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Adirondack Council

John Sheehan and William Janeway, of the Adirondack Council, meet with The Post-Star editorial board Wednesday in Glens Falls. 

GLENS FALLS — Loons and eagles are back in the Adirondacks. So are trees and fish. The air is fresher. The water is cleaner.

“At the macro level, there is this huge and great success,” said William Janeway, executive director of the Adirondack Council, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect the park’s wilderness.

But the picture of the park wasn’t always so rosy, and Janeway hopes local, state and federal officials don’t let the progress of the park’s health slide.

Janeway and John Sheehan, communications director for the Adirondack Council, met with The Post-Star‘s editorial board on Wednesday to discuss an annual report card the nonprofit organization releases, highlighting what it considers are good and bad actions and policies for the park.

Janeway compared the Adirondack Park to a cancer survivor, making it through some of the toughest things like clear-cutting and acid rain. But, he warned, small changes in the wrong direction could have a disproportionate affect because of the park’s recovering state.

Particularly in the last two years, the Trump administration has rolled back a slew of environmental regulations meant to protect things like clean air, clean water and endangered species.

The state has received its share of criticism from the council, too. The Adirondack Council wants to see it do more to combat overuse of the High Peaks Wilderness Area, expand its invasive species inspections program and get the Adirondack Park Agency up to full strength, for examples.

But a bright spot Janeway and Sheehan highlighted is the state’s passage of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which aims to cut greenhouse gas pollution by 85% below 1990 levels in the next 30 years.

Post-Star Editor Ken Tingley asked if the council felt the state legislation passed is enough to offset the rollbacks done on the federal level.

Janeway said not completely.

With 36 coal-fired power plants in the Ohio Valley not running pollution control equipment, the Adirondacks are once again at risk to the affects of acid rain and upwind pollution, Janeway said. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is not enforcing a “Good Neighbor” rule in the Clean Air Act, which prohibits states from polluting the air of others, too.

The state is currently part of a lawsuit against the EPA for not enforcing that rule.

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Of acid rain, Janeway said, “We kind of thought we didn’t need to worry about that as much and could focus on climate change.”

Ultimately, the Adirondack Council hopes the cumulative impact of other states passing similar climate legislation as New York will help tip the scales in the park’s favor.

At the local government level, the council highlighted successes and challenges.

Sheehan and Janeway are concerned about the state’s moves to put more snowmobile trails in “forever wild” areas of the park, and local governments’ support of it doing so.

But they commended some of the local municipalities in the Lake George basin and North Elba for passing septic system inspection upon property transfer laws.

“We went a decade without anyone dealing with that,” Sheehan said.

Sheehan also highlighted the progress made in the Adirondack Park with road salt reduction.

The crux of the report focused on how the Adirondack High Peaks are facing an overuse issue.

Janeway said the state’s efforts to put up more signs, use shuttles and advertise other hikes is a start, but overall he would like the state to come up with a comprehensive management plan.

“I remain optimistic,” Janeway said about the park’s future. “My biggest worry is loving the place to death.”

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Reporter Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (518) 742-3238 or gcraig@poststar.com. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.

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