Wildlife Conservation Society has decided to close its Adirondack program after more than two decades.
“I think the best way I can describe it is we are all kind of sad,” said Zoe Smith, WCS’s Director of Programs for the Adirondacks. “What we built for so many years is changing. There is some optimism the work will be continuing.”
Smith, Director of Science Michale Glennon, and Office manager Carrianne Pershy will lose their jobs as of Sept. 30, Smith said. Livelihoods and Conservation Coordinator Heidi Kretser will continue working on national and international projects.
Established in 1994, the Adirondack program is based in Saranac Lake. Wildlife Conservation Society is an international program.
In a statement, Wildlife Conservation Society said that it was a “difficult decision,” to close its Saranac Lake office.
“It has been a privilege to work with local communities and partners in the Adirondack Park to achieve a balance between environmental quality and community well-being,” according to the WCS statement. “Over two decades, our dedicated staff have conducted applied science and engaged directly with community leaders to resolve important regional issues. Our approach was one built on community-based conservation and finding solutions that benefit people and wildlife. After a strategic review of our North America Program, we are closing our Adirondack Program to focus our limited resources in other regions where there is need for our global conservation efforts.
“This has not been an easy decision. Our conservation staff, led by Zoë Smith, has set a record of scientific achievements that is highly regarded across North America. Zoë and her team have been instrumental in providing leadership in framing problems and devising solutions that benefit the people and wildlife that share the region. It is clear that our Adirondack staff has been successful building strong support for conservation in the region.”
The Adirondack program work has included studies on boreal birds and moose. It has a summer program in the High Peaks to raise awareness among hikers and campers about how to recreate in bear habitat. Smith has also been a leader in the Common Ground Alliance.
Smith said the staff is currently evaluating how it will proceed in the future and is exploring avenues to continue its work. “It’s still too early to know how this is going to shake out,” she said.
Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan said the closure would be “a huge loss for the park and for the state.”
“WCS has done some of the most important research in the past 20 years on the impact of development on the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park,” he said. “Their work on low-density development and its impact on wilderness birds is crucial to a better public policy to protect water, forests and wildlife in the park’s most remote and sensitive private lands. We are hoping it will be incorporated into a new standard for residential development in areas classified and rural use and resource management.
“In addition, WCS provided crucial information to the Adirondack Park Agency about possible impact in places where development permits were being considered.”
Update: A statement from the Wildlife Conservation Society was added at about 7:20 p.m. on Tuesday, May 29.