Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My Day On Lot 8: A Dan Crane NYCO Commentary

Towering White Ash on Lot 8When the results for Proposition 5 came in last November, I decided I must visit Lot 8 in the Jay Mountain Wilderness. Since the voters of New York State made this area yet another sacrificial lamb at the altar of greed and profitability, I knew it would only be a matter of time before the chainsaws, bulldozers and explosives moved in and converted a living and breathing forest into something akin to a war zone.

It soon became evident this juggernaut of “progress” was unstoppable, as the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) relinquished their roles of protecting the environment and the Adirondack Park. Instead, these governmental organizations engaged in the complete evisceration of nearly every environmental protection law on the books in an attempt to ensure NYCO Minerals, Inc. destroyed Lot 8 as soon as possible.

This left me little choice but to put hastily together a 6-day bushwhacking trip through the Jay Mountain Wilderness, with an entire day allocated to exploring the condemned Lot 8 in all its natural glory before its destruction. I felt it would ease my conscience somewhat for not doing enough to prevent its impending demise in the first place. Unfortunately, despite getting up-close and personal with Lot 8, I only ended-up feeling worse. In between the joy and wonder of experiencing this property for myself firsthand, was a sense of deep sorrow, bordering on moroseness, as the fate of everything I saw, smelled and heard was never far from my mind.

As I thought about this great injustice that a plurality of the New York State voters had approved, I was reminded of a quote by the Californian politician Dick Tuck, who said upon losing a Senate election in 1966: “The people have spoken, the bastards.”  After visiting Lot 8, I know how he felt.

When I finally arrived in the area, after bushwhacking from the trail on the west side of Jay Mountain, I found a flagged and cut boundary, that I assumed marked the border to Lot 8. When I finally crossed the orange-flagged boundary, I noticed numerous pink and red-flagged lines perpendicular to the marked boundary. I assumed these flagged lines indicated the location of the drilling platforms and/or the roads between them.

There was little time to ponder the moments’ significance, as darkness encroached, both from a sun sinking low on the horizon and the dark clouds massed above me. My first official task on the property bordered on the mundane – locate an acceptable campsite and get some grub before a downpour ruined the entire experience.

Despite the steady slope to the east, the prospective camping sites were almost infinite, due to a limited understory, consisting mostly of American beech saplings. Access to water was an imperative though, following the day’s long and arduous bushwhack. When I heard a small tumbling stream flowing off the ridge to the west, I knew I found what I was looking for.

The sound of the stream instantly brought thoughts about of the applicability of standard backcountry rules and regulations. I wondered if it really mattered if my campsite was 150 feet from a stream now, if in the near future it will be surrounded by roads and drilling platforms, eventually tumbling into a thirty-foot drop at the bottom of a pit?

Massive trees in Lot 8In the end, I located my campsite a good distance from the stream – far enough away that my presence had little impact, but close enough for easy access to the water. Darkness and dinner destroyed any opportunity to look around though, so my gallivanting had to wait until morning.

What I did notice of the far northern border of Lot 8, was that the forest looked like any other upland area in the Adirondacks. Deciduous hardwood trees dominated the landscape, the majority were mature sugar maple, white ash, and American beech, with a few aging paper birches in the mix. The understory was mostly beech, with only scattered herbaceous cover, mostly located along the stream and adjacent wet areas.

In the light of the early morning, the trees near my campsite were even more impressive than I thought the night before. Although white ash, American beech and sugar maples dominated, the white ashes were unusually large. I cursed myself for not having the forethought to bring a dbh tape to measure them, but many appeared at least a foot in diameter, with some much larger.

Although impressive in girth, the greatest achievement of these ash was their height. These trees often towered above the surrounding trees. Luckily, there was not another soul around, as the sight of me stumbling around trying to get a view of these monstrous trees must have been quite comical. In a few minutes, my neck ached with the intensity of a serious case of warbler neck, an affliction to which only a birder could relate.

Although not quite as impressive as the ash, the American beech trees around the campsite were impressive in their own right. Large and smooth barked, none showed signs of the beech bark disease that has left many a beech scared, disfigured and partially decayed elsewhere. Evidence of their productivity was apparent by the frequency of black bear claw marks up along their stem from the ground level up, where they disappeared into the canopy.  How hundreds of pounds of bruin can climb such heights is beyond me.

Taking note of the trees got me thinking about their immediate fate going forward into the near future. How many would fall for the wollastonite exploration alone? Would they be downed and left in place to return to the soil? Or cut, removed, and sold for their lumber potential? If so, who would profit? The people of New York State or the mining company?

As my neck needed a break, I turned to the understory. Many of the common Adirondack herbaceous plants were present near my campsite. Canadian mayflower, bluebead lily, Indian cucumber root, trillium, coral root, wild sarsaparilla and starflower were growing nearby, just to name a few. There were several species of ferns as well, including a wood fern, maiden hair fern, rattlesnake fern and oak fern. The hobblebush and honeysuckle shrubs grew in low numbers as well.

Signs of wildlife were frequent. The morning bird chorus was full of the usual Adirondack characters; red-eyed vireos sang in abundance, while the songs of winter wrens, ovenbirds, and hermit thrushes rang through frequently. A single Swainson’s thrush sang nearby despite the universal absence of conifers. An occasional eastern chipmunk added its two cents. Moose scat lay hidden in a clump of ferns near the stream. A red eft crossed just upstream on a rock, totally oblivious to my presence, while a dusky salamander retreated from under an upturned rock, escaping before I got a half-decent look.

While I wandered back to my campsite, a leaf leaped a great distance away from me. Not so easily fooled, my pursuit revealed its true identity, a wood frog which relied on its camouflage to hide from my prying eyes. Soon after, a northern spring peeper pulled the same stunt, but I caught it in my hand briefly before it leaped off into the foliage below.

These denizens of the north woods, completely left out of the political process, merely went about their day, oblivious to the future.

Flat lands on Lot 8After crossing a mushy stream, the muddy banks betrayed a an old human track in the springtime mud. Whether from a curious visitor or a hanger of flagging, it was impossible to say.

Soon a series of ephemeral pools came into sight; their pattern suggested that they once might have been a flowing stream too. Choked with leaves and some soggy edges.

Another sight, a bright orange completely incongruous with my surroundings, tore me away from the ponds. Who would have thought that a large orange snow fence could distract me so easily in the midst of such natural beauty?

The fence indicated the NYCO Minerals property line, marked conspicuously with orange-posted signs, orange flagging and an occasional piece of rebar stuck in the ground. A metal fence replaced the plastic one to the south, as it undulated over the uneven terrain. Since I still desired to catch a glimpse of the mine pit, I followed the property line southwards, not knowing how far I would need to go.

After only a short distance, the open pit came into view through the few young trees. The pit’s edge was a mere fifteen feet or so from the property line, where a shear drop of perhaps thirty feet awaited anyone or anything careless enough to journey too close to the edge.

I wondered about the fate of the streams coming off the McDonough Mountain ridge and their countless occupants. How many unsuspecting salamanders, frogs and other living organisms tumbled over the side of this cliff during the lifetime of the pit? How many more will after it’s expanded?

I moved into Lot 8’s interior to the west, with a level spot as my immediate goal.

As I walked through a sunny spot, two eastern garter snakes made a hasty retreat. Within a short distance, young balsam firs appeared, the first conifers I had seen in the area. The farther west I proceeded, the more level the terrain became and the more conifers I observed, with an additional increase in the trees’ stature as well.

Just as I approached one large conifer, another of a different species would appear within view, distracting me from the first. A larger balsam fir was replaced by an eastern white pine, and then a red spruce, and finally an eastern hemlock.

Seeing the large eastern hemlock, apparently healthy and free of the wooly adelgid, got me thinking about the many mature and healthy tree species present on Lot 8 that are in peril elsewhere due to exotic pests. Stately white ashes remained currently unthreatened by the emerald ash borer, while massive American beech expressed no sign of beech bark disease. With these species in peril elsewhere, these healthy individuals require preservation.

Coniferous trees were not the only distraction. Open water to the north pulled me from the densest part of the coniferous forest and back along the border with the dominating hardwoods. This pond was choked with leaves, shallow in depth, and scattered with islands made of moss-covered rocks, logs and other forest debris.

Upon closer inspection, leaves were not the only thing in abundance here. Penny-sized tadpoles swam through its shallow depths, though large groups of them fled into the leaves when I approached too close for comfort. In addition, a lone red eft crossed a mossy log island, though it picked up its pace when I moved in closer for a better look.

Stream on Lot 8How would these tadpoles escape the fate that awaits Lot 8? They will not, not unless they kick their development into high gear and are lucky enough to hop off in the right direction.

I continued southwest along a swampy stream, though it often resembled nothing more than a large seep choked with an assortment of different ferns. The coniferous forest just to my south was now long forgotten, the flat, vegetation-choked flatlands proved just too much of a distraction. By the time I stopped for lunch, the area all but dried out, though the dry rivulets with exposed mineral soil and lack of leaves suggested it likely flooded during the spring melt.

Farther on to the southwest, the increased moisture that emanated from the ridge to the west was enough to create a continuous stream, which eventually turned southeast. The frequent rocks that lined the stream bank provided another ripe opportunity to search for salamanders. The prize I searched for, a spring salamander, remained elusive, but I managed to find a dusky and a redback salamander before moving on.

As I climbed west away from the stream and the flatlands it flowed through, many scattered flat rocks jutted out of the nearly leaf-less mineral soil. Perfect shelters for woodland snakes; on one sat the scat of a ruffed grouse.

As the late afternoon hours approached and my time on Lot 8 started to wane, I turned to deciding on a location for the night’s campsite. I wanted to stay near a stream again, with the two options being an unnamed watercourse I believed was located with the interior of the property, the other being Derby Brook, off to the south. I headed for the closest stream.

Imagine my surprise, as I entered another coniferous area, with young firs scattered within the hardwoods, and arrived at an orange-flagged property line, where none should be present. Had I stumbled onto the southern border of Lot 8? Apparently so.

An immense American toad leapt into the brush left over from the cutting of the boundary. Unfortunately, it was going into Lot 8, so I left it with a warning and wished it well.

The cut border made an easy route southward, where I hoped it would eventually cross the stream. Unfortunately, it led to the NYCO border, with the stream just a tauntingly short distance away, but on the opposite side. Luckily, the border edged closer to the stream as I continued west, until I found a place to filter water for the rest of the day.

My water needs met, I returned to the orange-flagged border and crossed back onto Lot 8 in search of a campsite for the night. Many more rocks emerged from the ground here, and though not immense they gave the area a more aggressive feel than the other portions of Lot 8 I had visited. Short but steep rises separated level areas, one of which I chose as my campsite for my last night.

That evening, with my chores complete, I stood for a long while and observed the activity of forest during the twilight hours. When the mosquito activity heightened and I contemplated calling it a night, the sound of a northern goshawk rang out just overhead. I got a pretty good look at the large accipiter, though it flew down slope to the east when I moved in for a closer look. Given the northern goshawk’s designation as a Species of Special Concern in New York State, the bird’s presence was emblematic of why the whole notion of Proposition 5 was a massive mistake.

There was no time to linger the following morning. I left my campsite behind and reached the orange-flagged boundary once again. As I crossed the flagged line out of Lot 8, I looked back for one last time. After a moment of reflection, I turned away and headed toward Derby Brook, though my mind still pondered those who voted to destroy this gorgeous property.

“Bastards,” I muttered to myself. I did not look back.

Photos: White ash canopy, massive trees, flat land and stream on Lot 8 by Dan Crane.


Dan Crane

Dan Crane writes regularly about bushwhacking and backcountry camping, including providing insights on equipment and his observations as a veteran backcountry explorer. He has been visiting the Adirondacks since childhood and actively exploring its backcountry for almost two decades. He is also life-long naturalist with a Master of Science in Ecology from SUNY ESF and 10+ seasons working as a field biologist, five inside the Blue Line.

Dan has hiked the Northville-Placid Trail twice and climbed all 46 High Peaks but currently spends his backpacking time exploring the northwestern portion of the Adirondacks. He is also the creator of the blog Bushwhacking Fool where he details his bushwhacking adventures.




28 Responses

  1. Tony Goodwin Tony Goodwin says:

    There is no question that Lot 8 has been Forest Preserve long enough that the forest no longer looks like “second growth”. As Dan and others have correctly noted there are some precious resources currently on Lot 8, and some of them will be destroyed.

    However, whether or not one likes the outcome of the election or thinks that the campaign for the constitutional amendment was unfair, the vote allowed NYCO to proceed. The vote also insured that at least another 1,000 acres would ultimately receive the same protection that 200 acre Lot 8 has enjoyed. If the drilling proves that the wollastonite deposits are even more valuable than anticipated, then the number of new protected acres will increase.

    The bottom line of the vote last November is that a majority voted to make an “omelet”, now we just have to accept that “eggs will have to be broken”.

    As I’ve said before in comments, there must occasionally be constitutional changes to the Forest Preserve. Such changes must pass over a very high bar, but if there had been no changes since 1895, I maintain that the Forest Preserve would likely have been ended altogether. Try to look at the Lot 8 amendment as, first of all, a way to increase the acreage of Forest Preserve and secondly as one more of many earlier amendments that has kept the Forest Preserve intact as by far the most restrictive protections of any state-owned land in any of the 50 states.

    • Woody says:

      ^^^^^By Mr. Crane’s definition, here is a textbook example of a bastard. His choice of words, not mine. No thank you. Your red herring argument that voting down NYCO would of killed the forest preserve leaks as much water as a spaggetti strainer. Stick with your day job Mr. Goodwin and keep working on those trails. You are not a constitutional lawyer, nor do you play one on TV.

      • Paul says:

        He didn’t make that argument? Voting this down would not have killed the FP. We all know that. The idea that occasional changes being made to article 14 has preserved the integrity of the FP is proven by history. You don’t like the voters decision we all get that. No reason to attack someone personally.

        • Woody says:

          Read before you react. This is a direct quote: “I maintain that the Forest Preserve would likely have been ended altogether. Try to look at the Lot 8 amendment as, first of all, a way to increase the acreage of Forest Preserve and secondly as one more of many earlier amendments that has kept the Forest Preserve intact…”

          In other words, the esteemed Mr. Goodwin makes the argument that voting down Lot 8 would of lead to someone breaking up the preserve.

          • Paul says:

            This is a classic case of taking words out of context. You conveniently drop the first part of what he wrote:

            “Such changes must pass over a very high bar, but if there had been no changes since 1895, I maintain that the Forest Preserve would likely have been ended altogether.”

            He is not referring to the lot 8 vote by itself. He is referring to all the changes to Article 14 over the life of the amendment.

  2. Jason says:

    Lot 8 looks the way it does, mundane ADK forest, because it was likely logged in the 1840-50s, if not also burned in 1908. There is no mystical quality predating human industry on the lot. There is nothing more precious on this piece of land than the larger pieces of land the state will acquire. 100 years after the mine is gone and the land is part of the forest preserve it will look nearly identical, thin understory, same sets of trees. Yawn.

  3. Paul says:

    It is good to hear that the adjacent mine does not seem to have much effect on the neighboring land and its forest inhabitants.

    Adding more of what is here to the Forest Preserve, even if in somewhat close proximity to the mine seems like the right compromise.

    Dan you missed this on editing:

    ” and my gallivanting had to wait for until morning.”

    • Dan Crane Dan Crane says:

      Thanks for bringing the editing mishap to my attention. I blame all grammar mistakes, conflicting tenses, spelling errors and disconnected paragraphs in this article (and all those to follow) solely on my turning 50 while writing this article.

      Please send all condolences emails and virtual gifts to my email address on my website. Thanks!

    • John Warren John Warren says:

      I made the edit.

  4. Tony Goodwin Tony Goodwin says:

    Woody;
    If you are going to use “direct quotes” please use the entire sentence.

    “Such changes must pass over a very high bar, but if there had been no changes since 1895, I maintain that the Forest Preserve would likely have been ended altogether.

  5. Tony Goodwin Tony Goodwin says:

    Woody;
    If you are going to use “direct quotes” please use the entire sentence or at least indicate that you have quoted selectively with a few …s.

    “Such changes must pass over a very high bar, but if there had been no changes since 1895, I maintain ….”

    • Woody says:

      All right mr Goodwin, please edjukate all us ignorant lowlanders how Prop 5 wasnt a corporate give away, when NYCO has since admitted they have plenty of mineral and arent planning to go anywhere? How the validity of past amendment is all we need eliminate all worry over this one? Because Gore was good, so MUST be NYCO–is that what youre telling us? That the thinking behind these amendments was all done 75 years ago, so we just need to put our brains on cruise control and rubber stamp what ever the Adk Mountain Club says is hunky dory? That people who disagree with you are irrational in their fears and should hush up because Papa Goodwin tells us everything was OK?

      I hate NYCO, I hate Prop 5, and I hate the sewage that was duped on the public in the name of conservation. And I hate the Adk Mountain Club for spewing thayt sewage.

      • John Warren John Warren says:

        Take it easy Woody, Tony Goodwin is not your enemy. Disagree politely,

      • adkjoe says:

        I find this sort of comment the most disappointing feature of this site. It really turns me people off, and I think people who might have something interesting to say don’t bother because of this style of basking someone. For that matter, I don’t find the article in any way furthers the discussion but that is just my opinion.

        Voters made a choice. Often the outcomes are not what I voted for, but I get over it. This issue got to the ballot, no small thing, and passed by a margin that, in a national vote, would be considered wide, not narrow. And that’s the way it is. Period.

        Vent if you must but stick with the issue and don’t attack people. It reflects poorly upon you and your judgement.

      • Paul says:

        The point here is pretty simple as I see it. If the flexibility allowed by the amendment process was not an available tool to modify Article 14 over time the amendment would probably have been repealed by now. No Forever Wild No Forest Preserve, nothing to argue about here.

        In the case of this proposition it may do the damage that Dan sees in the future. And if it does that damage it adds more land to the Forest Preserve than was lost. We have done it with a paper company and now we did it with a mine. In the end there is a net benefit to the Forest Preserve. If you want to call these two propositions corporate give aways fine, but these give aways get more for the people of NYS.

        • Paul says:

          Slight correction. In the case of the transfer with IP we got the same number of acres of land.

  6. Tim says:

    The irony, I think, is that Lot 8 as well as most of the 1,000+ acres would all have remained untouched if the Proposition had been voted down. Maybe they wouldn’t have been officially part of the Forest Preserve but mostly available for anyone who wanted to tromp around back there. There’s not much activity, except for ginormous NYCO trucks roaring down the roads with their cargo. There’s a grand total of one trail (recently formed) in the Jay Wilderness–and a strip mine.

  7. Scott van Laer Scott van Laer says:

    Great adventure and great article! I felt like I was hiking with you reading that one. I still can’t believe the prop passed. Sad

  8. Eric says:

    Dan,

    Thank you for the eulogy. This intimate portrait of what soon will be lost is moving. This knowing of lands and connection to place is what is so lacking in conservation debate.

    Your statement that the “New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) relinquished their roles of protecting the environment and the Adirondack Park. Instead, these governmental organizations engaged in the complete evisceration of nearly every environmental protection law on the books”, for me says it all.

    And Tony, I for one, have not and will not renew my membership with The Adirondack Mountain Club.

  9. Jim S. says:

    What bothers me about the land swap is NYCO can rip lot 8 to shreds, decide there is not enough wollastonite and scrap the whole thing.

  10. Little Buckaroo says:

    Thanks, Dan Crane, for your very interesting observations during the time you spent on Lot 8 and for your dedication to the Forest Preserve.

    I think that what we learned over the past months from you, Dan Plumley, Michael Klemmens and other expert and knowledgeable investigators over the past months is that there is much of ecological value on Lot 8 and that the earlier natural resource inventory work relied on by DEC was sketchy and cursory. DEC missed a lot of it. Lot 8 was purchased at tax sale by the Forest Commission in 1885, the year the Forest Preserve was created. No one has reported any evidence that Lot 8 was hit by a fire in 1908 but that doesn’t matter. It is mature and diverse forest, returned to climax condition, close to being “old growth” by virtue of its condition meeting 6 out of 8 criteria for that.

    Most importantly, it has been an integral part of the Jay Mountain Wilderness Area of the Adirondack State Forest Preserve since that classification was bestowed on the area. That is not true of the 1507 acres which NYCO proposes to use to pay the State for lot 8. Those parcels, some owned by NYCO, others under option by NYCO, are mostly recently cut-over ordinary forest land, with little ecological value, that DEC can buy anywhere in the Adirondacks at any time. These parcels are not essential as an addition to the Jay Mountain Wilderness. They have not been in the State Open Space Plan priority lists in the past.

    After the test drilling, if NYCO decides to move ahead with full scale mining of Lot 8, the Legislature is supposed to determine the value of Lot 8, including the mineral value, and how much acreage NYCO really has to give in payment. DEC will be advising on NYCO’s appraisal. I wonder how the comparative ecological values and the “essentiality” (to the Wilderness Area) factors will figure in that appraisal?

    The law suit that was filed by Earthjustice, a national environmental non-profit law fir and its co-counsel, Mintz Levin et al, for four Adirondack groups on July 13 in Essex County State Supreme Court is obviously not about undoing the 53-47% result (yeas versus the nays) of last November’s ballot. As the groups and Earthjustice have strongly emphasized it is really about the hurried and unlawful way that the State (DEC and APA) are implementing that decision during the test drilling phase by picking and choosing which State laws apply to Lot 8 which, they admit, is still Forest Preserve Wilderness while this test drilling is in progress. For example, they have completely skipped over the need to amend the State Land Master Plan although it clearly applies. This is about bad precedent and about getting the State to obey the law.

    Unlike previous amendments the Legislature passed no enabling legislation for this one that provides a road map for the subsequent process, a neglect that led directly to the State’s ad hoc approach to implementation.

    The only other thing that happened on July 13 is that Earthjustice also filed for and won from the court a Temporary Restraining Order (Stop Work Order) because under the permit received from DEC on July 9, NYCO could have started work as early as July 16. Earthjustice will ask for and argue for a permanent restraining order on August 22, good for the duration of the case.

    Incidentally, although they did not join this lawsuit, both the Adirondack Mountain Club and the Adirondack Council have made comments expressing great concern about the way in which the State is implementing this Article 14 amendment.

    As to the passage of Prop 5 last November, it is now very clear that NYCO and its PR flack, Behan Communications, bought the vote with a $750,000 ad campaign in NYC and elsewhere that said that NYCO would leave the state if it did not get Lot 8 and eliminate 105 local jobs, decimate the local economy and eliminate millions in local taxes. We now know that this was a deliberate lie, deceiving the voting public, as NYCO has recently applied for a 50% expansion of the existing Lewis mine and for an increase in hours operation and the number of trucks coming and going for its Oak Hill mine that is scheduled to go to full operation by 2016. Together there are several decades or more of reserves in these two locations – and NYCO is out exploring for more. The State knew all of this. Why didn’t they insist that NYCO and Behan stop the lies and correct the record?

    Second, it also is now very clear that this “land swap” was really not that at all because the land to be acquired by the State from NYCO has lttle or no value for the Jay Mt. Wilderness. There was no public purpose to the deal. Instead of cash NYCO is paying off the State for Lot 8 with ordinary forest land. All that this was ever about was a way to enhance NYCO’s bottom line as a privately-owned subsidiary of an international company by exploiting the resources of the Forest Preserve in violation of the “forever wild” provision of Article 14. Whether those resources are the trees that will be cut for the open pit mining or the mineral itself, the Forest Preserve is being ripped off for strictly commercial benefit and Article 14 has been severely weakened. What is next? More land swaps for projects that are strictly for commercial benefit?

  11. Eric says:

    Wow, thanks Buckaroo for such a clear comment on the current legal fight and underlying issues.

    I fully support Earthjustice in their work employing law to battle injustice when our government and government agencies fail to do the right thing. I also very much appreciate the collaborative way in which the organization works with diverse environmental and conservation groups.

  12. Lily says:

    This is one of the most powerful and moving posts on ADK Almanack – ever. Thank you Dan for laying out this Forest Preserve tragedy in such clear and hard-hitting detail. While I can understand that voters in many areas of NY did not comprehend the implications of the ballot measure, it is unforgiveable that several Adirondack advocacy groups supported it.

  13. Mark Gibson says:

    Sad to see that the trend to increasingly intense polarization in our country is found here, with this issue, among folks who have all, in one way or another, shown deep affection and respect for Adirondack wilderness. Best a little of this respect were preserved for each other.

    In such polarization resides the myth that the right choice here (either way) was obvious and simple: good vs. evil, right vs. wrong. I support the most vigorous environmental advocates sometimes because I support their positions but sometimes because I only feel their positions help shift the “middle” way I favor in a more environment-friendly direction.

    Very, very few who supported the swap did so for NYCO’s interests per se, rather the belief that livelihoods of Adirondack natives would be protected, though whether that is really so is, I think, obscure. Very, very few who opposed the land swap were unconcerned for the severe economic blow that might befall many in the Lewis/Willsboro vicinity, rather were deeply adherent to the fundamental principles founding and sustaining the Park. Many of these folks saw the employment/economic issue not as moot, but as a smokescreen that was invalid. Again, I argue this to be unknowable but a valid concern to be weighed in this choice.

    I have hiked up Slip (MacDonough) and it’s partner Saddleback from the east more than a dozen times over the past few decades and never seen a soul, or signs of one low down or high up. This is, for the most part a neglected and happily unloved area of wilderness free of the messy intrusions wilderness lovers can make of wild lands (viz. high peaks, some canoe country). The birch forest between the two peaks is miraculously lovely. I am sorry the country below will be harmed – I hope the idea that Lewis-Willsboroites will actually be benefitted is actually a justification for it.

    We all mean our very best, I think….

    • Pete Nelson Pete Nelson says:

      Mark:

      When you began commenting here at the Almanack, on one of my pieces I think, I took notice right away. This comment follows suit. Your is a thoughtful voice, considered, reflective.

      Here at the Almanack the comments are generally of higher quality than most sites. I don’t really spend much time in the blogosphere but one look at the idiocy that passes for discussion on a site like the Adirondack Daily Enterprise makes me feel much better about this place.

      What happened at the Enterprise site was something I have seen repeatedly as a trend on the web. It was co-opted by a few obnoxious voices that always comment with the same tired crap and in in the same tired way. People with more thoughtful contributions got tired of it and gave up; so did the Enterprise ultimately, restricting comments to only editorials.

      The way to prevent that here is for substantive and thoughtful commenters to keep at it, to raise the level of discourse even with all the cheap noise that threatens to drown them out. So continue contributing, Mark.

      Meanwhile, lest these on-line trends discourage you, take heart in this. I have followed Adirondack issues for decades; outside of the on-line world, which by its nature draws the least and lowest of us throw our hats in the ring, discourse has improved, maybe even dramatically. The debate over the most contentious issues has become by steady degrees more civil, even while the substance of many of the debates has improved as well.

      Because of its conceptual design, its editor and its readers, the Adirondack Almanack does justice to the possibilities of this new way of sharing information and talking about it. Help us keep it that way with the good words you and others regularly contribute.

      Pete

  14. josh says:

    Dan says “…..my mind still pondered those who voted to destroy this gorgeous property. “Bastards,” I muttered to myself. ”

    For a some years now, standard lines of the environmental crowd included:

    ‘this land belongs to the whole state’….a line meant to diminish the opinions of the few pesky resident voters.

    ‘we trust the people of NYS’….a line meant to imply suspicion of legislators, agency people, the governor, everyone but voters as trusted owners.

    I have read comments blaming the vote on election politics, spurious information, money, all common ingredients of today’s USA democracy.

    But it really comes down to voters. Voters opinions are not forever stable. Voters change. Laws change.

    So, what to do? Tell the voters they’re bastards? Try to gum things up in the courts with legal doublespeak? These are protest moves more likely to backfire than anything else.

    It’s time for some actual thinking from the enviro community. What is preservation and how does it work best? How do we build a sustainable economy in rural areas? And, of course, dozens more good questions.

    We need to get past the rants, the tantrums, the legal gum-works. These tactics are simply not working. Sticking with losing strategies is not a wise move.

  15. Hawthorn says:

    I’ve written this here before on other threads. If the purpose of the amendment was to preserve jobs something about preserving jobs should have been written into the amendment. The people of New York are left to trust that NYCO will continue to employ people, if they find the minerals they seek in sufficient quantity. So, if the mineral isn’t there, what happens to those jobs? A higher bar than that should be set for constitutional amendments.