Don’t downplay ACR’s threat to wildlife

Early in Brian Mann’s article on the Adirondack Club and Resort [“Forest impacts debated,” November/December 2011] he appears to give equal weight to the views of Adirondack ecologist Dr. Michale Glennon and Oregon State University Dean Hal Salwasser. While Salwasser is no doubt a distinguished forest ecologist, he has hardly devoted a good part of his professional life to detailed studies of Adirondack ecology.  Nor did he subject his research to the scrutiny of the ACR adjudicatory hearing. Dr. Glennon has done both.

Dr. Glennon’s research has found that bird species which are specialists within the undeveloped backcountry of the Adirondacks suffer significant declines when those habitats are first broken up by housing subdivisions. Each new house, driveway, lawn, and associated uses in this formerly unbroken landscape has an impact zone for noise, light, pets, and more subtle disturbances that may spread out many acres from the building’s footprint. If the impact zone of the adjoining lot does not overlap with the first lot, then the impacts spread so much farther.

That is one big problem with the ACR design, as Glennon testified. Its non-overlapping design spreads out impacts hundreds if not thousands of acres beyond the individual houses, lawns, and driveways. Adirondack birds and mammals that are sensitive to such impacts will decline, while “generalist” species like crows and bluejays will increase. “The primary conclusions which can be drawn from the relevance of these studies to the ACR are that biotic integrity is very likely to decline on the project site,” she testified.

Lacking specific research projects and history in the Adirondacks, and lacking knowledge of Adirondack Park laws and regulations protecting sensitive Adirondack wildlife, Professor Salwasser’s views should not be accorded equal weight with those of Dr. Glennon.

David Gibson, Ballston Lake
Gibson is a partner in Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve

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