This year these funding problems have led to the elimination of the assistant forest ranger program, a reduction in hatcheries staff, decreased access to public lands and less money for general maintenance of seasonal roads, among other things.
A prime example of what can happen when the DEC funding drops was the temporary closure this past spring of the Moose River Plains road system in the southwestern Adirondacks. This was done, according to the DEC, because they didn’t have the funding to maintain the roads and personnel to patrol the area.
The gates to the Moose River Plains were eventually opened just before Memorial Day weekend after Hamilton County town supervisors pressured the DEC. The supervisors convinced the DEC that the road system could stay open with their help, which came in the form of “in-kind” services such as maintenance of the roads.
The supervisors wanted the road system open because the Moose River Plains is used throughout the year by thousands of people who contribute to the economies of the nearby towns of Inlet and Indian Lake, which are heavily dependent upon money generated through tourism. The area is also popular with locals for recreating.
Next spring, similar situations will continue to play out around the Adirondacks because the DEC won’t have the staff and/or funds to perform standard maintenance on all of the state’s seasonal roads, trails, primitive campsites and perhaps even at campgrounds.
Over the years, organizations such the Student Conservation Association, the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Adirondack Ski Touring Council, Lean-to Rescue, Northern Forest Canoe Trail and snowmobile clubs (just to name a few of the groups) have contributed to the maintenance of trails and other tasks for improving natural resources. Groups like Trout Unlimited have helped with fisheries work, doing surveys and helping with stocking.
In the future, there will be a continued, and likely, greater need for individuals, organizations and local municipalities to contribute and collaborate with the DEC toward the good of the Forest Preserve and the natural resources of the Park.
There are many reasons to do this. If you enjoy getting outdoors, you could benefit directly. On a larger scale, the communities could benefit. Next summer, people from around the Northeast will continue looking for low-cost vacations, and there isn’t a better place for that than in the Adirondacks, where one can camp for free and enjoy activities such as fishing or hiking.
A large part of the Adirondack economy is directly tied to visitor usage of the Forest Preserve and the natural resources in the Park, such as lakes, ponds, rivers, forests and mountains. Hunters, fisherman, hikers, birders, paddlers, snowmobilers and skiers all come for the enjoyment of it. They spend money in local stores, hotels and gas stations. The better their experience is, the more likely they are to return.
While many people right now are focused on the dire news of the moment, they should be looking forward to fixing the inevitable problems of tomorrow.
What will be the solution next spring to opening the gates to areas like the Moose River Plains throughout the Park? Many of the solutions don’t require a Ph.D., but do require willpower, a strong back and a willingness to collaborate.
Over the coming weeks and months I will be writing about ways you can contribute to the maintenance of the Forest Preserve and improvement of natural resources through existing programs. I will also explore what potential problems may lie ahead of us and solutions that may be beneficial for the future.
Mike Lynch/News file photo
A Student Conservation Association worker carries some stones for a new fireplace in the St. Regis Canoe Area.