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Northern Forest Institute

Our Mission

  • To advance knowledge and skills
  • and to promote the leadership necessary
  • for the stewardship of
  • both the natural and designed environments in the Adirondacks and Northern Forest.


In 1971, ESF established the Adirondack Ecological Center (AEC) on the Huntington Wildlife Forest with a vision of providing the science needed to manage the 6 million acre Adirondack Park. Conceived at the same time as the Adirondack Park Agency and the new Department of Environmental Conservation, the AEC was charged with encouraging an understanding of the ecology of the Adirondack Park.

Beginning in 1992, the National Science Foundation, the College, and the Adirondack Park Agency began investing in infrastructure to draw more scientists to the Adirondacks and make their science more accessible to students and the general public. Nearly $3 million was invested in housing, dining and research facilities, a visitor center, and a staff of scientists, educators, and support personnel.

The AEC is now positioned to lead in the development and implementation of a powerful new initiative, the Northern Forest Institute for Conservation Education & Leadership Training (NFI). The NFI will support ESF’s mission, " advance knowledge and skills and to promote the leadership necessary for the stewardship of both the natural and designed environments," through interdisciplinary educational outreach programs and research focused on the Adirondacks and the Northern Forest. Using the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia as a model, NFI will focus on meeting the educational and research needs of professional audiences, but will also serve the general public, and students in college and secondary curricula.

Investment in Research

This is the Once and Future forest: Once decimated through exploitation that led to creation of the Adirondack Park; that protection releasing resilience now underpinning the intertwined future of this human and natural landscape. However, will this forest remain resilient in the face of climate change and increasing human pressures? Our near-century of research throughout the northern forest uniquely prepares SUNY-ESF to draw on the past and present to better inform the future.

The return on that investment has been extraordinary:

  • Providing the science for making better policy: environmental chemistry research that shows that federal air-quality standards affect the integrity of the Adirondack ecosystem.
  • Providing long-term perspective: 50 years of forest research leading to a better understanding of how to efficiently manage the Northern Forest for production of paper and biofuels.
  • Providing new discoveries: information on the social structure in deer populations leading to revolutionary changes in management of overabundant populations and the spread of disease.
  • Providing leadership training: education of new scientists and young leaders to address the environmental issues of the future.
  • Providing economic vitality: new professionals adding to a local economy and community.

To foster the ideals of conservation and sustainability within the Northern Forest, decision-makers will need better information to meet the challenges they face. The Northern Forest Institute seeks to meet these needs by:

  • Providing the science necessary to understand Northern Forest ecosystems
  • Helping people link together information from disciplines like ecology, economics, and philosophy to better understand the outcomes of land-use decisions
  • Providing innovative ideas pertaining to land stewardship


To accomplish our goals, the Northern Forest Institute will enhance the partnerships and collaborative relationships ESF and AEC have built.  The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Open Space Institute are close partners in this effort, committing time, resources, facilities and finances to help make NFI a reality. 

Other NFI partners include:

  • Adirondack Museum
  • Adirondack Park Agency
  • Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks
  • Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks


The Northern Forest region, including the Adirondack Park, faces the challenge of sustaining vibrant economies and communities in a wilderness setting.  These challenges become more urgent in a changing world and include:

  • Planning for the impacts of long-term global climate change
  • Preserving the integrity of wilderness environments
  • Improving the quality of life for residents
  • Meeting demands for recreation opportunities and homes


Those making decisions about how to face these challenges include:

  • Federal and State Natural Resource Managers
  • Students from primary to university levels
  • Local and county leadership, planners and community representatives
  • Elected officials, legislators, and legislative staffs
  • Private enterprise and business community
  • Non-Governmental Organizations
  • Citizens, residents and land-owners