The Adirondack Council will recognize the NY State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative (BPHA) Caucus as the recipient of this year’s Conservationist of the Year Award.
The prestigious honor will be bestowed during the Adirondack Council’s annual Forever Wild Day Celebration, hosted at the Crown Point State Historic Site situated along the beautiful shores of Lake Champlain. The presentation will take place on Wednesday, July 12, as part of the Council’s virtual annual meeting.
Expressing great satisfaction, Raul Aguirre, Acting Executive Director of the Adirondack Council, praised the BPHA Caucus for selecting the Adirondacks as the venue for their annual retreat and strategy sessions in 2021 and 2022. This collaboration highlights the importance of fostering connections between rural and urban communities in New York. Aguirre emphasized that shared goals and support are essential to achieving environmental and community development objectives. The Adirondack Council is honored to have the Caucus join them in the Adirondacks once again, deserving the distinguished title of Conservationist of the Year.
Acknowledging the recognition bestowed upon them, Michaelle Solages, Chairwoman of the BPHA Caucus, expressed gratitude to the Adirondack Council for honoring their work with the ‘Conservationist of the Year’ award. Solages emphasized that the Adirondack Park is a national treasure belonging to every New Yorker, and the Caucus is committed to addressing systemic inequities and injustices faced by people of color across the state. She emphasized the importance of amplifying the voices of all New Yorkers in matters concerning the future of the Adirondack Park.
Aguirre extended his thanks to Joshua Joseph, Executive Director of the Caucus, Chairwoman Michaelle Solages of Nassau County, and the members of the Executive Board for their attention and dedication to the Adirondacks. Their engagement with the park’s history and communities, appreciation for its natural beauty, and advocacy for clean air and water highlight the Adirondack Park’s significance as a national treasure. Their efforts have led to greater recognition of the park’s multicultural history and have supported important initiatives such as funding a new careers institute to educate young people about environmental jobs. Additionally, their advocacy secured funding for a comprehensive scientific study on the impacts of climate change and pollution on Adirondack water quality.
The Adirondack Council commends the BPHA Caucus for their collaboration and partnership through the Adirondack Diversity Initiative. This joint effort aims to explore and celebrate the history of Black people in the Adirondacks, particularly the Suffrage Settlements in Essex, Clinton, and Franklin counties in the northeastern Adirondacks. These settlements provided Black men like Lyman Eppes of Troy with the opportunity to claim and work lands offered by abolitionists, enabling them to obtain the property required for voting rights. The Caucus’s involvement has brought attention to these significant historical sites, and ongoing efforts are underway to rename certain locations in honor of the individuals who lived there.
In recognition of their outstanding work, the Caucus secured funding for the Timbuctoo Summer Climate and Careers Institute, a groundbreaking program supported by an allocation of $2.1 million in each of the FY2022-23 and 2023-24 budgets. The institute connects prospective students from Medgar Evers College, part of the City University of New York, with the State University College of Environmental Science and Forestry campus in Newcomb, Essex County. This initiative aims to educate and inspire New York City students about environmental careers, allowing them to experience the wilderness of the Adirondack High Peaks. The program seeks to create a pathway to environmental careers for Black and Latino students while providing Adirondack Park with a more diverse pool of talented young individuals.
Additionally, the Caucus played a crucial role in establishing a significant scientific research project focused on evaluating the impact of climate change, water pollution, and air pollution on Adirondack lakes and rivers. This project marks the first comprehensive field survey in nearly 40 years, assessing the improvements in soil health and water quality resulting from the national acid rain program. Furthermore, the study will examine the influence of climate trends on Adirondack ecosystems and their potential in combating climate change. The research findings will contribute to the protection of public health and the preservation of the Adirondack Park.
The New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus comprises 76 members from Harlem to Hollis who represent a significant portion of the state’s residents. With a focus on addressing the needs and concerns of diverse communities, the Caucus plays a vital role in advocating for equitable and sustainable policies in the state of New York.
The Adirondack Council’s Conservationist of the Year Award has a long history of recognizing individuals and organizations that have demonstrated exceptional commitment and dedication to the preservation and protection of Adirondack Park. Previous recipients include prominent figures such as NY Governors Mario M. Cuomo and George E. Pataki, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, and Adirondack environmental activists Timothy Barnett, Frances Beinecke, and Bill McKibben.
The Adirondack Park, established in 1892, encompasses six million acres of public and private lands, making it one of the oldest and largest protected landscapes in the United States. It is home to the largest temperate deciduous forest globally and boasts thousands of lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams that supply water to most of New York State. Its sheer size surpasses the combined areas of several renowned national parks, including Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, and Grand Canyon National Parks.
As a privately funded not-for-profit organization established in 1975, the Adirondack Council is dedicated to preserving the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park. It remains the largest environmental organization exclusively focused on the Adirondacks, working tirelessly to protect this exceptional natural resource for current and future generations.
For more information about the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus, please visit bphacaucus.com.
Photo credit: 1) Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus members tour Lake Placid by boat on a misty October morning in 2022. 2) Caucus Chair Assembly Member Michaelle Solages, D-Elmont, right, views rainfall/air pollution testing equipment at the Adirondack Survey Corp laboratory in Ray Brook, October 2022. By Justin Levine/Adirondack Council.