Respect due to local officials –


The organizations I and I work for have long been conservationists for the wilds and wilderness of Adirondack Park, which can seem and sometimes clash with some members of the local park governments. I respect the leaders of the local government for the very difficult jobs and the responsibilities they take on for their residents. Therefore, I try not to act disrespectfully towards local authorities when defending the park’s wild lands and related policies.

My respect for those who serve in local government grew when Adirondack Wild engaged with a conservation biologist named Dr. Michael Klemens and we learned that Michael also served as chairman of his town’s planning council. When Dr. Klemens advocates applied science, ecological site analysis, and the conservation design of residential or commercial developments, he is also keenly aware of his community’s planning needs, the condition of its infrastructure and its financial situation, as well as the steps a developer needs. to pass to obtain the authorizations and approvals of the local council.

As a conservation biologist and planner, he tries to consider entire communities, human and more than human. Without planning for both, he feels that we are diminished as a society and that our human communities are becoming much less resilient.

Dr. Klemens, the head of the planning board, has high standards for developers. By insisting on design and performance standards for human development, cities like his can maintain a healthy tax base and also avoid massive losses of environmental benefits, wildlife habitats and ecological services, such as combating flooding resulting from the preservation of open spaces in floodplains.

Dr. Michael Klemens’ guide written for Adirondack Wild, Paths to a Connected Adirondack Park – Practical Steps for Better Land Use Decisions can be downloaded from, or to receive a hard copy by mail, email me.

I have not held an elected office myself and I cannot imagine all that local officials face. In recent years, another friend has chosen to run for office and take up an elected position. I live near the village of Ballston Spa, NY and I just visited the mayor of the village to thank him for his service. The mayor, Larry Woolbright, was known to me as a naturalist, conservation biologist, herpetologist, environmentalist and professor of ecology. I admired him for these common interests and for his intrinsic nature and good-looking character. He also possessed talents and interests which must have motivated him to seek, run for, and serve elected office.

Larry has just made the big decision to leave this post with two years remaining in his tenure as mayor because, in his own words, he did not feel supported, in fact undermined by some members of the board of directors of his village. Judging by his own words announcing his resignation at a village board meeting, his decision was very difficult and awkward. He had planned to serve the four years in office, and although he had accomplished a lot, he had a lot more to do.

This mayor had all the responsibility on his shoulders to provide local government services to people living within the village boundaries, but other elected officials felt that he should not have the power to make key decisions regarding village priorities. . Yet he alone was elected mayor. It can wear down the most committed individual.

Environmental leaders are also not immune to the problem of being undermined from within, having responsibility for organizations but losing the authority to implement when others, thinking they have better control over priorities, act with it. impatience based on separate, sometimes hidden agendas. I can relate to this in years past.

In Mayor Woolbright’s case, some village administrators were not only opposed to the mayor’s disciplined efforts to prioritize the financial health of the village, as well as its water and sewage infrastructure, streets, equipment, buildings and essential personnel, but have worked to undermine these priorities. The mayor’s priorities were, said the mayor, to “ensure that drinking water is safe while preventing sewers from backing up into residents’ basements, to allow residents to get to the grocery store afterwards.” a snowstorm, and that they have fire and police protection ”.

Meanwhile, some members of his village’s board wanted to spend limited resources on bike paths, sidewalks, crosswalks, street trees and parks, which Woolbright said he was not not opposed, but like lower priorities. “I am a walker,” Mayor Woolbright told his board of directors when he announced his resignation. “Sidewalks and crosswalks are important to me. My wife is a cyclist. Bike paths are important to me. I have a doctorate. in ecology. I certainly don’t hate trees. And I am a gardener who enjoys spending time in parks. But what I’m saying is that these things are not the highest priority for the village in its current situation.

“In its current situation. What bothers me is the idea that if I had been on the board of directors of the village of Ballston Spa, I too might have ignored the current circumstances and put trees and trees first and foremost. to village parks rather than the security of buildings, village infrastructure and the limits of what can be spent or borrowed responsibly. I hope that an observant and multidisciplinary mayor like Woolbright would have enlightened me and brought me to take a different perspective on what was most needed in the “present circumstances”.

Mayor Woolbright, the Ph.D. conservationist and environmentalist I admired so much, had to act knowing that whatever his green interests and passions were, his built community of residents and businesses and their essential services were in dire straits. state and had to go first. When the time came to budget your finances and time, costly village infrastructure and long-deferred maintenance had to be taken care of immediately and paid for. His belief was that if built infrastructure and human services continued to be neglected, the entire environment of the village and beyond, including its ecological services, would also deteriorate, as would public support and morale.

Mayor Woolbright’s beliefs about the urgency of the “present circumstances” are probably universal. For a while, I grew up in a riverside village in Maine. Keeping its main street open and safe, maintaining its buildings, infrastructure and business investments in the event of flooding, weather, entropy, lack of money and willpower, disagreements over priorities and climate change are so many constant concerns that are reminiscent of those that can be. felt by elected leaders in Elizabethtown, Northville, Speculator, Tupper Lake, Keene, Johnsburg, Jay, or you name the location Adirondack.

Village of Northville. Photo by Ken Rimany.

Photo by Michael Klemens courtesy of

David Gibson

David Gibson

Dave Gibson, who writes on issues of wilderness, wilderness, public policy, and more, has been involved in Adirondack conservation for over 30 years as Executive Director of the Adirondack Protection Association, Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks and currently as Managing Partner with Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve

During Dave’s tenure with the Association, the organization completed the Center for the Forest Reserve, including the Adirondack Research Library at Paul Schaefer. The library has the finest collection of Adirondacks outside of the Blue Line, specializing in the history of Adirondack conservation and recreation.

Currently, Dave is the Managing Partner of the 2010 nonprofit, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve.

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