Category Archives: Implementation Planning

5 Year Review Presentation

Yesterday, July 13, 2017, we presented a 5 year review of the progress to date regarding the 25 year vision for the Park at the APA monthly meeting.  The original vision was presented to the APA at their July meeting in 2012.

The review shows progress on most fronts.  Take a look at the presentation here:  July 2017 APA meeting final

The punch line is very positive.  Also the strength of the alignment behind the original vision shows in the enormous scope and depth of the efforts made.  Five years ago one of the questions was how to make progress without anyone in charge?  Well we have lots of leaders, and each takes on what they wish to in their area of interest with few others telling them how to proceed.  The evidence suggests this approach works astonishingly well.  Alignment of all these people helps them see they are not alone, and brings NYS support when and where it is needed.

We do NOT mean to suggest there is no conflict here.   There is conflict, but it is often on single point issues that serve as a focal point for energy and fund raising.  The classification of Boreas Ponds is an example where focused conflict is real, but the future of the region doesn’t depend upon the outcome.  Much of the conflict is between advocacy groups with different points of view and different donors exerting pressure via shifting funding. In the last five years new advocacy groups have popped up.  One is a splinter from the ADK Council and ADK Mountain Club that takes on advocating for a wilderness classification for Boreas Ponds. Another is a spin-off from the ADK Nature Conservancy, a revival of the ADK Land Trust. This pattern, where a few people and a donor split from one group over some issue, and form a new group, is a common feature of conservation advocacy across the nation – we have our own version of this behavior pattern but it is not unique.

The big picture is a very positive widely diverse set of efforts that add up to great progress and reason to be optimistic.  You can check on how we track progress by looking here:


Project Update – Are We Getting the Desired Future Or?

You know this pattern:  Lots of people spend tons of time and money developing a plan.  It finishes with a fanfare, then as times passed it is spoken about less frequently.  Eventually people forget about the plan.  Then work begins on a new plan, because, well, we don’t have one. So, with this post we are trying to add something different to the ADK Futures Project, a review of how we are doing vs the 2011-12 vision – remember the vision?

In 2011-12, the ADK Futures Project ran a series of scenario planning workshops.  The desired future was called the Sustainable Life, mixed with tourism and supported by the Forest Preserve.  This also turned out to be most attainable among the scenarios, largely because much of it was already underway.  The broad alignment supporting the vision was what surprised people.  Now it is February 2016.  What has happened since July 2012?  How does it compare to the desired vision?

We have been collecting data, news items, press releases, reports and such since July 2013 and now have roughly 1000 items. We associate each item to its related event(s).  Over time one begins to see trends suggesting what is getting done, and what is not. Some events have lots of news, on other events nothing has happened, and some are clearly never going to happen.

The short conclusion is, wow, we sure are making a lot of progress on a broad range of fronts. Historic expansions of the Forest Preserve have been made.  Realignment of the health care system has been done.  Building out broadband and cell service is ongoing, making progress each day.  The renewal of Champlain Valley farming is gaining momentum.  The State and private sector have invested a lot of new money in recreation and tourism facilities.  And on and on.  It is very impressive, especially given the fact that no one is organizing, coordinating, or leading all this work.   It is happening, it seems, with the willing collaboration and distributed effort of many people to get where they collectively want to go.  Maybe this is democracy in action in the most positive sense of the word.   It is actually quite incredible.

There is too much information for a post.  We have written an update that organizes recent developments by theme.  For example, Agriculture, Recreation, Energy, Transportation, Arts and Heritage, Healthcare, and more, are each separate topics, where news related to the events used in the 2011-12 workshops has been aggregated and written as a short narrative.

The update is based on data collected, organized and posted here.  You can check on the data, follow the links and find out more about the progress we have made. We try to keep ‘evidence’ to things that actually happen; not ongoing debates but how the debates conclude.  We try to keep it complete.  A grant is made.  A project is started, finished or abandoned.  The APA makes a decision.  Voters pass something.  You get the idea.  Even with this approach, we already have about 1000 items of evidence.   Let us know via email of missing data, including a link to the evidence we should cite.  Thanks!

Click here for the PDF file of the update document.



743 Items of Evidence, and Counting

If you have not seen it, please note we have been monitoring what our region is actually doing vs the ADK Futures scenarios.  You can see what progress is being made here where more than 734 items of evidence show substantial progress toward realizing the vision laid out for our sustainable future.  More evidence is added all the time.

Recall that we were surprised by the strength and depth of the aligned intentions of most people in the region?  Well, if you were surprised by that, the progress since then is actually astonishing, and I encourage you to take a look at the breadth and depth of actions already taken.  Encouragingly, no single person is organizing and driving all this activity.  The progress is made by by hundreds of people in a distributed fashion.  It is clear that the region is making real progress toward what it identified as its desirable and attainable goals.

It is a good news reading, you’ll enjoy it. Look here and click on the header called ‘category’. Then you can look through each category and see what’s been going on.

How are SLMP Issues are Addressed in Other Places?

I submitted this comment with respect to the SLMP review and wanted to post it here.

My top level comment on the SLMP review is that it should set balance as it’s prime directive, balancing human use and ecological integrity in the context of climate change.  I use the term ecological integrity because as climate change impacts the region, we need a mindset that goes beyond protection and preservation.

The forest in 50 years is not likely to be the same as today regardless of efforts we may make.  Preserving the forest as is will be beyond our control.  Climate change is a global phenomena , and you would have to assume successful global response regimes to believe ‘preservation’ is even possible.  Protection will have a different meaning.  So those words will not serve us well in the coming decades.  Thinking we can expect the forest to be stable is not remotely realistic.

I recognize this is not the same as protection and preservation, language in place now.   In the 1970s, no one used a term like ‘ecological integrity’.   At times, it will mean less recreation.  At times it will mean better science and active interventions for the health of the Forest Preserve.  It may mean we work to become hosts to greater number of species at migrations develop.

Seek to Learn from Experience Elsewhere

We Adirondackers love to think of ourselves as a model, and deservedly so.  But there is nothing like getting out of the area to see fresh, unencumbered, views of how to manage large scale tracts of public land.  The SLMP review would benefit enormously from a modest effort to see how other protected places handle similar tasks.  It could be done at a College in the region, by APA staff, one of the NGOs or a volunteer.  But, short of that, I can tease you with some observations.

Our travels have taken us to a few other places where there are  similar issues with respect to managing large areas of public land.  But I was there on vacation, not to study their land classification systems.  Still, I enquired when I could so here are a fee ideas to share.

Costa Rica

In the 1970s Costa Rica set up a system of reserves that now cover about 25% of nation.  Since then they built an entire eco-tourism industry, complete with hotels, community colleges and university level workforce training, all sorts of guide services, appropriate excursions and attractions.

Relative to the Adirondacks, the most striking feature of their public land management is a “no hunting” policy.  It is not allowed.  Even in the case of animals that are causing problems in communities (typically crocodiles) they capture them and move them to a different, safe, location.

Guided walks are common and popular.  They typically use trails that are very well maintained and heavily used, but they only cover a small fraction of a tract of land, the vast majority of which is left undisturbed.  In one area, a white water river, tour operators have camps where guests can stay for one night for a break from the river.  Private lands have been set up similarly, as reserves with a small portion developed with trails and guides.

So, my observation is that tourism is a big industry, but usage is concentrated in small portions of protected areas and visitors are often in the company of a paid guide.  The guides are highly trained and it is a respected career that young people seek out.


We visited a Park in southern Chile called Torres del Paine.  It is a spectacular, vast and very remote place, several hours drive from anywhere.  There are a handful of in-holdings that were originally ranches but are now a few hotels across a range of price points.

The landscape is very different from the Adirondacks.  Rolling hills surrounding enormous granite towers, an ice cap, glaciers and so on.  One wilderness is 600,000 acres, located right next to another one of similar size.  Much of it is classified “wilderness’ and what that means is it’s off-limits.  No one can go there, just like we keep people out of public drinking watersheds here.  They do issue occasional permits for science expeditions and the like.

Within the wilderness areas, they establish what they call ‘human use corridors’.  In these areas there are trails and a handful of locations where you can camp.  Most camping is in a controlled area where tents are set up for the season by the Park or a concession operator.  You reserve tent space in advance, the number of spaces is limited.  You do not need to bring a tent.  Options for people with their own tents exist but are limited.  The general rule is that people cannot wander off-trail, so, no bushwacking in our local terms.  Guides are very common, and often included in hotel packages.  They post a list of trips you can join each morning from each hotel.  You can go on your own, but most people don’t.

They make a big point about back country rescues:  there is no rescue outside the human use corridors.  There is no hospital to take people to anywhere nearby.  The point is be careful, don’t do anything stupid, because there is no real rescue help to save you.  There is no cell service, of course.

These rules sound severe and they are.  Mostly they are the result of bad forest fires, attributed to campers burning toilet paper.  There are small signs around saying ‘please don’t burn your toilet paper’.  It gives a whole new meaning to leave no trace and carry it out.


We recently returned from a trip to Italy that included visiting a Park in that stretches from the Appinine Mountains to the sea in an area called Cinque Terre.  The administrators of this park visited the Adirondacks last year; they have an exchange program with Paul Smith’s College.  So we visited their Park and got to see their situation.

The two regions of their Park are vastly different.  Cinque Terre is small, by the sea, and crowding of their postcard-perfect towns is their problem.  But the mountains, only 60-90 minutes away, area largely vacant with numerous mostly abandoned old villages in the hills.  We stayed in one, called Apella.   We were chatting about our town (Keene) and they asked how many people live here.  We said about 1200.  Their population is 9.  Clearly they have a different depopulation problem.  So, what they are doing, is remodeling the old houses in each village, one-by-one, slowly making each little village into a modest  hotel (think B&B scale).  It is run by a brother and sister, with their father helping out.  And it is working.  We arrived and there was a big Italian wedding in progress.   They have great environmental protection, but the place is dying economically.  So when they use the word ‘sustainable’, they are talking about survival of these tiny towns.  Agri-tourism is their response and it appears to be working, slowly.

They do have a simple land classification scheme.  Zone A.  Zone B. and Zone C.  Zone A are especially sensitive areas.  People are not allowed to visit there; if it is a water area, boats are not allowed.  Zone B areas surround Zone A and are intended to be buffer zones.  People can visit these areas, but only with guides that know the rules.  Zone C areas are generally accessible with the typical set of rules for a protected landscape.  The beauty of this for us, as visitors, is that is it easy to understand, which is important in an area with international visitors.


I wish these were more than anecdotes.  When our SLMP was written, there were no models to examine.  Ecology was a new science.  For the most part, it has been great.  But in the decades that have passed since, protected areas have been set up all over the world with various classification and management schemes.  Ecological science has developed dramatically.

I am assuming this SLMP review will have 2 phases.

First, there are two issues that arise from the Finch land acquisition that need to be sorted out.  I imagine this can be done fairly quickly and should not be hugely complicated. I think bikes are fine in appropriate areas, like old logging roads all over the Park.  I have no issue with a metal bridge, but a wood one, if costs were equal, would look nicer.  It is not a big deal.

But the second phase should be a broad, open, review of our land classification scheme.  What models have been used in other parts of the world?  Can we learn anything useful from their efforts?

We like to think there is no where else like our place.  But other numerous protected places have established world wide since the 1970s, each with management and classification schemes.  Surely a review of how other places have handled similar tasks would bring some perspective and learning to our SLMP review that simply was impossible decades ago.  We should be open minded and embrace the learning opportunity.  For small effort, we can leverage the work in the rest of the world.


How Can You Know the Desired Future is Developing, or Not?

We are pleased to announce the release of our second website for the ADK Futures Project to support implementation efforts.  The first phase ended with the vision statement, but any sort of plan requires a way to know if you are making progress, or not.

This new site will be the public feedback loop allowing everyone to see if we are getting the sustainable future you said you wanted, or some other outcome. It will help regional leaders see where a lot of progress is happening and where things need a boost.

Of course, there is no manager of the whole Park, nor a management team, so implementation of the ADK Futures vision isn’t like any other project we’ve ever run.  It is not a corporate or political project.   You all are the team. This site will let you know how you are doing.

Each of the future events from the workshops now has evidence associated with it.  In almost all cases evidence items include links to the data sources, news stories, press releases or something more than just an assertion by us.  We also add comments, which are just observations, not evidence.

You do not have to create an account and login to see this information but there are benefits to doing so.  You can add evidence you know about including links to it and your estimate of the likelihood of each event.  You can add comments with your observations.  The site will keep track of what evidence you have read and what is new, so you don’t get confused.  There are hundreds of items of evidence already so knowing what you’ve read will be handy.  The data you add will be included in the various statistics going forward so please be serious about it and don’t add junk data.

The vision statement that was the result of all the workshops was sweeping in scope, but it wasn’t just a dream.  At the time we said that lots of work was already underway.  This site will keep you informed about what has actually been happening; more than 400+ evidence items are already in the new site.  Take a look, log in, and bookmark the site so it is easy for you to revisit and get up to date.

The address for the new site is:

The earlier blog site will remain here.  It has all the records of the entire original body of work.  The implementation section has been rewritten to link to this new site’s database.

We will only be posting here when we feel like something important can best be addressed in this blog format – likely to happen from time to time.  But most of our energy will go into keeping the evidence data on the new site as current as possible.

We hope you find this evidence tracking useful.  Go check it out.

Jim and Dave

Progress on Broadband

The further development of broadband within the Park received a boost with the announcement of two more grants to extend existing networks of DANC/ION ($3.17m) and Nicholville Telephone, aka SLIC Networks ($2.65m).

Meanwhile, there has been good discussion of the benefits to come from wider deployment of broadband within the region in two posts by Pete Nelson at Adirondack Almanac:

In reading these you can learn a lot about how telework is already widely practiced in the region. There is a great website referenced, Adirondack Teleworks, which lists all kinds of telework employment opportunities.  You must register on the site to access the job listings.

Pete has a done a great job of summarizing the benefits of broadband and the vision for it as a basis for significant employment for the region.  The comments to his posts are often from people who are employed remotely.

A New Blog on the Future of the Adirondack Park

We have been engaged in a scenario planning project about the future of the Adirondack Park in upstate New York under the auspices of the Common Ground Alliance (CGA).  The work has proceeded to the point where there is a vision and strategy for the region and now we are beginning to work through various implementation efforts.  With so much going on we are going to use this blog as a way to keep everyone informed and up to date.  We’ll be posting regularly on efforts we know of or discussions we are having with people throughout the Park.

Since the 2012 CGA Forum, we have prepared a document which summarizes the vision and strategy implied by the results of the workshop series.  We have also been starting to track and coordination the various implementation efforts underway.  The blog will report regularly and we will maintain the Implementation Status section of this site as well.