Adirondack Wilderness Advocates Incorporates, Names Board

Adirondack Wilderness Advocates (AWA) today announced its incorporation as a non-profit 501(3)(c) charitable corporation dedicated to the purpose of advancing public knowledge, enjoyment, expansion, and protection of the Adirondack Park’s wildest places. AWA also named its initial Board of Directors. 

“I am very excited to be a part of AWA,” said Board Chair Bill Ingersoll. “We want to make a difference. Our goal is to ensure our wilderness areas are managed in a sound, ecologically intact way, and enlarged in a manner that protects the remotest places in the Adirondack Park while respecting other forms of recreational access. Within our fledgling organization we have a tremendous amount of boots-on-the-ground knowledge, and so for us as individuals, protecting Wilderness is not some abstract concept. In fact, Wilderness is key to who we are–and a major reason why we have all chosen to live and work in New York.” 

In addition to Ingersoll, AWA’s Board includes Vice Chair Ari Epstein, Secretary Pete Nelson, Treasurer Craig McGowan, Tyler Socash, Brendan Wiltse and Kayla White. 

In combination, AWA’s Board has well over a hundred-fifty years of engagement in the Adirondacks, from science and stewardship to back country exploration, guiding and advocacy. “Collectively we have a lot of experience,” said Wiltse. “But our Boreas Ponds campaign generated enthusiastic support for Wilderness from thousands across the state, many of them younger and quite idealistic about the importance of Wilderness in the modern world. One of our strengths is our connection to young people and newer ideas, and these will be the things that protect this Park well into the future.” 

It’s not just the youthful profile of its supporters that makes AWA distinctive. AWA intends to be a different kind of environmental advocacy group, dedicated to its grass-roots origins. “We plan to continue as a grass-roots organization both in spirit and strategy,” said Vice Chair Ari Epstein. “We want our supporters across New York State and beyond to take an active role crafting and carrying out our work.” To that end AWA has no plans to employ litigators or lobbyists in Albany. “We’re going to stay true to our ideals to preserve wilderness for the people of New York and future generations,” added Board member Kayla White. 

AWA was recently named to the new State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group. “We’re excited to take part in this important work and feel we bring a vital perspective in favor of visitor management, leading with science and data, and enhancing the High Peaks’ remoteness and solitude,” said Secretary Pete Nelson. 

A cornerstone of AWA’s approach is the idea that the decades-old tension between local communities and environmental advocates is unfortunate and unnecessary. “We have ongoing dialogues with local government officials on important Park matters on a regular basis,” said McGowan. “We may not agree on everything, but people who live and work here love the Adirondacks as much as anyone. We have common goals and we need to build a trusting relationship.” AWA has made a decision not to take any official positions on private land issues, another distinguishing characteristic that helps it sustain strong relationships with land owners for the benefit of Wilderness. 

Added Socash, “AWA advocates for protection of Wilderness, for the enhancement of remoteness and solitude, for an increase in road-less areas. That’s fundamentally compatible with what best for our local towns and the people who make a living here. Wilderness is our 

most valuable asset. We want people living in the Park, visiting and the Forest Preserve itself to thrive together.” 

Said Ingersoll, “Wilderness is one of the most characteristic features of the Adirondack Park. Whether you venture into the backcountry for a three-day trek, or if you’re simply enjoying the unspoiled landscape from a roadside vista, we can all agree that the park wouldn’t be the same without its vast wilderness interior. In wilderness lies the fun, the adventure, the mystery, the spiritual renewal, the challenge, the peace, the connection with nature that we crave, and return to seek again and again. This should not be a wedge issue, but a quality-of-life issue for all residents of New York State. We are well aware that we have inherited these places from prior generations, and we salute the individuals who worked hard to ensure wilderness would endure into the twenty-first century. Now it is our turn as modern stewards to carry on this tradition, playing our part so that future generations may enjoy an Adirondack Park that is just as wild as it is today–if not more so.” 

Adirondack Wilderness Advocates was formed in 2016 in response to the debate concerning the future of the Boreas Ponds Tract. The organization seeks to “promote the knowledge, enjoyment, expansion, and protection of the Adirondack Park’s wildest places.” More information about AWA can be found on the organization’s website, https://adirondackwilderness.org/ 

For media inquiries or interviews, contact Pete Nelson, Secretary, at tearofclouds@gmail.com 

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