Thursday, May 9, 2013

Adirondack Wild Seeks ‘Wild Rivers Wilderness’

essexchainAdirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve is proposing newly acquired Forest Preserve in Newcomb and Minerva to be classified Wilderness in honor of one of the Park’s most influential conservation leaders of the 20th century.

The group wants New York State to recognize Paul Schaefer’s historic legacy of protecting the Upper Hudson River by advocating for a Paul Schaefer Wild Rivers Wilderness that is inclusive of the recently acquired Essex Chain of Lakes-Cedar River tract (13,000 acres), Hudson River Stillwater tract (5,000 acres), the Indian River tract (1,400 acres), and the OK Slip Falls tract (2,800 acres).

The Wild Rivers Wilderness proposal was first promoted in 1990 by The Adirondack Council in its 2020 Vision series of reports looking towards critical land and resource protection goals long-term and park-wide.  The proposal was also included in the recommendations of the Governor’s Commission on the Adirondacks in the 21st Century under Governor Mario M. Cuomo.  “Adirondack Wild is supporting the proposal in recognition of the tremendous wilderness potential and vulnerable ecological resources that exist there, and to recognize and honor the lifelong legacy of one of New York’s greatest Adirondack champions, Paul Schaefer,” a statement issued by the organization says.

“The State Land Master Plan guidelines clearly call for managing the fragile Essex Chain of Lakes for their wilderness and natural resource values,” said Adirondack Wild’s David Gibson. “Managing the Chain of Lakes, the adjoining Upper Hudson River and Cedar Rivers comprehensively under one Wilderness classification, and not as separate pieces, is not only a fundamental principle of good wilderness management, but would be a fitting legacy for a 20th century champion of Adirondack conservation.”

“The State should not be allowing new motorized access on the Chain Lakes. By creating one larger Wilderness for the lakes and the rivers, and by managing the entire area under one basic set of guidelines, there would be significant recreational and economic benefits to the central Adirondacks,” Plumley added.

In addition, Adirondack Wild is recommending that the state reclassify to Wilderness the existing 17,000-acre Hudson River Gorge Primitive Area and western sections of the Vanderwhacker Wild Forest adjoining the Hudson River tract. These additions to a Wild Rivers Wilderness are consistent with the Adirondack Council’s proposals of 1990.

Paul Schaefer at Beaver House, 1990In the 1960s, Paul Schaefer and his Adirondack Hudson River Association were instrumental in protecting the Upper Hudson River from four proposed dams and reservoirs that would have affected the river from Luzerne to Newcomb, and inundated and destroyed thousands of acres of what is now forest preserve.

In the 1970s, Paul Schaefer produced the award-winning documentary film Of Rivers and Men, which influenced Governors Rockefeller and Carey to support and expand the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act.

Schaefer tried to persuade the former Finch, Pruyn Paper Company to sell OK Slip Falls and other Upper Hudson holdings beginning in the 1960s, a project he pursued until his death in 1996.

The NYS DEC has recommended that the Essex Chain of Lakes be classified Wild Forest in order to encourage motorized use of the area. “Adirondack Wild believes that motorized uses on the Essex Chain of Lakes will damage its wild character, fragile ecology and fishery resource, and that wilderness management of this chain of lakes is essential to preserve them for this and future generations,” their press statement said.

The Adirondack Park Agency board will begin hearing proposals today at its offices in Ray Brook regarding the classification of the newly acquired state lands.

Photo:  Confluence of the Hudson (right) and Cedar rivers on the Essex Chain of Lakes tract (photo by Carl Heilman II, courtesy of the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy); below, Paul Schaffer at his camp in Johnsburg in 1990 (photo by Paul Grondahl provided).

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10 Responses

  1. Pete Klein says:

    Nothing against Paul but could we please stop naming places after people.

    • Pete Nelson says:


      I’m curious: what is your objection to naming things after people?

      • Ann Melious says:

        As a branding tool, “High Peaks” works really well in front of the word “wilderness.” It is descriptive. Paul Schaefer’s name as a modifier of anything will mean very little to 99.9 percent of the population. I realize it is done all the time, but I believe that appending human names onto public open space is hubris, the opposite of Paul Schaefer’s legacy.

        • Paul says:

          It really is a marketing question. Convene a focus group and see what has the best impact. When I lived in Colorado I was intrigued by the name of one mountain range. It was the “Never Summer” mountains. That name just made you have to go and check them out. The “Mosquito Range” probably had smaller numbers of climbers! I have always thought that the “High Peaks” was kind of a let down as far as names go, kind of sounds boring. “Upper Wolfs Jaw”. Now that is more like it.

  2. Pete K., Ann:

    Thanks for your comments. The Paul A. Schaefer Wild Rivers Wilderness as a name would recognize both a location in the descriptive sense of “Wild Rivers” and one of our state’s “Greatest Generation” activists for protecting these wild lands and waters.

    The suggestion of “hubris” is your own invention and not a part of our intention in the least — nor is it factually based or consistent with New York and Adirondack historical practice for naming of public open space features.

    Colvin and Blake have their peaks, as do Marcy, Macomb, McKenzie and many, many more. The Iroquois and Algonquin Peoples are named for two such high lands. Our lakes, ponds, plains and rivers have both native, and immigrant names as well as descriptive titles. Thus, as a society called New York State, our practice is to do both — and the Paul A. Schaefer Wild Rivers Wilderness would do both quite fittingly as well, in our view.

    My sense is that Wild Rivers would be recognized colloquially over time as the namesake for these lands home to the headwaters of the wild North Hudson, Cedar, Boreas, Rock and other tributaries.

    As these wild lands and waters were protected over almost three generations in Paul’s life – inclusive of his own influence on Howard Zahniser leading to the establishment of the first wilderness area in the park, and the ultimate of the National Wilderness Preservation System (today totaling some 130 million acres nationally and influenced by the Adirondack experience) – it is more than fitting to associate and honor Paul Schaefer’s legacy in this way and for these lands.

    If you haven’t read Paul Schaefer’s “Defending the Wilderness” and Cabin Country” books, or seen “Of Rivers and Men,” or “The Adirondack: Land Nobody Knows, I would encourage you do so. You will then realize I am sure that Paul Schaefer deserves certainly equal recognition as Verplanc Colvin and to associate him with “wild rivers” is a most appropriate connection to the legacy of leadership and gift of wildness that his work bestowed upon all of us and future generations of New Yorkers.

  3. adkDreamer says:

    Honorable mention to Bob Marshall and the wilderness / wild forest area(s)named after him.

  4. Paul says:

    Most people will probably think that we are naming it after the music guy who used to be with David Letterman.

  5. Lily says:

    Mmmmmm, so shocking that only White Men are being considered for naming rights. Gotta hand it to you guys for partting one another on the back so publicly.

  6. Dave Gibson says:

    All – I appreciate why many would not want a wilderness area named after someone they may not know or relate to. After all, wilderness is where we feel most keenly our interdependence with the more than human world – so why quite permanently tie it by name to one human being? In part, Adirondack Wild proposes this name to increase awareness of Paul Schaefer’s remarkable contributions. He organized effective coalitions of people from all walks of life which effectively protected the Upper Hudson (Upper Hudson River Association) and other rivers in the Adirondack Park in an era when controlling the flow of rivers was considered patriotic, progressive and scientific. Hundreds of people played important roles in these campaigns to fight the River Regulating District, Army Corps of Engineers, and their state and private backers, but Paul was un-selfconsciously at their head because people looked to him for knowledge, inspiration and organization. These fights often appeared hopeless and went on for some years, but if nothing else Paul was an optimist and believer in what ordinary people could do if they stuck to the task. And Paul’s films – also shot by volunteers, mostly – were very educational and influential with Governors, the DEC and the public. We knew Paul well enough to know that he would not want a river or a mountain, or a Wilderness area named for him. But enough time has passed since his death that we wanted to make his deeds – and the lessons which flow from them – better known. Thanks for the feedback.

    • Paul says:

      if he didn’t want something named after him to do it seems like stomping on the mans grave. maybe we should honor his wishes?

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