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Davis returns to Adirondack Council as rewilding advocate

John Davis stands in a never-harvested old-growth forest at Lewey Lake, at the edge of the Adirondack Park's West Canada Lake Wilderness Area. (Photo provided by the Adirondack Council)

ELIZABETHTOWN — The Adirondack Council has hired John Davis, a renowned national wildlife advocate with Adirondack conservation experience, to advocate for wild land restoration and reconnected wildlife pathways that have been disturbed by roads, buildings and other obstacles, to benefit nature and communities.

“We are very pleased to welcome John Davis back after a decade away from our offices,” Executive Director William C. Janeway said in a press release. “We and others have kept tabs on John’s work as he helped to introduce the idea of ‘rewilding’ to the national lexicon. He has been all over North America talking about it, and we are excited to add him to our talented and growing conservation team.”

Davis served as conservation director of the Council from 2005 until 2011. He rejoins the staff as rewilding advocate.

“New York’s great Adirondack Park can one day see all its native wildlife return to healthy numbers, with habitat connections — both within and beyond the Park — that remain intact,” he said. “It won’t happen overnight, and it won’t happen on its own. Wildness needs nurturing. And wildness is good for wildlife and people.”

Davis will retain his complementary position as executive director of the Rewilding Institute, which serves the conservation community by promoting strategies to restore wildlife and wilderness throughout North America and the world. Together, the Adirondack Council and Rewilding Institute plan to apply on the ground the rewilding principles increasingly recognized as essential to averting extinction of local natives and climate crises.

“The Rewilding Institute welcomes this great opportunity to work with one of the most powerful conservation groups in the country to ground the rewilding principles we’ve been promoting for many years,” said Rewilding Institute President Susan Morgan.

Davis departed the Council in 2011 to pursue national advocacy opportunities. He began a series of wildway explorations that, together with his ongoing land stewardship in Adirondack Park — including with Adirondack Land Trust, Eddy Foundation and Northeast Wilderness Trust — has helped inform his conservation perspectives.

His 7,600-mile hiking-biking-paddling traverse of the proposed Eastern Wildway in 2011 is described in his book “Big, Wild, and Connected: Scouting an Eastern Wildway from Florida to Quebec.” His 5,000-mile traverse of the proposed Western Wildway from Sonora, Mexico, to British Columbia, Canada, is the subject of the film “Born to Rewild.”

Davis was a co-founder of the Wildlands Project (now Wildlands Network) and Wild Farm Alliance, and has served on boards of directors of wilderness groups across the nation. He co-edited Dave Foreman’s landmark book “Rewilding North America.”

“Our park is the wildest landscape in the East, but it’s not yet wild enough,” Davis said. “It is our country’s most miraculous rewilding story, but it is far from finished. Rewilding is helping nature to heal.

“New Yorkers have done that amazingly well in Adirondack Park over the last century, but some of our keystone species like the puma and wolf are still missing, some are imperiled like eastern hemlock and American beech, and many of our habitats — especially streams, lakes, and valley forests — need more protection.”

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