Goren heads new long-term Adirondack Vision Plan

Julia Goren is heading up the Adirondack Council’s new Adirondack Vision Plan for 2050. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

RAY BROOK — Julia Goren may only be in her third week on the job at the Adirondack Council, but the Adirondack Mountain Club veteran is well versed in Blue Line issues. And it’s that experience that led to her taking over the Council’s long-term vision plan.

The Adirondack Council — a green group based in Elizabethtown — is nearing the end of its 30-year-old Vision 2020 plan, and has brought Goren on to oversee a multi-year Vision Plan for 2050. Goren says that she’s still settling in, but that the Adirondacks are facing different problems than the park faced in 1990.

“The Vision project is a reboot of the Vision 2020 project, which is something the Council undertook in the ’80s to envision what a successful Adirondack Park would look like in 2020,” she said. “And now, of course, 2020 is coming up. So it’s time to start again; it’s time to do that long-range visioning for what a successful Adirondack Park will look like in 2050.”

The Council said in a press release in September that “The Council’s 2020 VISION Plan is an illustrated, four-volume series of studies on how to preserve the park’s rich biological diversity; protect and expand its motor-free wilderness areas; realize the recreational potential of non-wilderness public forests; and better manage its commercial timberlands and other private properties.”

Goren said her first few weeks have been occupied by meetings and envisioning what sort of issues the park will face over the next 30 years.

Goren was previously employed by the Adirondack Mountain Club for almost a decade and a half, and rose through the ranks to head ADK’s Summit Steward program and then director of the club’s education programs.

“I’ve been here in the Adirondack Park working for 14 years, and so much of my work with the summit stewards and the Adirondack Mountain Club was really dealing with the day-to-day,” she said. “That was really important and really satisfying, but it’s also really exciting to look ahead and think about the big picture and think about not just ‘What are the realities on the ground right now?’ but ‘What could it be?’ and think outside the box.”

The 2020 Vision plan was four printed volumes, but the Council said this time around it would use digital technology to make the plan easier to understand and share. Goren said that although both the 2020 and 2050 plans look forward, they are each set in the period in which they are created.

“The 2020 plan was very much a product of its time,” she said. “The plan of the ’80s was very much a reflection of what the concerns were at that time. One of the things that is really exciting about that plan, if you dive into it, is that it proposed lands to be protected. When you look back, you say ‘Oh wow, two-thirds of that land that was recommended for protection has been preserved.’ And that’s really cool.

“When you look at the challenges of the Adirondack Park as we look forward, they’re really different challenges. Things like invasive species and climate change, those are things that are not going to be prevented by buying up a parcel of land and having it go to the state. And so it requires kind of fundamentally rethinking the kinds of solutions that can be offered.”

Goren said one of the first things she’s done is try and figure out exactly what the challenges the Adirondack Park is facing. She said she’s trying to strike a balance between keeping things manageable while not getting bogged down in minutiae.

“There are lots and lots of different challenges, but I don’t want to go too huge and not be able to complete something in a timely manner, and I don’t want to be too small because it’s a project that should be aspirational, it should be useful,” she said. “On the macro scale, I think that the Adirondack Council has been really good at recommending policies and pushing those through; things like acid rain. But I think with some of those bigger challenges, we want to look at what are the things that make the Adirondack Park unique; we want to promote the ecological integrity and character.

“There are lots of different ways to look at climate change in the Adirondack Park. One of the ways we can talk about it is carbon sequestration; this is a tremendous place for carbon sequestration. So we want to look at what are the ways we can help support things like sequestration while supporting working forests.”

Goren said she also wants to work in concert with other groups who are working on long-term planning within the Blue Line.

“There are a couple other projects that are doing similar kinds of work, like the Adirondack Futures project and the Common Ground Alliance, and those have been consensus-based processes and those have been tremendously successful and I certainly don’t want to try and replicate the kind of work they’ve done,” she said. “So the idea with this project is to be science driven and science based and to look to some of the successes of those projects, but not to replicate them.”