Albany

Hochul designates Ernst chair of Adirondack Park Agency

The Boreas Ponds tract in the Adirondacks. (CARL HEILMAN II/THE ADIRONDACK COUNCIL)
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The Boreas Ponds tract in the Adirondacks. (CARL HEILMAN II/THE ADIRONDACK COUNCIL)

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced in a release Wednesday that John Ernst will be renominated to the Adirondack Park Agency Board and designated its chairperson.

Ernst still faces a state Senate vote to make his appointment official. If confirmed, he will fill a position left vacant for nearly 900 days. Karen Feldman resigned in May 2019 after almost a year as acting chair as it appeared she would not be paid for the full-time work of leading the agency.

Ernst, one of the three board members from New York but living outside the Adirondack Park — primarily living in New York City — has been a member of the board since 2016. His most recent term expired on June 30, and he had received no word from ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo about reappointment. 

On Wednesday, Hochul gave her approval, while speaking about the importance of preserving the park’s natural beauty for future generations, as well as to boost tourism and small businesses.

“John has demonstrated a strong dedication to the North Country,” Hochul said in the release, “and I am certain he will excel as the next Chair of the Adirondack Park Agency, helping build a better and brighter future for this natural gem.”

Ernst, chair and president of New York City private investment firm, has been involved with Adirondack organizations for four decades. He has supported or led the Adirondack Council, the Adirondack Foundation, the Adirondack Landowners Association, the Adirondack Nature Conservancy, the Adirondack Land Trust, the Adirondack Center for Writing, the Adirondack Lakes Survey Corporation, the New York State Tourism Advisory Council, the New York League of Conservation Voters and the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund. He currently serves on the board of the Open Space Institute.

The agency’s executive director Terry Martino spoke highly of Ernst in the governor’s release, and shared his excitement about her decision.

“We thank Governor Hochul for her decisive leadership and commitment to the Park,” he said in the release. “Mr. Ernst has provided a calm and knowledgeable voice to board deliberations since his first appointment in 2016.  We look forward to his continued contribution.”

The Ernsts own Elk Lake Lodge in North Hudson. In recent years, they swapped their 1,500-acre Casey Brook tract that they privately own with the state’s land closer to the highway. The swap created the largest wilderness in the Northeast at nearly 200,000 acres as the High Peaks Wilderness Area consolidated with the Dix Mountain Wilderness Area, according to a release Wednesday from The Adirondack Council — the largest environmental organization whose sole focus is the Adirondacks.

The couple welcomes scientific research on their private land, ranging from loon census work to American marten tracking; migratory bird inventories to fish studies, according to the Adirondack Council release.

The council has awarded Ernst its highest honor – Conservationist of the Year – twice. He received the honor with his wife Margot in 2013 and as part of a group of former Adirondack Council board chairs two years later.

The Adirondack Council also added its approval of the appointment in its release.

“John has been a conservation supporter and practitioner in the Adirondacks for decades,” the council said in the release. “We know he understands the park agency’s authority and its limitations and will work for the good of the park.”

Categories: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, Saratoga County, Schenectady County

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