Posts Tagged ‘wilderness’

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Understanding The State Land Master Plan, Part 2

APSLMP - LogoI have no doubt that when the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) announced its intent to begin an amendment process for the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP), more than one preservation-minded advocate held their breath for a moment. The master plan, after all, is the document that has guided the management of the Forest Preserve for the past forty-two years. It has capped the amount of roads and snowmobile trails to essentially 1972 levels, kept snowmobile trails reasonably narrow and trail-like, and kept both roads and snowmobile trails out of the designated Wilderness areas. For a preservationist who seeks to foster the wild forest character of our state lands, these are accomplishments worth celebrating.

On the other hand, people seeking enhanced access to the Forest Preserve for a greater number of people will list these same SLMP accomplishments as a set of roadblocks that should be reconsidered.

The current amendment process is being conducted because in 2013, as part of the classification package that designated the Essex Chain Lakes Primitive Area, the APA promised it would revisit the SLMP to see if there was a way to open these lands to mountain bike use. The area was classified Primitive to balance competing political influences: on one side, a desire to keep the lakes as motorless as possible — floatplanes notwithstanding — while on the other hand allowing motor vehicle access on some of the surrounding roads. In an odd twist, some traditionally preservation-minded voices were more than okay with this, calling the classification scheme “wilderness with access” — turning the old “Access versus Wildness” argument on its head. » Continue Reading.



Monday, October 27, 2014

Commentary: Make Ecology Cornerstone Of State Land Plan

Slide BrookThe Adirondack Park Agency has announced that it is opening the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan for review. This is momentous news. Together with the Land Use and Development Plan which governs development on private land in the Park, the State Land Master Plan (SLMP) is one of two fundamental documents used to carry out the will of the people, as expressed in Article XIV of the NYS Constitution, that the Adirondack Forest Preserve  should be “forever kept as wild forest lands”.

My interest in revising the SLMP is to strengthen its focus on ecological integrity over more traditional notions of open space. The SLMP, to its credit, already emphasizes science and ecology. But it was written in 1972, when ecology was still very much a nascent science. It can be a stronger document by taking advantage of forty years of maturation in a discipline more relevant to the protection of the Adirondacks than any other. » Continue Reading.



Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Lecture on Wilderness by William Cronon

Giant from Amy's Lookout.  Many new Irene slides.This week I attended the Third Annual Jordahl Lecture, established by the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies in Madison, Wisconsin.

This year’s lecture, intended to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act, was given by renowned environmental historian William Cronon. As we ponder revisions to both New York State’s Open Space Conservation Plan and the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP), Cronon’s presentation provides an interesting and useful historical perspective. » Continue Reading.



Saturday, October 18, 2014

Lost Brook Dispatches: The Western Ridge

S0010504-001One of the things I value most about Adirondack wilderness is how evocative it is in its intimate spaces. Where other wilderness areas might be most affecting in their scenery, their grand vistas or their iconic imagery, the Adirondack forest itself, in its dense, primeval nature, generates equally strong emotions. The vast and trackless stretches of uneven terrain and close-held woods, unremarkable by any common standards of majesty or wonder, possess as much power as any wild place I’ve ever visited. To venture into the Forest Preserve is to experience an unmistakable immersion that activates ancient echoes of the primitive selves we all harbor, institutional memories lodged deep in our genetic code.

Of all the sensations the Adirondack wilderness evokes, the strongest and most valued to me is loneliness. It may seem odd to value loneliness so highly. If I were forced to live with it on a daily basis I have no doubt it would lose its appeal. But in this era of social bombardment a little loneliness is good for the soul. Indeed it always has been. Loneliness invites a distinct form of reflection replete with significance about one’s place in the world, about one’s values and priorities. It requires, in the absence of civilized companionship, that we instead connect with Nature and with our internal lives, indeed with those deep, primeval echoes that, more to me than religion or the supernatural, define mystery. » Continue Reading.



Saturday, October 11, 2014

What’s The Most Difficult Bushwhack in the Adirondacks?

Bushwhack Fallen Spruce and DuffIt was a perfect fall day here in Madison last Monday, the kind of luminous afternoon where it seems nothing can possibly go wrong. I was at the park with my loyal dog Henderson, whose raison d’etre is to chase and catch flying discs (Frisbees, for those of you as old as me).  There we were, surrounded by blazing fall colors and muted green grass, warmed by an Indian summer sun and refreshed by a delightful breeze.  All was bucolic even as I, in a moment of excess enthusiasm, overthrew the disc, launching it into what seemed like the jet stream.  It soared skyward, caught the prevailing westerlies and proceeded well down field like a fat, migrating goose until it shot past a fence and over a thick stand of trees and brush, depositing itself somewhere therein.  “No worries,” I cheerily shouted to Henderson, who had brought himself up short at the fence and was peering beyond with concerned attention.  “I’ll get it.”

I hopped the fence and jogged over to the thicket.  The disc was lodged deep inside so I forged on in.  It was quite dense and I had to bull my way through it.  No matter – everything around me was erupting in fall beauty and my spirits were unassailable.

My scratching, scraping and shoving efforts immediately brought to mind memories of Adirondack bushwhacking, which did nothing but brighten my mood.  I could almost imagine myself plundering along in some great Adirondack fastness, maybe a favorite place like the dense woods between Blue Mountain Lake and the Sargent Ponds.  Oh revel! » Continue Reading.



Sunday, October 5, 2014

Ed Zahniser: There Is A Wolf in Me!

Mountain_view_from_Sandburg's_porch_IMG_4850My sister Esther is a therapist in London, England. She specializes in voice dialogue therapy. Her work tries to engage the client’s heretofore unacknowledged multiple inner voices in constructive dialog with each other. Esther is highly intuitive. She can still work up her own fright by recalling from childhood our father Howard Zahniser reciting a poem she and I remembered as “There Is a Wolf in Me.” It turns out the poem by Carl Sandburg (1878–1967) is titled “Wilderness”:

There is a wolf in me . . . fangs pointed for tearing gashes . . . a red tongue for raw meat . . . and the hot lapping of blood—I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me and the wilderness will not let it go.

I can still conjure my father reciting the poem to us as he stood framed by the doorway from our kitchen pantry-way into the dining room of our childhood home in the Hyattsville, Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C.

No matter that the house no longer exists. No matter that our father Howard Zahniser died 50 years ago. No matter that I have since seen wolves in the wild and witnessed their extreme wariness toward their bipedal primate nemesis humankind.

What was so frightening about the poem may be the fact that, truth to tell, there is probably a wolf in each of us. What if my wolf got out? What if your wolf got out? » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pete Nelson: An Updated Adirondack Promotional Quiz

the view from NewcombSince I posted my little prototype promotional quiz on Saturday I have gotten a lot of great input, some on-line, some off-line. The reaction tells me that people are interested in this, so I have incorporated the various suggestions I received into a new version.

Here it is: Adirondack Promotional Quiz Version Two » Continue Reading.



Saturday, September 27, 2014

Lost Brook Dispatches: A Promotional Adirondack Quiz

the view from NewcombLast time Amy and I were at Lost Brook Tract we were talking about how to promote the Adirondack Region to people who know little or nothing about it.  The default approach for decades has been to promote it as something like Vermont, the Berkshires or the Poconos:  cozy resorts, Adirondack chairs, pretty scenery, shopping, tourist sites and an overriding rustic chic.  That’s all well and good, but in a time when more and more people crave mountains and wild places, when camping and hiking are the leading recreational pursuits, I have wondered why we don’t try to promote the Adirondacks in a different way. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, September 11, 2014

State Acquires Former Finch, Pruyn Lands Near High Peaks

D08A9330The state has purchased a 5,770-acre tract abutting the High Peaks Wilderness from the Adirondack Nature Conservancy, the latest acquisition of former Finch, Pruyn lands for the Forest Preserve.

Known as Macintyre West, the tract includes 3,081-foot Mount Andrew and sixteen-acre Lake Andrew as well as Santanoni Brook, which flows into Henderson Lake, and Sucker Brook, which flows into Newcomb Lake.

“It’s an important part of the upper Hudson watershed,” said John Sheehan, spokesman for the Adirondack Council. “We think it’d be a fine addition to the High Peaks Wilderness.”

He expects the tract will be used by hikers, hunters, and anglers.

» Continue Reading.



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Wilderness 50th Celebration in North Creek Wednesday

Wilderness 50thThe Wilderness 50th Steering Committee will sponsor a public event in North Creek to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of The National Wilderness Preservation System Act of 1964.

The event will feature remarks by members of the Wilderness 50th committee, including but not limited to Adirondack Wild, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, and Chad Dawson, Professor Emeritus at the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Professor Dawson is also the editor of the international Journal of Wilderness.

The event is also intended to recognize the legacies of Howard Zahniser and Paul Schaefer. The National Wilderness Act’s author and chief lobbyist Howard Zahniser took his inspiration from New York’s “forever wild” constitutional protection of the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve. That constitutional protection also marks its 120th anniversary this year (1894-2014). Zahniser said many times that New York State set the example for the national Wilderness movement and for the legislation. His legislation was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on September 3, 1964. » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, September 2, 2014

West Stony Creek: Seeing Wilderness In A Wild Forest

West Stony mapThis summer, a small parcel of state land on the Fulton-Hamilton county line in the southern Adirondacks has been receiving an increased amount of public scrutiny. Most of it has enjoyed a quiet existence since the state started acquiring lots here at tax sales as early as the 1870s and 1880s; with no trails or famous landmarks, few people have had a reason to visit it. However, this little block of state land will soon become the site of a new section of the Northville-Placid Trail (NPT), fulfilling the goal of relocating the southern end of that long-distance hiking route closer to its official starting point in Northville. It has also been proposed for a wilderness reclassification, due to the acquisition of a former Finch Pruyn parcel to the south. Therefore if you are not familiar with this corner of the Adirondack Park, you will probably be hearing more about it soon.

The area that I am describing is a corner of the Shaker Mountain Wild Forest straddling the banks of West Stony Creek, immediately south of Benson. Most of it occupies the rectangular bulge in Hamilton County’s southern border that was created when the town of Benson was set apart from Hope in 1860, taking with it the northernmost portion of Mayfield. This has always been a blank spot on most maps—unsettled and unknown. To my knowledge there have never been any official state trails here, although it is possible that an ancient town road may have traversed the hillside south of the creek. It has one small pond, a range of unnamed mountains, and of course a section of West Stony Creek, which is here designated as a “scenic river” under state law. » Continue Reading.



Sunday, August 31, 2014

Wilderness 50th:
Howard Zahniser And The Black River Wars

Howard Zahniser at Mataskared, Crane Mtn in backgroundHoward Zahniser knew he needed two things when he came to the Adirondacks in 1946. The two things could help him prove himself to his national wilderness mentors—now his new employers—at the Wilderness Society. They could also help him build the practical and functional organization needed to pursue a national wilderness preservation system. First, Zahnie, as he was known, needed honest-to-goodness wilderness in reasonable automobile vacation reach of Washington, D.C. for our family. Even this was a two-day car trip then, and we would camp overnight on the way. Second, he needed to leave his professional comfort zone of public relations and public information and journalism work. He needed to expand into grassroots political organizing and consensus building. That is, he needed to learn to operate in the larger world that would become the environmental movement twenty-five years later.

The Adirondacks and their Edwards Hill setting—soon to be Mateskared—met the first need. Paul Schaefer met the second. Paul was my father’s ticket out of his own comfort zone. » Continue Reading.



Saturday, August 30, 2014

Lost Brook Dispatches: Giants in the Mist

Magnificent giants - timeless and veiled.Last week we spent a few precious days at Lost Brook Tract. It was a cool, overcast stretch of weather that reminded me of the Adirondacks of my youth, when impending fall could at any time push and urge its way into lazy August days, into the fading summer.

During nearly all of the time we were on our land the cloud ceiling remained low and Keene Valley enjoyed gray days and rain. But at our lean- to at 3,300 feet we were immersed in the clouds themselves, the daylight hours gloaming, exalting the primeval feel of the forest.

We are accommodated to – though ever awed by – our cathedral of ancient forest giants: red spruces that lift from thick-barked trunks to as much as a hundred feet in the air. At Lost Brook Tract stands of old-growth trees tower and brood as in few other boreal forest communities in the park. To sit among them is for me to feel both old and ageless, all at once. These groves are for patience and contemplation. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

During A High Peaks Camping Trip, The Birth Of The National Wilderness Act

JohnsonOn a warm September day in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed what is now recognized as one of the most significant legislative acts in American environmental history. This was the national Wilderness Act. Before then, federal lands, even those protected as national parks or national forests were expected to serve a variety of functions. The national forests, for example, permitted logging, mining, and grazing. The national parks were often centered on opulent hotels and other all-too-civilized amenities. The idea of setting aside part of the public domain as wilderness, even though this word was and is difficult to define, was radical then, and it remains controversial today. It was a monumental step, and its roots lie in the Adirondacks.

How European-Americans have thought about this amorphous thing we call wilderness has been a complicated, often torturous story. (How Native Americans navigated these shoals is another story altogether, but their views have seldom if ever been consulted as this country has gone about the process of setting land-use policy.) If we go back far enough, we find a pervasive hostility to what many of us now treasure. In 1620, for example, the Pilgrim William Bradford contemplated the forests of eastern Massachusetts, which seemed to stand between his band of cold and hungry settlers and any sort of security, and declared despairingly that nothing lay before them other than “a hideous and desolate wilderness.” Wilderness, in other words, was the enemy. If these people expected to survive, let alone prosper, the wilderness had to be eliminated as soon as possible. » Continue Reading.



Monday, July 14, 2014

Groups File Legal Challenge In NYCO Wilderness Mining

View of NYCO from Mt FayFour environmental organizations filed a lawsuit Friday challenging the State’s approval of mineral exploration on 200-acres of publicly-owned Adirondack Forest Preserve Wilderness known as “Lot 8” in Essex County.

The organizations are Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, Atlantic States Legal Foundation, Protect the Adirondacks! Inc., and Sierra Club, and they are represented by the non-profit law firm, Earthjustice, and pro bono co-counsel Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.

According to a notice sent to the media the Article 78 lawsuit seeks to stop mineral exploration in the Jay Mountain Wilderness “until the State complies with all applicable laws.” It was filed in Albany County Supreme Court against the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and its Commissioner, the NYS Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and its Chairwoman, and NYCO Minerals, Inc. The groups contend that a constitutional amendment (Proposition 5) approved by the voters last November suspended one layer of protection for Lot 8, but all other legal requirements protective of Wilderness areas remain in full force and effect. » Continue Reading.



Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Great American Wilderness: Two Tragic Anniversaries

Snowy Mountain from the Jessup River Wild ForestI have noticed some opinions floating through the media lately calling into question the extent to which the Adirondacks really qualify as a wilderness.

As I write this, on July 10th, a sad and sobering anniversary has arrived. Then in September we will mark the seventieth anniversary of another tragedy, one of many plane crashes that have occurred in the park, this one remarkable for the longevity of its mystery. Both anniversaries remind me just how formidable a wilderness the Adirondack region really is. » Continue Reading.



Sunday, June 29, 2014

Johnsburg: Where Wilderness Begins

DSCN1728My father and mother, Howard and Alice Zahniser, named our cabin Mateskared not long after they bought the place in August 1946 from Harold and Pansy Allen. It sits at the end of a road off Route 8 in Bakers Mills, Warren County.

The late  New York State conservationist Paul Schaefer partly owned the land to the west of our place. Paul served as middleman on the deal because our family lived in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. We were a two-day drive from the Adirondack State Park in those days. I was not yet one year old. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Barbara McMartin’s Guidebook Series Marks 40 Years

Discover SeriesIn 2014, the Discover the Adirondacks series of guidebooks has reached an important milestone: its fortieth birthday. The series began in 1974 under a different name, with a single book that covered just one part of the Adirondacks.  It was intended by its author to illustrate that there was more to the Adirondack Park than just the High Peaks, where the majority of the non-motorized trail building had occurred. When philosophical differences led to a split with her original publisher, she found a new one and proceeded to accomplish the unprecedented: a detailed, eleven-volume guidebook series that covered every region in the six-million-acre park. To mark the occasion, I have taken the liberty of writing this short history of how the Discover series came to be—with hints of where it might be going.

In 1974, the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) published a compact volume called Walks and Waterways: An Introduction to Adventure by Barbara McMartin Patterson. It was a guidebook that suggested ninety-eight walks and paddle trips in the space of about 170 pages, covering an area that ranged from Stratford to Speculator in the southern Adirondacks. The book featured five small pullout trail maps that had been drawn by a cartography student at Briarcliff College, and it was adorned by dozens of pencil sketches drawn by the author. It was intended to be “an encyclopedic list of all the paths and water routes,” as well as “a guide for the amateur explorer, in order that he can better enjoy the forest paths, canoe trips, and automobile routes.” It was, in fact, the first guidebook that McMartin would publish, and the nucleus of what would grow to become the future series.

» Continue Reading.



Monday, June 16, 2014

NYCO Amendment Commentary:
We Need A Regional Memory

NYCO-Minerals-Wollastonite-Mine-Nancie-B-PhotoThis week has seen the most recent amendment to Article XIV of the NY State Constitution, known colloquially as the NYCO Amendment, return to front page news.

Just last Friday the Adirondack Park Agency approved an amendment to the Jay Mountain Wilderness Unit Management Plan (UMP) to allow NYCO Minerals to conduct exploratory drilling on the 200 acre parcel known as Lot 8. This drilling will allow NYCO to determine whether they want to swap Lot 8 for other land to be given to the State, as authorized by the amendment. » Continue Reading.



Saturday, June 14, 2014

Commentary: Adirondack Trail Etiquette

wall of moss on way up to the topLast week I wrote a column about dogs in the back country and the need to keep them leashed while on the trail. This led to the issue of trail etiquette in general, a topic I have decided to address.

I’m trying to think of an Adirondack subject that annoys me more than behavior on trails and it isn’t coming to me. My experience of various hikers on trails is one of the primary motivators in my ongoing quest to actively dislike the majority of humanity. Trail etiquette is more important than most people think and it less followed than most people think as well. Not only that, in my experience there is surprisingly little understanding about what proper trail etiquette is. » Continue Reading.



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