This Article Was Written By The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Outreach and Education Campaign Supports Goals of Adirondack High Peaks and Catskills Advisory Groups

These Lands Belong to All of Us and All of Us Have a Responsibility to Protect Them

Focus on Leave No Trace ™ Principles, Respect for All Visitors and State Lands

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the launch of the ‘Love Our NY Lands’ campaign to encourage visitors to State-owned and managed lands to practice responsible recreation. The campaign is responsive to the steady increase in the number of visitors to state lands, both during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the decade prior, as more and more New Yorkers and visitors from other states and countries discovered the natural beauty of New York State lands, particularly the Adirondack and Catskill parks. The campaign will bolster ongoing State- and partner-led efforts to educate the public about how to responsibly enjoy outdoor recreation on public lands without negatively impacting natural resources. The campaign will implement a variety of multi-media and in-person strategies to promote Leave No Trace™ principles, hiker preparedness and safety, sustainable use, and responsible trip planning, as well as reinforce the role of DEC professionals who protect public lands and manage public access, including DEC Foresters, Natural Resource Planners, Forest Rangers, Assistant Forest Rangers, and natural resource stewards.

“Last year tens of thousands of New Yorkers were desperate to get outside for a respite from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and while we saw a significant uptick in 2020, the number of visitors to state lands, particularly the Adirondack and Catskill parks has been increasing for several years,” said Commissioner Seggos. “This is a welcome challenge, but one we must address through a variety of strategic and creative means. With the launch of the Love Our NY Lands campaign to encourage visitors to plan ahead, visit responsibly, and practice Leave No Trace™ principles, all New Yorkers and visitors can help ensure these special places are protected for future generations to enjoy.”

The Love Our NY Lands campaign includes in-person education at trailheads in the Adirondacks and Catskills during the hiking season, expanded stewardship programs, DEC’s ‘Adventure at Home’ Facebook Live sessions about sustainable recreation and hiker safety hosted by DEC Forest Rangers, Foresters, and outreach and education staff, public-facing events, and instructional videos on DEC’s YouTube channel, as well as enhanced social media, public service announcements, and promotions by partner State agencies. To encourage sustainable use and inspire the shared sense of responsibility and ownership of these lands, DEC developed this campaign that asks visitors to do their part to protect State lands. In addition, the campaign interprets the seven Leave No Trace™ principles (leaves DEC’s website), which provide a framework of minimum impact practices for anyone visiting the outdoors, for unfamiliar audiences new to hiking.

Love Our NY Lands was developed to support the priorities and objectives identified by the High Peaks Advisory Group and currently being discussed by the Catskills Advisory Group, as well as the concerns of local stakeholders and environmental groups committed to protecting these natural areas. In these efforts, education and outreach have been identified as among the most important and effective means of helping to manage challenges associated with increased use. For example, since the launch of the Summit Stewards program in the Adirondack High Peaks, despite growing numbers of people on the summits, DEC saw a decrease in erosion and an increase in alpine vegetation.

The campaign’s goal is to provide visitors with the knowledge and tools necessary to reduce their impact, engage users to practice sustainable and safe recreation, minimize emergency and rescue situations, improve the quality of public interactions with backcountry authorities, and help all visitors feel welcome while visiting state lands. Love Our NY Lands outreach will include:

  • In-person education and DEC-hosted education events. Beginning May 28, DEC will be hosting Hiker Information Stations in the Adirondacks and other critical locations. For details and more information, visit the Love Our NY Lands webpage.
  • Videos posted on social media and the DEC website;
  • Social media posts and stories and targeted social media, including a new twitter handle, @NYSDECAlerts, which will provide outdoor explorers with updates about State Lands in real time;
  • Printed materials, including posters, fliers, and tip strips;
  • Outreach to place stories in key outlets and trade publications;
  • Partnerships with local advocacy groups;
  • New digital content hub on the DEC website;
  • Email micro-campaigns; and
  • Participation at regional/industry-relevant events and conferences practicing all appropriate measures to prevent the community spread of COVID-19.

This effort will sustain current and ongoing efforts developed in conjunction with partner organizations and leverage partnerships with local stakeholders, tourist organizations, and environmental groups actively working on these issues in the Adirondacks and the Catskills to maximize outreach and impact. Visit the Love Our NY Lands webpage to learn more.