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The Adirondack Council at Fifty: An Interview with Rocci Aguirre

The Adirondack Council at Fifty: An Interview with Rocci Aguirre July 3, 2024
Rocci Aguirre, the Adirondack Council’s executive director.
Rocci Aguirre, the Adirondack Council’s executive director.

At the Adirondack Council’s annual Forever Wild Day, to be held this year on July 13 at Heaven Hill Farm in Lake Placid, the Council will record the oral histories of those who have fought to protect the Adirondack Park over the past fifty years – including, perhaps especially – those who have fought with, for and on behalf of the Adirondack Council.

The organization, the largest of its kind within the six-million-acre Adirondack Park, will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2025, and it is now taking stock of where it has been and where it should be, now and in the future.

The Adirondack Council was established, at least in part, to hold the newly-created Adirondack Park Agency accountable for the protection of the park – even as state legislators in both houses were working to undermine the agency, to, in fact, abolish it. They had opposed the creation of the APA and its land use plans in the early 70s, and now, with more power and more seniority, they purported to represent aggrieved landowners, frustrated developers and speculative entrepreneurs. 

The Adirondack Council gave as good as it got, criticizing legislators and local government officials publicly – at times harshly – and asserting itself as an unapologetic defender of wilderness.

“I think the Adirondack Council has matured over time,”

Rocci Aguirre, who was named the Adirondack Council’s executive director in 2023, said in an April, 2024 interview.  “But the politics in Albany have shifted as well. Politics are not as adversarial as they once were.”

Those representing the Adirondack Park in the legislature today are more inclined to regard the Adirondack Council as a weighty stakeholder, whose priorities must be given due consideration.

Conversely, the Adirondack Council is more willing to acknowledge that the Adirondack Park comprises both public and private lands, the Forest Preserve and year-round communities.

“How we engage with communities is as important to us as the way we engage with public lands,” said Aguirre. “The issues affecting the Adirondacks affect us directly. We live here. We want to be an authentic advocate for these communities.”

But, he added, “That doesn’t mean we agree with legislators on every issue,  much as I respect the role they play. I can point to any number of issues where we’ve had differences of opinion, and we don’t shy away from taking stands on controversial issues, especially if our positions will align with the historical mission of the Adirondack Council and with a direction we see for the organization.”

However much circumstances may have changed, the mission and direction of the Adirondack Council haven’t: “to advocate for the Park, to speak for the Adirondacks in Albany, to bring funding back to the Park, to keep its

priorities front and center,” said Aguirre.

“We are one of the few groups with the political influence to keep stakeholders and decision makers accountable,” he said.

The Adirondack Council’s July 13 Forever Wild Day starts at 10 am and includes a 1 pm Question and Answer session with Aguirre, activities, hikes with botanists and biologists, awards and a lunch under the tent. For more information, call the Adirondack Council at 518-873-2240.

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