Adirondack Landscape, USA

The Adirondacks Video
Very little conjures up imagery of the wild so vividly as the call of the loon. Yet these enigmatic birds face serious threats even in their nesting grounds in the Adirondack Park.
©WCS
Adirondack Landscape Photo
The Adirondack Park is a mosaic of public and private lands, with more than 100 towns and villages spread among its forests and lakeshores.
Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS

Spanning six million acres, the Adirondack Park is a green island of mixed forests, rugged mountains, lakes, bogs, rivers, and wetlands within the heavily populated landscape of the northeastearn United States. The largest intact temperate forest in the world, the Adirondacks are home to wide-roaming wildlife like moose, bobcat, and black bear. The vast network of connected wilderness areas intermixed with private lands that make up the park is a model of successful conservation work. At-risk species such as loons and bald eagles have rebounded from the threat of pollution here and are now an integral part of the park’s impressive web of wildlife. The park is also an important breeding area for hundreds of long-distance migrating birds like the rare Bicknell’s thrush.

Established in 1892, Adirondack Park is a mosaic of public and private lands, with over 100 towns and villages spread among its forests and lakeshores. To achieve conservation goals within this innovative land-use structure requires creative collaboration with the communities that live here and visit the park. Half of the park is privately owned, and land use is co-managed by the New York Adirondack Park Agency.

Adirondack Park is just a day’s drive away for millions of people, providing residents of the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada with easy access to wilderness. At the same time, the park’s accessibility and mixture of land uses creates a unique set of management challenges.

Fast Facts

  • The Adirondack Park is the largest protected area in the continental U.S.; it is larger than Yosemite, Everglades, Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone National Parks combined.
  • The park lies just 200 miles north of New York City, and 100 million people live within a day’s drive of this wild landscape.
  • Approximately half the Park is state-owned as part of the New York Forest Preserve, which is constitutionally protected to be “forever kept as wild forest lands.”

Challenges

The Adirondack Park faces a complex set of human-made challenges, ranging from climate change and acid rain to backcountry residential and road development and inappropriate recreation. Taken together, these threats degrade ecosystem and wildlife health and cause forest fragmentation, which affects wildlife movement and behavior. Populations of sensitive interior forest species like American marten, spotted salamander, and forest birds like the scarlet tanager are adversely affected by habitat fragmentation driven by backcountry development. Important wildlife corridors connecting the Adirondacks to the Southern Green Mountains in Vermont and the Tug Hill Plateau help accommodate wide-ranging species like moose, bobcat, and black bear. The ecological health of the Adirondacks depends on effective management and land-use planning that balance science-based conservation with local economic needs.

WCS Responds

Since the mid-1990s, WCS has worked to find common ground between local interest groups in the Adirondacks and to develop innovative conservation solutions that work for the region as a whole. Our goal is to ensure that Adirondack Park remains a resilient landscape where human and wildlife populations thrive across a patchwork of communities, forests, wetlands, mountains, and rivers.

WCS promotes wildlife conservation and healthy communities in the Adirondacks through applied research, community partnerships, and public outreach. Our scientists are studying population trends of common loons, moose, and boreal birds to implement informed conservation measures. We are also investigating the impact of different types of land use on wildlife and ecologically sensitive areas, identifying land-use recommendations, and providing tools and guidelines to help communities and land managers ensure that development is environmentally sound. We create partnerships in which WCS science and expertise can help local towns meet community needs. And, because climate change is a serious threat to this landscape, we work to understand the changes that may occur here in the near and distant future.

WCS Projects

Annual Adirondack Loon Census

On the third Saturday of July, WCS conducts an annual loon census with the help of local Adirondack residents and visitor volunteers. This data provides a quick glimpse of the status of the breeding loon population in and around the Adirondack Park and across New York State.

Two Countries - One Forest

WCS-Canada is working with the transboundary Two Countries, One Forest initiative to support conservation planning for northern Appalachia from New York to Nova Scotia. We are helping to ensure that the region remains connected and able to accommodate the needs of wildlife as the climate alters habitats over time.

From the Newsroom

Nesting in the AdirondacksFebruary 26, 2013

A new study reveals that some birds keep their distance from human dwellings, while others cozy up to our homes. The study examined the impacts of the human footprint encroaching on the Adirondack Park’s rural areas, finding that development may affect wildlife several hundred meters from our homes.

Savoring Bogs and Moose as the Adirondacks WarmDecember 2, 2011

WCS Ecologist Jerry Jenkins, who has spent more than four decades studying the environment of the Adirondacks, documents the impacts of climate change on the region’s wildlife, habitats, and communities.

The Eagles Have LandedFebruary 15, 2011

Two injured bald eagles find a new home at the WCS Bronx Zoo. These young birds from Wyoming add to the growing ranks of this once-endangered species now making a comeback in New York.

Tenth Annual NY Loon Census a SuccessJuly 22, 2010

Volunteers who participated in the 2010 annual loon census on Saturday, July 17 surveyed more than 300 lakes and ponds in in and around the Adirondack Park and across New York State.

New Book Addresses Climate Change in the AdirondacksJuly 8, 2010

WCS ecologist Jerry Jenkins shows the global problem of climate change hitting home in the Adirondacks and how the region can fight back.

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