LAKE PLACID - Black bear conflicts, the Adirondacks' declining population and alternative forms of energy were a few of dozens of topics discussed Wednesday and Thursday at the 18th annual Conference on the Adirondacks.
The conference, hosted by the Adirondack Research Consortium and held at the High Peaks Resort, included high-profile speakers such as climate-change activist Bill McKibben, former National Grid CEO Robert Catell and state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens.
"There's a lot of problem solvers in this room," Martens told the audience at lunch Wednesday. "And the ARC is a big problem solver because they provide information, they do good science and they get groups together like this every year."
State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens, second from right, greets other people at the Adirondack Research Consortium’s 18th annual Conference on the Adirondacks Thursday at the High Peaks Resort in Lake Placid. At left is Curt Stiles, chairman of the state Adirondack Park Agency.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)
ARC has been in existence since 1994, when a small group of academic researchers and leaders of Adirondack-focused nonprofit organizations decided there was the need for research-based knowledge to inform and guide policies, planning and management of the Adirondack Park's public and private lands.
"The idea was you can have differences of opinion but at least have solid information to base your arguments," ARC Executive Director Dan Fitts said. "Our whole mission is to bring together research and information on a whole array of topics and make that information available to people."
The two-day event kicked off Wednesday with a speech from McKibben, who talked in depth about natural disasters occurring around the globe due to climate change. He told the audience about his next project that will take place on Sept. 24.
"We're having a big global day of action again," McKibben said. "But this one was built around motion, transportation, mobility. We're calling it 'Moving Planet.'"
McKibben said it will have a lot to do with bicycles.
"They are one of the changes we need, and they are a great symbol because they are one of the very few tools that both rich people and poor people on this planet use," he said.
He noted that Lake Placid and the Adirondacks are a great place for Moving Planet because of the popularity of bicycling here, due to events such as the Ironman and the presence of bike shops in general.
After McKibben's speech, there was a panel discussion about the future of energy, moderated by Catell. Afterward, participants broke into seminars to hear presentations on subjects such as bioenergy, moose habitat and wilderness perceptions. The first day was capped off with a presentation led by Hamilton County supervisor Bill Farber, who talked about the next steps for the Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Project. Farber is pulling together leaders from throughout the Park to create Adirondack Partnership, an organization devoted to meeting the needs of Park residents.
One of the highlights of the two-day event took place Thursday when Wildlife Conservation Society writer and biologist Jerry Jenkins received the 2011 Adirondack Achievement Award. Jenkins is author of several well known books, including the "Adirondack Atlas" and "Climate Change in the Adirondacks."
Jenkin's award was presented by Dan Spada, a natural resources supervisor with the state Adirondack Park Agency and president of ARC's board of directors.
"Over the years I've been in the field many times with Jerry, and the breadth and depths of his knowledge about botany is astounding," Spada said. "We hear the term 'Jack of all trades and master of none.' Jerry is a 'Jack of all trades and master of all,' that I know about. He does incredible field work. He's the Jack."
Overall, conference attendance appeared to be high this year, with about 180 people - more than double what it was four years ago.
"We've made a conscious event to reach more people and grow our programs," Fitts said. "The way we've done that is expand our program opportunities. Right now, for example, there's five different programs going on right here. I think that's lent to growing our participation at the conference. The other thing is, this year, Bill McKibben coming, participating; Joe Martens coming and participating; Bob Catell, the former CEO of National Grid participating. Some pretty influential people are here."