By Gwendolyn Craig
Chad Dawson, the Adirondack Park Agency board member who resigned late last year out of frustration with the agency and state Department of Environmental Conservation, has taken a new post in the Adirondacks.
Dawson, a leading expert on natural resource management, was elected on Feb. 23 to the Board of Directors for Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve. The professor emeritus of recreation resources management at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, will focus on planning management in forest preserve, including the Adirondack and Catskill parks, according to a news release.
“The Forest Preserve has been of interest to me for most of my career in teaching and research, later in policy making with the Adirondack Park Agency’s board, and now in advocacy for management of the resources and visitor experiences,” Dawson said in a news release.
Dawson’s new role comes shortly after his 4 ½ years of service on the APA board, where he was an out-of-park member from Onondaga County. He was often the lone dissenting voice on project proposals, advocating for more board review and debate before approving projects.
At a contentious December board meeting that included the eventual approval of creating a day-use area in the Debar Wild Forest and the rescinding of a campfire ban in primitive sites on the Essex Chain Lakes, Dawson announced his resignation. His frustration with what he believed to be a lack of data and discussion had built up, he said.
Dawson was vocal about both projects and how he did not believe DEC and APA had enough research to justify them.
“I understand people want things and the department may want things, but I don’t think that’s a compelling argument,” Dawson had said at the end of the meeting. “It’s not an adequate justification for an agency and department whose first job is to protect the resources for present and future generations.”
Following the meeting, both DEC and APA released statements thanking Dawson for his service, but defending their processes. Erica Ringewald, spokeswoman for DEC, had called Dawson’s comments “disappointing and contrary to the facts.”
“DEC subjects every proposal and plan to a painstaking review and conducts extensive public outreach to solicit input and comments from the community in order to continue our work of protecting the Adirondack Park,” Ringewald had said.
In a Q&A with Adirondack Explorer, Dawson said he was asked to be on the APA board for his background in recreation management and planning, “and yet I don’t think people were taking my questionings seriously about how do you balance the alternatives.” Dawson has studied these issues extensively, including co-authoring two textbooks about wilderness management and renewable resources. He is also the former managing editor of the International Journal of Wilderness.
“Rolling it back becomes extremely problematic,” he added, about development. He cited how the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks is seeing a significant increase in visitors. “My point is we should be foreseeing these things and making sure development doesn’t get to the point where we have difficulty backing it up. Once the impacts happen and the use is there, people generally don’t want to stop.”
David Gibson, managing partner of Adirondack Wild, said Dawson is a perfect fit for his organization’s board. The nonprofit, which has 900 active supporters, recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.
“His deep understanding of wilderness management and of those seeking to recreate there will help to guide our wild land advocacy and inform not just Adirondack Wild but the entire community of Forest Preserve advocates,” Gibson said, in a news release.