The six-million-acre Adirondack Park is going through a time of great change, and with it, visitors and residents are facing emotional strain, according to John Sheehan. For the past 30 years, Sheehan has served as Director of Communications for the Adirondack Council. If anyone knows the constraints facing the park, it’s him.
In this year’s introduction to the annual “State of the Park” report, Sheehan says the “Forever Wild” forest reserve will not exist without an informed electorate – and an electorate who will fight back against the fossil fuel industry.
Sheehan spoke with capital tonight on the stressors currently facing the park.
“Political change, social change, cultural change, climate change – climate probably being the most stressful right now,” he said. “And I think with COVID we’ve seen a lot of changes in the park with more people coming. Finding a place of great relief and an opportunity to get away from trouble, but in the process we have seen additional problems occur.
These issues included persistent overuse of some of the most special and wild places in the park.
According to Sheehan, New York State has taken significant steps to prevent overuse, including investing $8 million for the Adirondacks and Catskills to both better manage their visitors and protect the wilderness from visitors. Additionally, there is a $600,000 credit for a “Visitor Use Management Framework,” which is a plan on how to protect the park for the long term.
Sheehan said capital tonight that the decision of the Supreme Court in West Virginia vs. EPA could have dealt a devastating blow to the park, although the Inflation Reduction Act mitigated some of the fallout.
“What [the ruling] said was that all of the tools that we’ve used so far to regulate acid rain and smog, which would have been very helpful in regulating carbon, couldn’t be used because the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA shouldn’t have that kind of authority,” Sheehan said. “It seemed absurd at first glance.”
In the introductory letter to the Adirondack Council’s annual State of the Park report, Sheehan wrote:
“We shouldn’t be surprised when people who get a job by repeating a lie find it easy to switch to supporting the next lucrative lie. Their current mission: to scare us into doubting that solutions to acid rain and to climate change are possible and affordable.
Asked about the statement, Sheehan said he’s seen this kind of political tactic used before, citing the tobacco industry.
“They were bringing out person after person in the rented lab coat and pretending to be a scientist and saying there was no certainty about studies showing people got cancer from smoking,” he recalled. “It was a lie. In this case, what [they’re] lie is that fossil fuels will not lead to the destruction of the planet’s life support system. It is an absolute lie.
Sheehan urged voters to “return your ballot” in November and vote “yes” to the “Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Bond Act.”
According to the Hochul administration, if the $4.2 billion bond law is passed in November, it will invest $500 million in offshore wind and port infrastructure; $400 million for environmental protection and climate change resilience; and $250 million for the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, among many other projects.
“Do not forget [the question is] there,” Sheehan said. “The candidates are on one side; there is a question on the back.