Storm Irene, but at the cost of environmental protections. It praises him for land purchases, but criticizes his budget cuts.
State of the Park is a review of the actions of local, state and federal government officials that had an impact on the Adirondack Park over the past year. It is issued by the Adirondack Council, a privately funded, not-for-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park. A copy of the report is available online at AdirondackCouncil.org.
The state Legislature earned the council's praise for four bills it passed by working across party lines, including the state's first law designed to slow the spread of invasive species, sponsored by Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, and Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee Chairman Bob Sweeney, D-Lindenhurst.
Also earning praise were Senate Environmental Conservation Committee Chairman Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo; Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-Rome; Sen. Carl Marcellino, R-Syosset; Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, D-Forestburgh; Assemblyman Fred Thiele, I-Sag Harbor; and Assemblyman David Gantt, D-Rochester; as well as the Assembly Speaker Sheldon
Silver, D-Manhattan, who declined to pass four Senate bills and a proposed Constitutional Amendment that could have harmed the park's environment. As a house, the Assembly won only praise in the report.
Singled out for individual criticism were Little, for three bills the council considers anti-wilderness aimed at increasing motorized traffic on the Forest Preserve, and Sen. Pattie Ritchie, R- Oswegatchie and Assemblyman Bill Magee, D-Nelson, for a bill that would allow 1,500-pound all-terrain-vehicles on public trails.
On the federal level, the council praised Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, and Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, for restoring funding for flood-warning gauges on Adirondack streams.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Schumer also helped to defeat a bill that would have prevented federal officials from implementing a new acid rain standard for power plants.
The council praised the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for advancing new air pollution standards and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service won favorable mentions for its work restoring trout streams and for nominating a rare native songbird, Bicknell's thrush, for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, joined Schumer, Gillibrand and Owens in winning the council's praise for his support of the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The council praised five out-of-state U.S. Senators for breaking with fellow Republicans in an otherwise party-line vote. Together, they defeated a bill that would have killed the new federal mercury regulations for power plants.
The council's highest praise for local government went to the Warren County Board of Supervisors for passing a local invasive species law that is much tougher than the state law passed this summer. Fines of $5,000 and up to 15 days in jail await anyone who introduces an aquatic invasive species into Lake George or the 20 other major water bodies in the county.
Local governments also made progress in the council's eyes by controlling all-terrain vehicle traffic on public lands; undertaking major energy conservation and renewable energy development projects; and rejecting development plans deemed inappropriate for Peck's Lake, near Gloversville.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation made progress on invasive species this year, conducting a series of tourist-season roadblocks and vehicle inspections to stop those who might be carrying firewood into the park from other parts of the state that might be infested with invasive plants and insects such as the Emerald Ash Borer or Asian Longhorn Beetle.
The DEC also adopted new air quality standards that the council said will better protect the park from acid rain and smog. It also destroyed its surplus of carbon allowances leftover from previous Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative auctions, eliminating thousands of tons of carbon that otherwise would have been emitted by power plants in the 10-state RGGI region (Maine to Maryland).
The state Adirondack Park Agency improved the flawed Adirondack Club and Resort project proposed for the Big Tupper Ski Area outside of the village of Tupper Lake, but the council argued its rules and regulations do not incorporate the latest science on water quality, wildlife and forest health. They have not been updated since 1971, and the council wants to see them changed.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman earned only praise in the report, focused on his work in defending new federal mercury standards, in defending the RGGI program and in seeking to compel federal officials to adopt tougher standards for emissions of soot from power plants.
Overall, the council said it was an uneven year for court decisions, with six state and federal decisions favoring Adirondack conservation and four decisions that did harm to environmental protections.