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Q & A with Cathy Pedler

Q & A with Cathy Pedler

A portrait of a woman

Cathy Pedler, ADK’s Director of Advocacy, has been working for ADK for ten years. She lives in Albany with her husband, David, and their Labrador retriever, Lucy.

Cathy routinely organizes the questions and answers for this column. For this issue, we have asked her to answer the questions, to learn more about what motivates her.


Q: What was your path to working for ADK?

Studying anthropology as an undergraduate and witnessing the destruction of archaeological sites and natural areas as an archaeologist pushed me to study sustainability and then to work in environmental advocacy.

While working for Allegheny Defense Project in the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania fighting destructive resource extraction—clear cuts, oil and gas drilling, and what was then the beginning of fracking—I ran into Neil Woodworth (then executive director of ADK) and the ADK Niagara Frontier Chapter working across the border in New York to protect Allegany State Park from drilling operations in the park due to split estate issues. The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and New York State senators and assemblymembers brilliantly solved the issue through legislation and perseverance and permanently protected Allegany State Park. They were able to accomplish on state land what was at the time an impossible challenge on federal land.

I was impressed and moved to Albany to learn more, and to hopefully use skills from recent training in Applied Intelligence. My goal in this field of study was to apply the techniques used by intelligence and law enforcement analysts to environmental advocacy work. The preparation in learning to work under pressure with people of different and often conflicting perspectives toward a common understanding was certainly helpful in ADK’s advocacy and policy setting. Working in the Adirondacks and Catskills with their mosaics of local governments, organizations, and agencies has been thoroughly interesting, and I have learned so much from everyone and every issue.

Q: What are your favorite ways to enjoy the Adirondacks and Catskills?

Each area has its own unique communities and wildland experiences. My favorite experience is resting on one of the benches at the Heart Lake Program Center in the middle of the Adirondack High Peaks Wilderness on the edge of Heart Lake at sunset, listening to the silence. Some of my best memories have been surveying backcountry ponds for invasive species with my nephews and other volunteers, and listening to loons on a moonlit night while taking a backcountry canoe Leave No Trace course with ADK’s education team. Visiting the mountains and trails that are part of ADK’s Fire Tower Challenge and DEC’s Catskill Fire Tower Challenge have also been wonderful adventures, viewing the amazing scenery of the Forest Preserve from above. Of course, all these experiences wouldn’t be complete without visits to nearby communities for coffee shops before, and ice cream stands after.

Heart Lake at dawn
Heart Lake

Q: Why is securing funding for stewardship for the Adirondacks and Catskills important? Why is it challenging? What are the obstacles?

Thanks to the leadership of the New York State Senate, Assembly, and Governor Kathy Hochul, there has been $8 million in the Environmental Protection Fund each of the past two fiscal years dedicated to stewardship in the Adirondacks and Catskills. This funding is addressing important recreational and community needs (see Letter from the President, page 5).

Having dedicated and consistent funding for stewardship in the Forest Preserve Parks is essential to protect wilderness, provide safe and welcoming visitor experiences, and to invest in Catskill and Adirondack communities. Dedicated funding ensures that ongoing needs are met and new projects can move forward. Without dedicated funding, stewardship work becomes uncertain; recreators miss information and education that would keep them safe and help them lessen their impact on the natural areas they explore; trails that are not maintained grow in and become eroded and dangerous; accessible and sustainable trails are unlikely to be built; and generally, recreational access and natural resource protection are diminished.

It is challenging each year to secure this funding in the budget. New York is a big state with many wildlands and parks. With an uncertain climate future, the need for more protected natural areas and recreation infrastructure is great, especially near urban communities. But the Adirondacks and Catskills are an economic engine and a force for ecological and human health that can’t be ignored. The Forest Preserve Parks collectively represent over 6.5 million acres of land or nearly a quarter of New York State, have 25 million annual visitors, and provide over $3 billion in annual economic activity. They provide critical ecological services for all New Yorkers, including carbon sequestration and habitat protection, and fresh drinking water for millions. It is essential that we steward these incredible Forest Preserve Parks, invest in their communities, and support the organizations and state agencies that work to protect them.

Q: How can ADK members help protect the Forest Preserve and support the Adirondacks and Catskills as great places to live, work, and recreate?

Thank Governor Hochul and N.Y. senators and assemblymembers for supporting dedicated stewardship funding for the Adirondack and Catskill Parks; gain knowledge and skills in responsible outdoor recreation (e.g., take a Leave No Trace course, and carry the ten essentials); support Adirondack and Catskill businesses and initiatives; explore less-traveled areas of the parks; become a volunteer steward, trail worker, trip leader, or workday participant; learn to identify and prevent the spread of invasive species—cleaning gear and practicing Clean, Drain and Dry; keep an open mind and listen to others; practice and support inclusivity and kindness.

Q: What are some of the top priorities/challenges/opportunities ADK has for the Adirondacks and Catskills?

ADK’s top priority is to retain the dedicated line of funding in the Environmental Protection Fund for stewardship in the Adirondacks and Catskills. This year, as in the past two years, ADK and other partners in the Adirondacks and Catskills will request $10 million for this line. Other priorities include continued support for Forest Preserve visitor centers; promoting accessibility and inclusivity; supporting land conservancies and public land acquisition to meet state climate goals; adding and supporting agency staff (in DEC Lands and Forests, Operations, Forest Rangers, and at the Adirondack Park Agency); supporting research and monitoring of environmental stress in the Adirondacks and Catskills (e.g., climate change, pollution, invasive species); advocating for investment in Adirondack and Catskill communities through Bond Act projects, Smart Growth initiatives, and diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives; and promoting affordable housing, and cellular and broadband connectivity.

Q: What else would you like our readers to know?

Check ADK.org for the latest opportunities to learn more through outdoor programs, skills workshops, and guided outings; to volunteer as a steward of summits, trails, fire towers, lean-tos, or campgrounds; or to join the staff as a seasonal or full-time employee.

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