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For Release: Monday, November 29, 2021

DEC Announces First-Ever Adirondack and Catskill Parks 'Coordinators' to Promote Sustainable Use Planning and Implementation for Forest Preserves

New DEC Coordinators for Adirondack and Catskill Parks to Work with Forest Preserve Communities and Other Stakeholders to Help Protect Natural Resources and Public Safety

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the creation of new coordinator positions to help lead DEC's ongoing and collaborative efforts to promote sustainable use of public lands in the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves. Proposed by the High Peaks Strategic Advisory Group (HPAG) and aligned with Catskills Advisory Group (CAG) discussions to date, these new DEC staff positions will help coordinate efforts proposed and undertaken with the multiple communities and regions that comprise the Adirondack and Catskill Parks to better guide efforts to address the unique problems caused by the uptick in visitors to the two Forest Preserves. Both longtime staffers from DEC's Division of Lands and Forests, McCrea Burnham will serve as the Catskill Coordinator and Josh Clague will serve as the Adirondack Coordinator. In these new coordinator roles, the two will be instrumental in helping to implement the recommendations of each advisory group and advancing actions to address increased visitation in each region.

"As more New Yorkers discover the beauty of the Adirondacks and Catskills, DEC continues to build upon our ongoing efforts to protect these unique natural resources by working with our partners to address the increase in visitation we've seen over the last year and the last decade," Commissioner Seggos said. "As our new Forest Preserve coordinators, Josh Clague and McCrea Burnham bring decades of experience collaborating with local stakeholders to help address the environmental, economic, and public safety challenges affecting Forest Preserve communities. I am excited to see their work get underway."

Josh Clague, Adirondacks Coordinator, said, "Since joining DEC's Forest Preserve Management program 14 years ago, I've gained a deep appreciation for the Adirondack Park and all it has to offer those who live, work, and visit there. I'm honored to have this opportunity to serve the Adirondacks in this new capacity, and to work with our partners in finding balanced solutions to the challenges that lie ahead."

McCrea Burnham, Catskills Coordinator, said, "Having grown up in the Catskills, this is an exciting opportunity for me. The Catskills and the natural resources of New York helped to create the person I am today, and I look forward to working with our partners to shape the future of the Catskills together."

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of public lands to New Yorkers as visitors flocked in high numbers to State Parks and lands in search of respite outdoors. However, even before this latest rise in use, the last several years have seen significantly increased visitation to destinations in both the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, spurred in part by social media and an increased appreciation of the outdoors. DEC and local partners recognized the need to preserve the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves for future generations and to develop a framework to balance public use needs. DEC launched HPAG in 2019, and CAG in 2020. Each of the advisory groups is comprised of stakeholders with expertise in local government, recreation, natural resource protection, business, tourism, and other priority areas.

The coordinator position fulfills a recommendation included in the final HPAG report issued earlier this year and is aligned with CAG discussions, as this group works to finalize its own interim report of recommendations. The coordinators will help organize the implementation of management plans, develop consensus, oversee common resources, coordinate shared challenges that cross jurisdictional boundaries, and help incorporate diversity, equity, inclusivity, and justice into educational efforts and operational frameworks. In these roles, Burnham and Clague will enhance coordination among relevant state agencies, local governments, businesses, marketing, environmental, and other non-government organizations This will ensure focused attention on construction and maintenance of recreation infrastructure, providing safe situations for users while minimizing impacts to the environment, and fostering partnerships to help implement stewardship responsibilities.

The naming of the coordinators expands upon efforts already underway to ensure the protection of natural resources and public safety, particularly in the Route 23 corridor of the Catskills and the Route 73 corridor of the Adirondack High Peaks. Working with local governments, agency partners including the Department of Transportation, New York State Police, and other stakeholders, measures have included: variable electronic message boards and additional signage; the pilot parking reservation system at the Adirondack Mountain Reserve; updated regulations for the Peekamoose Blue Hole; bolstered social media outreach and education through the Love Our New York Lands campaign; the new Route 73 hiker shuttle; and increased law enforcement presence and parking enforcement, among other steps consistent with recommendations in HPAG's final report (PDF) on promoting sustainable recreation in the Adirondack Park.

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