Our People

Adirondack Wilderness Advocates is 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the knowledge, enjoyment, expansion, and protection of the wildest places in the Adirondack Park.

We were founded in 2016 by a trio of outdoor enthusiasts, all of whom were concerned by the current state of Wilderness management and advocacy. Beginning with an award-winning campaign to promote an all-Wilderness classification for the Boreas Ponds Tract, we accumulated numerous supporters and decided to incorporate in 2019.

Board of Directors

pete nelson

Pete Nelson

Chair, Co-Founder

Pete is a teacher, writer, essayist and activist whose work has appeared in a variety of Adirondack publications, and regularly in the Adirondack Almanack.

bill ingersoll

Bill Ingersoll

Vice-Chair, Co-Founder

Bill is a writer and publisher of the Discover the Adirondacks series of guidebooks.

Ari Epstein


Ari is a data management specialist with a passion for wilderness preservation cultivated by a lifetime of tramping and paddling around the Adirondack Park. He lives in Schenectady, NY.

Craig McGowan

Craig McGowan


Craig grew up 15 minutes north of the Blue Line and is a lifetime visitor to the Adirondack Park. His favorite outdoor activities include cross-country skiing, hiking, and canoeing.

Scott van Laer

Board Member

Scott served as New York State Forest Ranger for 25 years, much of that time in the Adirondack High Peaks, before retiring from the force in 2021. Today he is the director of Paul Smiths College’s Visitor Interpretive Center.

Kayla White

Board Member

Kayla enjoys hiking wild places, yoga, swimming, fermenting things, and maple sugaring. She is currently the Summit Steward Coordinator for the Adirondack Mountain Club.

Technical Advisor

Chad Dawson

Technical Advisor

SUNY ESF Professor Emeritus and former APA Board Member Chad Dawson joined AWA in 2021 as a Technical Advisor. Dawson recently joined the Board of Directors of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, an organization closely aligned with AWA’s mission and goals. This connection has provided the two groups an opportunity to form an alliance to identify and advance pilot projects to help build a world-class adaptive management model for the Adirondack Park with Dawson, who is one of the world’s foremost experts on wilderness management, at the center.


Samantha Brooks


Samantha Brooks is a SUNY- Environmental Science and Forestry graduate who has worked as a summit steward, and an assistant state park ranger. Exploring the Adirondacks wilderness is her passion.

Shelly Cihan


Shelly has been a resident of the Adirondack Park for over 25 years. With a degree in Natural Resources: Environmental Science, she currently sits on the board of the National Audubon Society, Northern New York Audubon, and the Audubon Council of NYS. She is the founder of Rooted Rock Marketing, a full-service marketing agency in Saranac Lake, NY which helps businesses of all sizes across the Adirondacks and the North East.

Jesse Crammer

Jesse Cramer


Jesse grew up in rural Red Creek, NY, and is a lifelong visitor of the exquisite Adirondack outdoors. He enjoys hiking, canoeing, and wildlife viewing.

He currently lives in Rochester, NY.

Janelle Hoh


As a year-round resident, Janelle is passionate about the Adirondack Park. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in conservation biology and works with an organization that promotes protection and stewardship of aquatic resources. When not at work or school, Janelle can be found adventuring and exploring the forever wild Adirondack landscape.

jacqueline keating

Jacqueline Keating


Jacqueline Keating is an environmental sociologist and park ranger for the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. When she’s not sneaking back to the Adirondacks, her research focuses on the human dimensions of wildlife management, specifically brown bears, polar bears, and the impacts of ecotourism in remote communities across the state of Alaska.

tyra olstad

Tyra Olstad, Ph.D.


Tyra is a geographer, professor, and writer who has also worked as a summit steward, park ranger, and physical science technician.

Tyler Socash

Tyler Socash


Tyler Socash is the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Wilderness Trip Leader. After receiving his master’s degree at the University of Rochester, Tyler embarked on a 7,000-mile thru-hiking journey across the Pacific Crest Trail, Te Araroa across New Zealand, and the Appalachian Trail. He is a New York State Licensed Guide, a Leave No Trace Master Educator, and trained in Wilderness First Aid.

Andy Testo


Andy Testo is the trails manager for a nature center in the Adirondacks. He passionately maintains a 25 mile trail system to include a multitude of ages, abilities, and multi-use recreational activities. He is an avid hunter and fisherman, a trainer forester, enjoys naturalizing, mountain biking, hiking, paddling, swimming, skiing and snowshoeing. Andy believes there is an appropriate place for everything.

brendan wiltse

Brendan Wiltse


Brendan is a landscape and nature photographer, as well as a limnologist who focuses on studying Adirondack lakes and rivers.