Hamilton County might not survive the next century, according to a statistical analysis conducted by researchers at Cornell University.

Researchers from Cornell’s Department of Applied Demographics recently released a statewide study projecting New York’s demographic future through 2040, based on current trends.

If things don’t change in Hamilton County, in about 25 years, there won’t be anyone left to respond to fires, drive ambulances or plow the roads, officials worry.

“It’s remarkable,” said Jim Martin, a senior planner with Saratoga-based LA Group and a principal author of a similar study — the first of its kind for the region — in 2009. That report was called the Adirondack Regional Assessment Project.

According to the most recent analysis, by 2040, only 28 men and 24 women between the ages of 25 and 29 will live in the expansive county at the heart of the Adirondack Park. That predicts an 85 percent decline for that age group between 1990 and 2040. Similar reductions are projected for residents in their 30s and 40s.

By contrast, the study predicts the vast majority of Hamilton County residents will be older than 60 by 2040. In total, fewer than 3,000 would live in Hamilton County, a drop of nearly 2,000 residents from 2010.

If current trends persist, some 128 Hamilton County men would be between 70 and 74 in 28 years, and 101 would be older than 85, the study concludes.

“What we’re seeing in this data is the baby boomers moving through life,” Martin said. “When they die, who’s going to be left?”

In the 1990 census, 187 Hamilton County men were in the 25-29 age group, and by the 2010 census, that number had fallen to 83.

The demographic state of Hamilton County has been at the heart of political debates between local governments and environmentalists for 40 years because it’s one of only two counties wholly within the boundaries of the Adirondack Park. Local officials see restrictions placed on the Adirondacks, especially the state’s forest preserve, as the prime reason for the population decline detailed in the 2010 federal census.

That report shows towns on the park’s fringe, like Queensbury or Plattsburgh, grew, while those wholly within the park experienced sometimes drastic population drops, combined with plunging school enrollment. As a result, bringing in foreign exchange students is quickly becoming a popular tactic among Hamilton County schools.

Local officials have argued for years the state constitution’s ban on logging is one of the many regulations that will, over time, drive out the park’s residents.

Local officials note the ranks of Adirondack loggers have declined to a fraction of their former strength, with public employees and tourism workers now driving the local workforce.

Where local officials see an issue with regional regulation, environmentalists see national and global trends.

“The global economy has had a drastic impact (on the logging industry),” said Brian Houseal, executive director of the Adirondack Council, a regional environmental group.

Environmentalists note — as have many other foresters, loggers and saw mill owners — that foreign lumber, often from low-wage, developing nations, can produce lumber and ship it to the U.S. cheaper than it can be produced locally.

Essex County, the only other county that lies entirely within the Adirondack Park, wouldn’t share Hamilton County’s fate, according to the Cornell analysis. Its population is aging, but at nowhere near the rate of Hamilton County’s, the report showed.

Essex County is home to Lake Placid, as well as offices for the Adirondack Park Agency and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The Adirondack Council is pushing for more state funding for local zoning and better management of neighboring state lands in an effort to boost regional tourism.

A total of 13 counties have some land within the Adirondacks. Counties like Clinton and Lewis have small slivers, while Warren and Herkimer have large swaths in the park.

All have, for decades, been losing in-park residents.

Regardless of the cause, predictions of Hamilton County’s future has regional officials fretting.

“It’s scary,” said Fred Monroe, executive director of the Adirondack Local Government Review Board.

(8) comments

DanPlatt
DanPlatt

Looks like environmentalists are getting what they've been fighting for all these years.

always thinking
always thinking

If they would keep taxes down and encourage industry that wouldn't be a problem as it's getting hotter down south every year and people would be glad to move to a cooler climate.

ch-aver
ch-aver

If state and local taxes keep going the way they are, soon New York State north of 287 will be an unoccupied wilderness, save Albany. You won't have to wait until 2040.

NCC-1701
NCC-1701

1820 9,453;
1830 11,796 24.8%;
1840 13,422 13.8%;
1850 17,199 28.1%;
1860 21,434 24.6%;
1870 22,592 5.4%;
1880 25,179 11.5%;
1890 27,866 10.7%;
1900 29,943 7.5%;
1910 32,223 7.6%;
1920 31,673 −1.7%;
1930 34,174 7.9%;
1940 36,035 5.4%;
1950 39,205 8.8%;
1960 44,002 12.2%;
1970 49,402 12.3%;
1980 54,854 11.0%;
1990 59,209 7.9%;
2000 63,303 6.9%;
2010 65,707 3.8%;

The population of Warren County has generally grown since 1820! What is NOT keeping pace is jobs, meaningful jobs! The county has become mired in retail, health, government, educational and tourism jobs! The factories mostly gone, local stores dwindle while the chains and big-box move in; technology is usually ignored or pooh-poohed!
Private nonfarm employment, percent change between 2000-2009 Warren County -10.2%; New York State -0.3%; these numbers tell us what the true problem is in Warren County, New York in 2012!!!

NYFarmer
NYFarmer

Hamilton County is not the only area that is in danger. Take a look around you to see the situation that rural NY's farms are in. Cornell University's "Green Grass, Green Jobs" report states that NY now has THREE MILLION acres of abandoned or underused grasslands. This has happened as NY's dairy farmers are the lowest paid in the East, with our milk price substantially lower than all surrounding states. Look at the empty farms, falling down barns, and pastures growing up, devoid now of productive livestock. Even Audubon NY is concerned with the mass abandonment of NY grasslands, as NY grassland bird species are losing ground. Read "Plan for Conserving Grassland Bird Species" in NY by Audubon for the details. How much more do we have to lose? Does anyone care about food security for the Northeast Corridor? How does it make sense to destroy producing natural resources that could sustain the Northeast cities?

boston
boston

The UN Agenda 21 calls for 0 population in the Adirodacks, except for the super rich. The same folks that brought you the APA will be putting it to you again.

papachag
papachag

It looks like Jim Martin and the 1%'ers want to get rid of any impediments to clear cutting, concreting and black topping the Adirondacks. I doubt any of Jim's prognostications will occur. History doesn't agree nor does common sense. Statistical eruptions like this stir up fear to help developers get their greedy paws on clearing and building for city folk. The Adirondacks have done well for thousands of years before developers and if they are left alone can be enjoyed by many for years to come. It takes a hundred years to grow a tree and five minutes to cut it down. Which would you like to see a tacky bunch of condos or a forest of healthy trees.

Ravenwolf
Ravenwolf

This "the sky is falling" report from the ivory towers of Cornell could have been done by a six year old.
All they did was to follow the most recent population trend to determine would be the result if the trend continued.
This report does nothing for the people of the Hamilton County except to discourage them.
Junk science to provide an income to people who would be more productive working at Mc Donalds

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