Saturday, December 14, 2013

Take a Poll: Is There a Hidden Issue in Adirondacks?

part of the great range from the brothers trailWhen it comes to major issues that impact the future of the Adirondacks this year has been one of the most event-filled in decades.  From the ongoing Adirondack Club and Resort debate and the orbiting cluster of questions related to private land use to the continuing economic wins for the North Country, the recent constitutional amendments and the classification of the Finch Pruyn lands, this has been a pivotal time.

My reading of recent events is that most of the news is good news for the park.  It seems to me that stakeholders in the Adirondacks are responding to the challenges we face with concrete initiatives that are making a difference but also with a sense of intelligence: people are thinking a lot about matters in the park and there seems to be a higher level of general understanding of these challenges than in years past.

However as I have followed all of this I have come to feel that there is one huge issue that is not on the radar, so to speak.  My own experience of the region along with some recent media coverage has given me to consider that even when this issue is in the public sphere it is only present in certain, limited dimensions.  I sense that a full, rich understanding of it is lacking in comparison to other issues we collectively discuss.  This troubles me because in the final analysis I think it may well be the most important issue of all.

On the other hand I’m not sure if it is as off-the-radar as I think it is.  So I’m not going to say what the issue is yet, or even tip my hand.  Instead I’m going to ask you to take a poll (there is also a link to it at the end of the article).  The poll has a single ranking question and will take you all of one minute to participate.  But I do ask you to take it seriously; don’t just toss off an answer.  The poll is anonymous as well.  If for some reason you want to identify yourself and express an opinion about any of the issues or the poll itself you can do so via the usual comments.

I’m going to briefly describe the poll and some of the items you will be ranking so that you have a better understanding of what I mean by them.

You will be asked to rank ten issues or factors that affect the long-term viability of the Adirondack Park, from most important to least important.  They are listed in random order; you will sort them in the order you like.  The issues necessarily overlap in many cases but I strove to define them from the dual perspectives of both how we talk about them (and how they have been present in media coverage) and how we act upon them.

Let me define “long-term viability of the Adirondack Park.”  By that I mean a park that preserves and protects its wild character, open space  and ecology as well or better than today and that also sustains healthy communities with quality of life and economies as good or better than today.  Therefore among the issues I list you will not see things like “healthy economies of the towns” or “ecological protection for the park,” as these are part of the definition.

Here is a brief description of the ten issues or factors, in random order:

  • Invasive Species
  • The Regional Education System – Private and public schools from pre-kindergarten through vocational, technical and college – enrollment, quality, standards
  • State Government Agencies, Policies and Regulations – DEC, the APA, other State agencies, Article XIV and amendments, the SLMP, APA Act, UMPs, etc.
  • Tourism – local and regional, tourism initiatives, infrastructure
  • Climate Change
  • Socioeconomic and Racial Population Diversity – park demographics, prisons, racial issues, broadening diversity in residents and visitors
  • Scientific and Technological Advancement – research in ecology and other fields, application of science to mitigate environmental problems, green energy, enhanced communication, broadband
  • Land Use Law, Policy and Practice – Land classification, APA permitting, local and regional zoning, private land use, development standards, economics
  • The Regional Health Care System – Insurance, coverage, clinics, emergency facilities, preventative services, rural outreach, cost
  • Watershed Protection – Water quality, protection of lakes and rivers, reversing acidification, storm water runoff, fish stocking, shoreline protection

Please take a minute to try the survey; the more results the better.  If those results come back the way I think they will, I’ll have plenty to write about, but no matter the results I’ll write about them in the near future.

There is nothing scientific about this poll, of course.  It is strictly anecdotal.  But as we all know anecdotal information can be quite telling.  Let’s find out.

The survey is here.

Next in Series.

Related Stories

Pete Nelson is a teacher, writer, essayist and activist whose work has appeared in a variety of Adirondack publications, and regularly in the Adirondack Almanack since 2005. Pete is also a founder and current Coordinator of the Adirondack Diversity Advisory Council, which is working to make the Park more welcoming and inclusive.When not writing or teaching mathematics at North Country Community College, Pete can be found in the back country, making music or even walking on stilts, which he and his wife Amy have done professionally throughout the United States for nearly two decades.Pete is a proud resident of Keene, and along with Amy and his dog Henderson owns Lost Brook Tract, a forty-acre inholding deep in the High Peaks Wilderness.

50 Responses

  1. George L says:

    wait a minute!

    you exclude the most pressing, daunting, and intractable human/political issue that faces the Adks – the lack of a healthy, vibrant and supportive economy – by making it part of the definition

    not so fast!

    Have you solved that problem?

    the management guys who conducted the far-ranging poll across the Adks about areas of commonality, ignored economics as well

    for example: how to make Saranac Lake as economically vibrant as it was during the Cure Period – now that deserves a place on anyone’s to do list

    you are free to ignore economics, the major problem, just don’t expect to achieve solutions to the others

    • Pete Nelson says:


      I’m not sure I follow you. That’s akin to saying I ignore the ecological and environmental health of the park by making that part of the definition, despite the fact that multiple issues speak to those things, including invasive species, climate change, land use policy and so on.

      In reviewing the issues I listed I come up with the following that have a direct economic component or effect: The Education System, State Agencies and Policies, Tourism (did you miss that one? did you get as far as to read the list?), Socioeconomic and Racial Diversity, Scientific and Technological advancement (I for one think broadband is an economic game changer), Land Use Policy and the Health Care System. That’s seven out of ten. The other three unquestionably have indirect impacts.

      Now my list is just my little creation, wrought for a larger purpose, but in no way scientific or well-structured. But the Adirondack Futures Project, which if anything takes (unwarranted) shots from some environmental activists, is brimming over with economic issues. Why you claimed that project ignores economic issues I can only attribute to you knowing nothing about it.

      • Rational and Logical says:

        George L is right!

        The wording of responses is flawed. It is the simply the economy. That IS the #1 issue.

        Climate change? Really? Ironic on a day when Saranac Lake was at 27 below zero.

        Bring business and industry (not just tourism) back to the communities. Put people back to work. Provide a means for the young people to stay and restore the social fabric of the communities.

        Put people first for a change.

        • Pete Nelson says:

          The only irony I can think of is that anyone would think that there was an “irony” in today’s temperature, since said temperature has nothing whatsoever to do with climate change.

          However your stated, supposed “irony” supports my other comment on climate change, below, to perfection, so thanks for that.

          • Paul says:

            When it comes to educating people on climate change it is almost a case of “you are dammed if you do and you are dammed if you don’t”.

            There appears to be good evidence now that local weather patterns can and are effected by global climate change.

            It is not surprising that some could try and over-extrapolate that out to link it in some way with today or tomorrows weather.

  2. Annette says:

    The process that the “management guys” you spoke of concluded that sustainable communities are central to any scenario of success for the future of the Adirondack Park.

  3. Pete:

    As usual, you are adept at reading the minds of many – including me.

    Prioritizing our human, governmental and community objectives within the framework of the Blue Line has always been a challenge — and it will continue to be. But it is well worthy of our time.

    This is as true as the very fact that as we seek to set priorities we have an equal, if not paramount, responsibility under history and the NY State Constitution and Park Law to recognize, appreciate – and learn, if we can – the will and interest of at least all of the People of New York State. Easier said then done.

    That said, I contend that our obligation goes farther than that — as we have a global legacy, opportunity, and working model (what with its pro’s, con’s and challenges of course), that the world community desperately needs of truly wild land and whole ecosystem preservation, conservation and integrated human, societal development, economic progress and community enhancement (as opposed to the all to often phrased, “growth”).

    Is this unjustified hubris? I do not believe so. Our vision for the Adirondacks truly deserves to be – and for us at least is – truly global in impact and reaching backwards to the dawn of our human North American timeframe.

    . It is not a boasting – but more so a recognition that we carry on an inter-generational and inter-epic tradition of value from the first humans to care for this unique natural landscape – ultimately represented in the native Haudenosuanee Iroquois “Couchsachraga” beaver hunting territorial userfruct commitment as a protected region for all in their confederacy born in the 15th century and continuing today.

    We owe them that recognition; that understanding and the respect to include them forthrightly as we posture on priorities.

    Before assigning a new list of priorities based on commentary, you should seek first to level the playing field of mindful understanding for identifying all true stakeholders in the future of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserves. There are many not invited (or aware) to the table. Let’s bring them there.

    You must first seek to gain what I call the high “un-common ground” of understanding that our People’s commitment to “Forever Wild” – to the multi-generations of New York’s citizenry in setting aside a place called the Adirondack Park – to be very distinctly different from the development processes and history of other areas of our state, our nation, and the beleaguered places of the world, that, by no human inevitability, have lost their true, natural and unequivocally wild essence.

    Those native before us, our own forbears and we ourselves, chose a different, higher path such that the wild will live on. This is our noblest decree – and how we achieve this is our obligation, gift and mystery to all worldwide.

    The stage must be set adequately for a viable discussion. Before we came and despoiled; before we took pause and set rules of law and our State constitution, there were others long before us and our European forbears who recognized and first protected these mountains, forests, wild lands and waters.

    If you start to assign priorities for the Adirondack Park on a lesser stage, you do our future and our promise no good deed by denying or obfuscating the truth of the human and natural past.

    And I, for one, know that this is not your interest at all.

    So, all that said, I have a few chieftains and faith keepers among the Haudenosuanne Mohawk, Oneida Onondaga and Abenaki for you to meet when you are ready. And after them, we will meet many respected in the Park and beyond who should be and are part of the great circle for our understanding. And most of them, young people — those who are coming up to lead.

    After you spend time with my Haudenosaunee colleagues and others here in Park and beyond, then we can cast even better lots on “priorities.”

    Dan Plumley, Adirondack Wild

    • Pete Nelson says:


      Thanks for the lengthy comment. As you wrote that I was working on a book chapter that is essentially about the Haudenosaunee, as well as an upcoming column on the wonderful Six Nations Museum and the Faddens.

      In the mean time, I’m not trying to prioritize these issues, I’m conducting a little experiment to see where one of them ranks. It’s working very well.


      • Pete:

        Good. I’ll email you some additional thoughts and contacts — and response to your list as well. Thanks for your always engaging and inviting writing on the Adirondacks!

    • Local Yokel says:

      Wow. You “have a few chieftains and faith keepers” for Pete to meet when he is “ready” Dan? Do these folks really require your services as an intermediary? Your arrogance is astounding. I’ve always looked upon Adirondack Wild’s propensity to further their agenda by using Native peoples as distasteful on many levels and even unethical. How do you reconcile the fact that the first step towards making wilderness is erasure of indigenous people from the landscape? How do you explain John Muir’s feelings about the place of Indians in the wilderness to your Native colleagues? Or do you simply gloss over those issues in your haste to employ them in your cause?

      • Peter says:

        Local, what you are getting at is interesting. To read the gentleman’s comments is to read vibrant illustrations of what not to do with social media. Narcissistic promotion and social media don’t mix. It’s the number one rule, stated over and over in every social media guide. But he beats on.

        Interesting to watch. Read his post on Brian Hausseal’s new appointment. It’s amazing stuff.

  4. Tim says:

    Looking for some more “Climate Change” alarmism are we?

    • Pete Nelson says:


      A brilliant guess and a loaded one, it seems. I’d love to help you out but I can’t tip my hand just yet.

      However I will say what an immense pleasure it would be to debate you or anyone else on what you refer to as “alarmism” on climate change.

      I note the quintessentially modern American phenomenon of trumpeting “regular guy” thinking over, you know, knowing a hell of a lot about a subject, as in people who devote their formidable educations, talents, intelligence and careers to something. “Them scientists, they don’t know nothing. It’s snowing outside and they talk about climate change.” That sort of thing.

      Maybe I’ll write a column about climate change soon and you climate change deniers can try to bring it on. I’m not sure what the point would be though. Because I suspect that regardless of any little debate we have here, some of our best and brightest who know a hundred times more about the reality of climate change than you or I do will continue to work on the problem anyhow, and you can continue to opine from your snowdrifts.

      PS – Note to George L. I did not really mean to be snarky with you; my explanation and apology will appear below. But for your reference this is what I read like when I’m being snarky.


      • dave says:

        “the quintessentially modern American phenomenon of trumpeting “regular guy” thinking over, you know, knowing a hell of a lot about a subject”

        Fantastically put Pete.

        “modern American phenomenon of trumpeting “regular guy” thinking” – I suspect some form of this phrase will work its way into my future conversations. I’ll try to give you credit when I can!

        Reminds me of that famous Sagan quote: “We live in a society absolutely dependent on science and technology and yet have cleverly arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. That’s a clear prescription for disaster.”

      • Sean Sullivan says:

        To all whom desire to understand Global Warming: It is NOT man made:
        proven by published (accredited) scientific studies (1,000+)

        Source: Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years, Updated and Expanded Edition (Avery, Singer) 1997

        ISBN-10: 0742551245
        ISBN-13: 978-0742551244

        Singer and Avery prove (via scientists of international sourcing) global warming/cooling has and will be a constant presence within the Earth atmosphere.

        This scholarly book summarizes 600,000 years of fact based evidence from numerous non-related sources pertaining to vast different regions throughout our Planet (Arctic ice repositories to African soil sediments) . The United Nations (UN) has sought consensus through manipulating the results of scientists research and speaks of intimidation of same. It proves ‘consensus’ is the “glaring issue” as consensus is not factually based but biased.

  5. George L says:

    No need to get snarky Pete – I am a fan of yours

    But disagreeing with your approach here does not mean that I have not read it – it means that I disagree with it

    Everyone “wants” sustainable communities. Do we solve that problem by agreeing with the proposition? I want peace in the Mideast. So?

    If you make “healthy economies of the towns” as part of the definition of the “long term viability of the Adirondack Park”, rather than a topic and a goal, how does one get to these “healthy economies”? By agreeing?

    That is the approach of the Adk Futures Project, where we all agree on the perfect park. You can’t bring a private corporate model to a vast public area and seriously believe that consensus can be implemented the way a corporation can change its approach or culture or budgeting.

    Why is there resistance to addressing directly the difficult matter of economic development, in the same way that we discuss land use? Not as a by- product of some other activity, but as a subject in itself?

    You can analyze the educational system as a separate topic, but there won’t be any children in many towns to attend school, because young families are moving out.

    Who will benefit economically from broadband, besides the companies that sell products on line to the working class?

    Despite the recent grants to the North Country, I would argue that the State can and should do substantially more to directly grow the Adk economy, by bringing in manufacturing jobs.

    No one seems to want to look at economic development, apart from tourism, head-on. This is a big mistake and in my opinion comes from a desire to avoid hard political questions, like the failure of government. This makes people uncomfortable.

    Take a look at the economic legislation passed in FDR’s first 100 days. It wasn’t a list of economic dreams. It was a structure of how to achieve them.

    We lack that approach in the Adks.

    Pete, you may disagree with my point of view, but please don’t ask if I read your reply.

    • John Warren says:

      The North Country just received a third-in-a-row economic development mother load from the State – 81.3 million, this time alone. In light of all those corporate hand-outs, your argument that there is not enough being done is silly.

      There are three major hotel projects in the works, two of the largest housing developments in the history of the Adirondacks, all the movie theaters are being upgraded. There continues to be massive state investments in ORDA, and now also the Whiteface Highway. The Jefferson Project in Lake George is among the largest and most sophisticated science monitoring experiment of its kind. There is a move underway to redevelop our only rail corridor. There have been several major Forest Preserve facilities improvements including a number of new snowmobile trails, and a newly established mountain-biking trail system. Local colleges have been expanding for several years.

      It’s time for the “we aren’t doing enough economic development” crowd to give it a rest.

      • George L says:

        I would happily give it a rest and go camping, but despite the laudable investments that you list (hardly massive), the Adk economy is in big trouble and needs much more, qualitatively and quantitatively.

        Do you disagree? What is the reason for not talking about this subject?

        You are a journalist and a resident of an economically-challenged area. It is not impolite or ungrateful to examine why more – much much more – is not done to help this place out.

        • Sean Sullivan says:

          Why is Vermont robust and ADK not? Similar geographic regions. Mountains a plenty. Share same lakes, rivers, streams; yet Vermont has risen to the occasion why not NY?

          Clearly, Vermont is still the picturesque display of modern and country. What is the reason of ADK’s demise? I proffer the APA.

      • Rational and Logical says:

        Give it a rest?

        You cite all these projects and grant awards….but, where are the results. The FACTS are people are leaving in droves, the economy of the Park is dangerously and almost exclusively linked tourism and is tourism-centric to the point where the people now are heavily dependent upon the low wage jobs that are associated with this business sector. $7million in grants for two hotels in Saranac Lake…great more waiters, waitresses and chamber maids! The youth of our communities are reviewing this landscape and post-high school or college are saying no thanks – I want a more stable and rewarding job, I am noving out. We need genuine and authentic business and people recruitment – restore the hamlets with solid economic development and provide the balance between preservation and the economy the APA Act is based upon as so stated in the Legislative Purpose and Intent of the law. Don’t believe me? Read it.

        • Pete Nelson says:

          You’re wrong about the APA Act but I agree with much of what you say here anyhow. You are right to say that other kinds of jobs need to be promoted and created, not just tourism. Tourism is not unimportant but it’s not the answer to be sure.

          There’s little evidence or reasoning to support any idea that manufacturing is going to make a comeback, but the hi-tech and service-based economy can be done here – in fact, because of the draw of living in a beautiful place, it can shine here, as it does out West. That’s why we need broadband and why things like the $35 million for the Trudeau partnerships is a great win.

    • Pete Nelson says:

      Apologies, George. I did not mean to be as snarky as that came off. See comment to Tim above for comparative purposes.

      However the Futures Project take slings and arrows that make no sense to me. One can argue that it will be ineffective, amount to nothing. I suppose one might also argue that it will lead to poor solutions, compromises that harm the park. That last one I think is a very poor argument and a misunderstanding of the power of consensus-driven approaches. But to argue that it is not inclusive of and deeply wrought of both environmental and economic issues is a really hard argument to make in my mind if one looks at the details.

      So I am sorry I was wrong about you and I wrote poorly in my first comment but I assumed that in fact you had not read much of it.

      I’ll respond to your specific points in another comment, time is short at the moment.


    • Pete Nelson says:


      A few comments in specific reply:

      You are right about the general “agreement” on sustainable communities. That’s easy to promote and agree to and nothing in and of itself. I completely get that. That’s why I myself was initially skeptical of the Futures Project.

      But in support of that easy statement are literally hundreds of specific initiative and ideas on the table, some obvious, some not, some easy and some controversial. Many of them are being talked about in detail. Much of that work output is on their web site; other parts are not, or are parts of peripheral projects. I’ve seen some of that other work. It’s impressive. A number of priority issues are being pursued with specific plans and funding requests.

      All that is what makes the process valuable, not the easy statements.

      You’re partly right about the corporate model not applying. That’s okay, the people involved know that too and the question of how to make decisions and fund work is ongoing. The proof will be in results, measurable wins for the park. As John Warren noted, we’re getting more than our share already measured on a state-wide basis.

      You keep talking about addressing economic issues directly and in a big way. What would that look like? What would be different? I’m asking sincerely because I don’t know what you are after. You raise FDR but surely there is no possible analogy there, right? We have no President of the Adirondacks, no analog to the Federal government or the attendant decision-making processes.

      Finally as pertains to broadband, I disagree with your political statement even as I suspect our politics have some commonalities. Everyone who gets broadband stands to benefit,as with the electrical grid, plumbing and the phone network before it. History shows the leveling economic effect of those developments. This one is no less, and it is a qualitative difference from dial up, not just quantitative.

      The great difference between broadband and its utility forebears is that it, unlike the entire development of the phone system and most of the utility grid, is only nominally control by corporate powers (really access only, and that to a much more limited extent than traditional phone or power). The Internet is by far the most democratic technology platform in human history, a playing-field-leveler if ever there were one, and it has proven to be an unprecedented, revolutionary economic engine.


    • Brian says:

      George: It would be more useful if you offered any concrete suggestions.

    • dave says:

      Who benefits economically from broadband, George?

      I moved here with my family. We were only able to do that because of broadband efforts.

      So you tell me. Who benefits from the fact that our taxes, our dollars, our community participation… are all here now… and not somewhere else.

      If all you see when you look around the Adirondacks is doom and gloom and things in desperate need of improvement, I wonder if maybe that says more about you than it does the Adirondacks… because my experience since moving here has been very different.

  6. brian m says:

    All I know is I like snowmobiling. Let me and my fellow ‘bilers have lots of trails. Towns with trails will see lots of visitors and $$. 99% of snowmobilers are well behaved. If some snowmobiles are too loud and violating the new law, arrest the owners and do us all a favor. If towns want trails closed at midnight, pass a law. Be reasonable, a swath of land cut thru the forest for a trail is pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things. The crowd that acts like it is the worst thing ever just causes the rest of us to roll our eyes.

  7. Brian says:

    Invasive species is potentially as serious a problem as acid rain was a few decades ago. When virtually your entire economy is based on outdoor tourism, you have to take care of the outdoors.

    If Lake George becomes unswimmable because of invasives, how many communities would be devastated by tourists going elsewhere?

    • Bill Ott says:

      Has anybody ever addressed the possibility of snowmobiles introducing invasive species, for instance from somebody’s Adirondack back yard, to the pristine backwoods?

    • Paul says:

      Brian, I agree invasive species is a very serious threat to the region (to any region really). But your comment the economics of the region is inaccurate. Look at the PDF I provided a link to below. Less than 20% of the Adirondack economy is tied directly or indirectly to tourism. It is a significant part of the economy but it isn’t “virtually your entire economy” by a long shot. That is why I queried Pete on why it was one of the only industries that he listed specifically.

  8. George L says:


    The State and its authorities could require that a certain number of municipal mass transit vehicles/trains, etc. which it purchases, be produced in the northwest Adirondacks, and provide economic incentives to make that happen.

    The State could modernize the railroad, to give the Adks local mass transit.

    The State could develop a pilot project to manufacture 21st century modular housing within the Park, and ship the product out by railroad.

    The State could subsidize and promote a 21st century Cure industry.

    The State could have all of its printing done in the Park.

    I mentioned FDR because (in part) he created jobs through public works, including electrification. The Adirondacks needs jobs and industry. Why can’t Albany do this directly?

    If Albany can create a prison-based economy in some Adk towns, it can create an economy (partly) based on producing things of value.

    I believe that Adk advocates should focus on creating 10,000 well-paying jobs (or whatever the number is), within the Blue Line.

    Together with protecting our Park, this is the most urgent challenge facing the Adirondacks, in my view.

  9. For Local Yokel:

    Thanks for your comments.

    You wrongly equate my recognition and respect for native people’s with arrogance. You must first withdraw your own arrogance to appreciate my words, experience and understanding. Do that, and read my response again and you may gain something of value.

    I’d be delighted to address wilderness principles, John Muir’s conceptions right or wrong and indigenous sovereignty — that which my words supported correctly — when we, as a people, do more to bring all minorities including the Haudenosuanee to the discussion on Adirondack priorities.

    • LocalYokel says:


      I’ll try to be brief so as not to hijack Pete’s post too much more. My apologies to you and Pete for my previous comment to you, which was a little too snarky. I know this is not the kind of discourse Pete encourages or that the Park needs. I do not however, shy away from my position.

      The arrogance that I refer to is in the way you positioned yourself as a gatekeeper between certain Haudenosaunee people and Pete. It’s a telling choice of words to say, “I have a few chieftains and faith keepers…for you to meet when you are ready,” rather than “here are some people you should talk to.” Why do you feel the need to insert yourself here? Why does your language speak of ownership and control rather than open collaboration?

      I took your good advice and tried to release my own arrogance before re-reading your post a couple more times. You were right; I did find much of value. I do agree with you that Haudenosaunee and other Native peoples are often overlooked as Adirondack stakeholders. That is deserving of recognition and change and kudos to you for pointing it out. I also agree that we as a nation and society owe a huge debt to the original inhabitants of this land.

      However, you go a little further and spin a narrative that represents Haudenosaunee people as proto- environmentalists who set the Adirondacks aside for protection in the 15th century. I think you misrepresent usufruct agreements (N.B. it’s misspelled in your post) as some sort of wilderness preservation mechanism, when they are more about shared subsistence rights. These folks certainly weren’t thinking about wilderness in the way affluent, 21st century Euro-American people like you and I do. You then align yourself and your mission with the Haudenosaunee, couching yourself (indeed all of us) as a bearer of their tradition of ecological stewardship.

      You do this to gain legitimacy, both by giving your cause time-depth, and by taking advantage of the cultural capital of Indian people as “the original environmentalists.” This narrative has great traction in American culture, and I have seen Adirondack Wild exploit it a number of times. Ironically, your use of Native beliefs and culture to support your own interests was first pointed out to me by a Haudenosaunee colleague who sent an email linking to one of Adirondack Wild’s Almanack posts. He wanted to know what I knew about these “culture vultures” (his words) and their works.

      Dan, it’s clear that you have a deep respect for indigenous people, and that you wish to function as an advocate and ally. That’s great, but using these folks’ culture and history to legitimize and advance your professional interests is the wrong way to go about it. Your choice to publically represent aspects of Haudenosaunee culture and history in a particular way could have serious negative unintended consequences. There is a substantial body of literature on the politics of indigenous representation, including that related to environmentalism and land and resource management, which speaks to these issues. I am not simply stating a personal opinion here.

      In the end, Dan, my beliefs about and feelings for wilderness are very similar to yours and to Pete’s. I think you do important work, but I also think you need to stop representing the beliefs and positions of indigenous people in support of that work. You lack the moral authority to do so, and frankly, Native people don’t need you as a representative and spokesperson. Why don’t you let Haudenosaunee people publically represent their own beliefs and positions on wilderness and ecology if they choose to do so? I notice a conspicuous absence of Haudenosaunee and other indigenous voices in Adirondack Wild’s “Dialogue for the Wild.” Changing that might be a good place to start.

      • Nature says:


        Your comment about Dan riding the lapels of someone else and claiming a direct connection seems to describe Adirondack Wild to a tee:

        “You do this to gain legitimacy, both by giving your cause time-depth, and by taking advantage of the cultural capital of Indian people as “the original environmentalists.””

        I never heard of “Friends of the Forest Preserve” until a few years ago when these guys were let-go from the Association to Protect the Adirondacks (or whatever it was being called that fateful year). According to their website the Friends of the Forest Preserve (AKA Adirondack Wild) has been an ongoing environmental organization since 1945 ( Has this organization really been active since 1945? Or is this a slight revision on history?

        Google finds nothing on the Friends of the Forest Preserve outside of Adirondack Wild’s website. Perhaps someone with a better knowledge of Adirondack history can shed some light on this?

        • LocalYokel says:

          Nature, Friends of the Forest Preserve was indeed founded in 1945 by Paul Schaefer, a man to whom all who love the Adirondacks owe a debt.

          • Nature says:


            Thanks for the confirmation. It just seemed to me that this wasn’t really an ongoing organization, because unlike the Resident’s committee, Association for protection, Adirondack council, ADK; I have never heard of the “Friends of the Forest Preserve”. However, my historical experience and knowledge on this topic is limited to the last 20 years or so. With my limited knowledge, I assumed they were trying to resurrect a defunct organization to claim historical continuity, and therefore, legitimacy.

  10. Pete Nelson says:

    Dear Readers:

    Thanks to one and all who have taken time to respond to my little survey. I am very pleased with the number of people who have taken the poll. It will end-up giving me a large sample. Keep it coming!

    The results are quite interesting… I’ll be writing about them soon.

    One more time, thanks so much.


  11. Local Yokel:

    Neither in my recommendation for Indian and minority involvement here or in my personal or professional life do I act, intentionally or otherwise as “gate-keeper” or “spokesperson” for the Iroquois People. That’s your falsehood. Because of my extensive work and friendships with many Iroquois traditional leaders, teachers and advocates, I simply offered to introduce some individuals to Pete – who apparently has an interest along the same lines.

    As you are clearly vexed and jaundiced in your viewpoint towards my connection and willingness to raise native involvement in the park — which I have worked on for many years as a positive force — let’s take this offline and you can email me at, or call me at (518) 576-9277 and we can discuss further. I’d be happy to, but not if you are going to misinterpret my words, intentions, respect for all cultures including the Iroquois, or work.

    I would look forward to it. Thanks much.

    • LocalYokel says:


      I am not in the habit of creating “falsehoods.” Every thing I have said has been a response to and interpretation of what you yourself have written. Let’s take another look at your words.

      You actually didn’t just “simply offer to introduce” individuals to Pete. You said: “I have a few chieftains and faith keepers among the Haudenosuanne [sic] Mohawk, Oneida Onondaga and Abenaki for you to meet when you are ready.” Now, I grant you that might just be a sloppy turn of phrase, but I’m sure you can see how talking about Native people in this way – with the language of ownership and possession – could be construed as problematic. If it was just a poor choice of words, why not say so?

      You may not intentionally act as a “spokesperson” for Haudenosaunee people, but that is the de facto result when you choose to make public representations of their values, which is what you have done in your initial comment re: Couchsachraga. As a partner in Adirondack Wild, you’ve chosen to have a public voice (something you clearly relish). If you truly don’t want to act as a “spokesperson,” intentionally or otherwise, then stop making public representations of the values of indigenous people unless they ask you to do so.

      My seeming “vexed” or “jaundiced” has more to do with your own perception, Dan. I’m neither of those things. I am highly critical, because, well, that’s part of my job. It is the result of my (like your own) experience working for many years with indigenous people in a professional context on issues of sovereignty, cultural patrimony, repatriation and the like. I will confess I am cynical, but that’s only because time and again I have seen the beliefs and values of indigenous people co-opted to support the causes of others, often with negative results for the indigenous parties. Frankly, your writing sent up several red flags: the gatekeeper language, the seeming desire to insert yourself into relations (“after them, WE will meet”),the way you shift attention from justice for Indian people towards your own cause. Again, I’m pulling this from your text. If the most important thing is justice for indigenous people and a voice at the table, why do you feel the need to go further and tie their beliefs and values (as represented by you) to your professional cause? Why can’t it just be about the Haudenosaunee stakeholders?

      Dan, I can only applaud your work to facilitate bringing indigenous and other stakeholders to the Adirondack table. Everything you’ve said about the necessity for Haudenosaunee (and other Native peoples) involvement with charting the future of the Park rings true. However, I think you need to refrain from making public representations about the values and beliefs of Haudenosaunee and other indigenous peoples unless you are specifically asked by them to do so. To do otherwise is irresponsible and unethical. If you can’t see why this is so, I have no idea what else to say to you.

      • Local Yokel:

        You came in with a hidden personal bent – and your taking it out, as well. My statement did not present Native viewpoints or seek to. The article was entitled “Hidden Issues.” Linking Pete with indigenous leaders who I know and work with on a mutual basis of respect (I’ve been doing so on regional, national and international levels with native peoples and at the UN for over 30 years). Thanks for you anonymous sanctimony, but it appears your response here is, like your first, way over-played, off-base and boorish. I offered an honest invitation for dialogue and you blew it. Too bad.

        • LocalYokel says:


          I can assure you that there was no “hidden personal bent.” You sound a little paranoid. We have never met and I don’t know you personally. My only awareness of you is through your work with Adirondack Wild, which incidentally, is something I support. The politics and poetics of indigenous representation are always on my mind though, because thinking, writing and arguing about these issues is what I do for a living. When I see non-Native professional activists offering what I interpret as representations of indigenous values, beliefs or culture in support of their cause, I speak up.

          I’m ashamed to admit that your characterization of my first response is quite accurate. It was very poorly done on my part, and I regret it. I’ll apologize again to you, Pete and Almanack readers. Your choice of words really set me off, and I fired off a comment, clearly without putting sufficient though into it. Mea culpa.

          However, I stand behind everything else I have written. Especially after carefully reading your comment a few more times. You make a number of statements that represent Haudenosaunee values as pertaining to preservation of the wild. I have pulled several examples right out of your text. You’ve chosen to not address even ONE of my points in a substantive way. Instead you’ve simply told me I’m wrong without showing me the errors in my thinking. You’ve also hurled insults, which is something I have not done.

          This will be my last response to you, Dan. If you want to come back on and fling a few more personal attacks my way, have at it.

  12. Chuck Samul says:

    i hope that some of the recent largess from new york state will be devoted to small business in the ag sector and not just sent to hotel development and established recreational facilities like whitefce, the ski jump, and mt van hovenberg.

  13. Paul says:

    Pete, I am curious why would you have tourism on the list and not other industries that play a larger role in the economics of some areas?

    Certainly it is an important part of the economy. But for the Adirondacks as a whole about 87% of the labor income is non tourism related. And about 83% of all employment in the Adirondacks is not related to tourism.

    This idea that tourism is THE key to the Adirondack economy is (at least right now) not accurate.

    And almost half of the tourism related activity in the Adirondacks is focused in Warren County arguable one of the least remote parts of the park.

    This file is a good summary of the current data on tourism in NYS including the Adirondacks:

  14. bob says:

    “Is There a Hidden Issue in Adirondacks?”

    You barely brushed on it a few years ago with some great stories by Mary Thill.

    Drugs/smuggling are the largest “economic driver” of the region. The smuggling industry dwarfs any other local industry and never gets any press at all.

    Town/local cops raiding trailers for a few pills? “String them up!” Local oligarchs in banking and real estate making millions (billions?) off the smuggling trade? SHHH!

  15. Pete Nelson says:

    Wow. Timing is Everything.

    Here is “Rational and Logical” just today making an anecdotal comment about how stupid climate change worries are because it was 27 below in Saranac Lake this morning. $100 and a trip to Paris for anyone who can demonstrate how a meaningless anecdotal comment like that is either rational or logical.

    Here, on the other hand, are excerpts off the news wires from just moments ago, the following all being facts:

    Fueled primarily by phenomenal warmth in Russia, the Earth as a whole had its warmest November on record, according to data released Tuesday by scientists at the National Climatic Data Center.

    “Most of the world’s land areas experienced warmer-than-average monthly temperatures, including much of Eurasia, coastal Africa, Central America, and central South America. Much of southern Russia, northwest Kazakhstan, south India, and southern Madagascar were record warm,” the center reported…

    For the year-to-date, 2013 is tied with 2002 as the 4th-warmest year on record, the NCDC reported…

    NASA, which also tracks global temperatures, also reported that November was the warmest November ever recorded.

    November marked the 345th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th-century average.

    Thanks to the record warm November, 2013 is now on pace for warmest non-El Nino year on record…

    But of course it was cold in the Adks today… that evidence is just as good.

    Some brilliant work here in the comments section.

    • Paul says:

      Very interesting story this morning on NPR about how we can only slow this down if we go full steam (not a pun!) ahead with nuclear power. It is Star Trek time people!

      There was also a story about how cars are getting smaller and we should start seeing more self driven cars soon. My thinking was this. We will evolve toward smaller cars basically for commuting then we can use some type of rail on the highway to “self” drive them on. Then we could hook all the cars together and maybe pull them along with one car at the front! What would the next thing be use a wood fired steam engine? Things always come full circle.

      Minus 27 isn’t cold for Saranac Lake. This could be further evidence of global warming. When I was a kid we only bragged when it was 40 below!

    • Sean Sullivan says:

      Dan: (Wow. Timing is Everything)

      Please send the donation of $100. to my favorite local charity ‘Open Arms Pregnancy Center’ Glens Falls NY and the remittance of the airplane tickets (USA to Paris) to Singer and Avery; authors of “Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years, Updated and Expanded Edition 1997”

      I believe ‘they’ demonstrated the answer posed by your question regarding global warming being rational and logical.

      Sean Sullivan

  16. Charlie S says:

    Rational says, “Climate change? Really? Ironic on a day when Saranac Lake was at 27 below zero.”

    Yeah but glaciers are disappearing Rational.What are you trying to say?

  17. Deb says:

    hi Pete
    please ck out the adk futures project.
    wish you would participate inthis stuff when it happens

    • Pete Nelson says:

      Deb: I know all about the Adk Futures Project and have written about it extensively. Search my posts and you’ll see a dozen columns that reference it or are about it. This little poll is after something different.


Wait! Before you go:

Catch up on all your Adirondack
news, delivered weekly to your inbox