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DEC leads way on managing High Peaks

To the editor:

I was pleased to read the Adirondack Daily Enterprise’s support for the Department of Environmental Conservation’s new High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group as it begins its work to promote sustainable use of Adirondack resources.

Rather than too little too late, the Advisory Group is just the most recent of DEC’s longstanding and targeted efforts to manage the growing number of visitors to the High Peaks. DEC remains at the forefront of efforts to support sustainable tourism in the High Peaks and at all of New York’s ecologically sensitive and economically important regions throughout the state, including the Catskill Forest Preserve to the south and Zoar Valley to the west. Last week’s Advisory Group announcement is the latest step in our multi-year planning process and active outreach to the broad spectrum of stakeholders working on this issue, because we all want to see the Adirondack region thrive and remain a natural and international treasure.

DEC works with state agencies, local governments, hiking groups, businesses and others to take an active role in assessing and lessening overuse impacts. Over the last few years, DEC has held numerous planning meetings with stakeholders to discuss future management options that will be among those evaluated by the new Advisory Group and DEC.

DEC also helped take immediate actions this summer and fall, such as increasing enforcement and working with local governments to coordinate shuttles to ease transportation issues; reducing speeds in certain High Peaks corridors to protect the safety of trail visitors and motorists; creating sustainable hiking routes to the highly popular Cascade Mountain, among other trail improvements; and strengthening partnerships with stewardship organizations to place more people at trailheads to help ensure hikers are prepared and educated about sustainability principles.

These and other steps are in addition to DEC’s ongoing commitment to historically high forest ranger staffing. It is an indisputable fact that when the current Basic Training Academy concludes next month, the forest ranger force will be the largest in state history. Reinforced with the significant assistance and coordination DEC receives from other state and local law enforcement, search and rescue, and other backcountry partners, visitors to the Adirondacks have never been in better hands.

As the Advisory Group gets underway, we remind those who want to work with us to help address the challenges of overuse in a meaningful and productive way that there will be abundant opportunities for public involvement. In addition, there are steps that High Peaks visitors can take right now — following Leave No Trace principles or taking one of the lesser-used but equally stunning hikes just outside of the main High Peaks region, among others.

I celebrate the success of New York state’s efforts to date to connect more people with the majestic natural resources we share and recognize we must do so in a manner that is protective of the environment. I look forward to reviewing the framework the Advisory Group develops to ensure we continue to protect these resources for future generations.

Basil Seggos, commissioner

New York State DEC

Albany

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