Monday, December 8, 2014

Commentary: Should We Manage Wilderness?

Lost Brook Tract in WinterA couple of weeks ago my friend Dave Mason sent me an interesting article from the New York Review of Books. The article was “It’s Time to Live with the Birds”, a review of a book by Ecologist John M. Marzluff entitled Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife. Let me quote an excerpt from the review:

“Marzluff and other urban ecologists find a gradient in bird life. A few tough survivors hang on in the urban core; the open country outside has many birds. In between—in leafy, variegated suburbia—there is the richest mixture of bird species of all. This finding is counterintuitive. One would have imagined that what he calls the “urban tsunami,” the global shift of populations into cities, would result in homogenized biological deserts with only a few starlings, house sparrows, and pigeons for bird life. That fails to take into account many wild animals’ elemental will to survive, and their capacity to adapt rapidly to new opportunities.”

The book’s argument is that suburban environments constitute a new class of ecosystem that could be studied and leveraged for the benefit of many species. Despite that, I’m not likely to take my next hike in search of a wilderness experience in Barrington, Illinois. But Marzluff’s work reminds us to consider – from an admittedly odd context – that the best way to care for a wilderness might be to leave it alone. Whatever changes and challenges the area faces, Nature itself, with its relentless motive to adapt, will find a better way then well-intentioned human beings who try to manage it ever could.

The “Leave Wilderness Alone” philosophy has been the ascendant position for many decades, represented clearly in the values that led to passage of the National Wilderness Act 50 years ago. The reasons for this preference were reflective of the definition of wilderness given in the Act, namely “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain…” or, by implication, manage. Undoubtedly the opposition to wilderness management was fed by the historical divide between preservationists and conservationists, for whom “managing” wilderness typically meant large scale silviculture in order to maximize the utility and productivity of the forest for industry, or development to support a wide range of recreation.

Of course, we never really did leave wilderness alone: we have always tinkered with it. How could we not, given that pristine wilderness was our own creation rather than a fact of Nature? I like this quote from Howard Zahniser, author of the Wilderness Act, who clearly knew this truth: “The idea of wilderness as an area without man’s influence is man’s own concept. Its values are human values. Its preservation is a purpose that arises out of man’s own sense of his fundamental needs.” So in a real sense we shaped wilderness in our own idealized image, and in so doing we tinkered. Whether it was building lean-to’s or installing water bars, nailing up trail markers or clearing downed timber, we never left wilderness untrammeled. Still, as a matter of degree, the protection of wilderness has largely meant leaving it be.

But if the ensuing decades have proven the wisdom of the men and women, both nationally and here in the Adirondacks, who prevailed with a leave-it-alone ethic, they have also taught us that leaving wilderness completely alone may not be not enough after all. In the face of voracious urbanization, environmental degradation, the spread of invasive species and climate change, it is generally agreed that wilderness needs our help. The terminology has changed: in order to reflect a caring aesthetic over a utilitarian one, the preferred word has shifted from “management” to “stewardship.” Whatever the term, Wilderness Stewardship is now accepted wisdom. Here’s the language from the National Wilderness Conference, just held a few weeks ago to honor the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, organized by a coalition of environmental groups that comprise a who’s who of the wilderness movement:


When the Wilderness Act passed, managing Wilderness often meant just leaving it alone. Today, new threats require more proactive approaches, the field of Wilderness stewardship has grown and become more professionalized, and Wilderness faces unprecedented challenges in our evolving physical and social environments. This track offers stewardship insights from leading agency practitioners, researchers, academic scholars, and partners.

I raise all of this because some might oppose any changes in the currently-open-for-review Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP) for fear of unwarranted tinkering. As anyone who knows the history or has read Bill Ingersoll’s thorough review of the same, that fear is hardly unwarranted, as all too often “tinkering” meant exploitation. But that does not mean that the guidance provided to the SLMP should be hostile all the possible tinkering that might benefit the Forest Preserve.

As always I believe we should be informed by science and research, however within very strict limits. Like virtually everyone who loves the Adirondack Wilderness would no doubt agree, I draw the line at cutting trees. That I do or don’t draw that line is irrelevant as the New York State Constitution draws the line for us, in explicit terms.

But consider what we do when the Emerald Ash Borer arrives at our doorstep, as it surely will. There are improved insecticide treatments that show promise in arresting the progress of an infestation. Cutting down ash trees in the Forest preserve to form a buffer is out, but what about use of an insecticide? Or consider drainages for storm runoff. With the increasing likelihood of regular Irene-like storms, what options to mitigate those effects might make sense yet fit within the existing constitutional framework?

In considering ideas for how changes to the SLMP might address the requirements to be good stewards of our Wilderness in the face of these growing challenges, I think about the historical approach to the SLMP. Article XIV draws some clear lines in the sand and leaves the details to interpretation. The SLMP states that it is to be considered “constitutionally neutral,” but it does interpret the details by setting parameters. Primarily these parameters are organized around recreational activity and impact: specifically the recreational “carrying capacity” for a given area of land, which impacts its classification. Suppose that the SLMP added to that an ecological carrying capacity of a kind? Here science would lead in order to define baselines for ecological health and parameters by which we would, with reasonable objectivity, determine whether or not a particular act of constitutionally defensible stewardship was warranted.

This ecological approach needs a lot of work if it is to be complete enough to make sense for the Park. Much science needs to be done. But to set such a direction, something the SLMP did with recreational use when it was issued four decades ago, seems increasingly important. We cannot afford to be passive protectors of our wild places. Some tinkering – some stewardship – is called for.

Photo: Old Growth Forest in Winter

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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.

22 Responses

  1. Matt says:

    Creating Wilderness is, after all, a management decision.

    • AnotherBill says:

      This is one of these typical ADK discussions that get no where but they can be fun so here is my 2 cents.

      What is wilderness? You have to agree on that before you ask should we manage it. Yep, that’s a discussion bomb alright. Could be a comment record breaker here!

      Is it something we find, or is it a designated land use?

      Why are humans allowed at all? With their need for trails, bridges, dogs, guns(hunting), traps and fishing, taking out animals for fun and food, stocking fish and animals to meet our needs. Sure does not seem fully wild.

      And if we do let humans in, they often come in such numbers that, all of sudden, we are into managing the area. Because, if we don’t humans will eventually ruin it. Go check the ‘trail-less peaks’.

      The term ‘managed wilderness’ seems like an oxymoron. If you think you have to manage it, then it is not wilderness.

      There is no sense is leaving a region like the High Peaks totally un-managed. So maybe is it not actually wilderness but something else, some kind of Park? Maybe we should stop calling it a wilderness? But what do we call it? A Park? A Preserve maybe? We don’t use the ‘preserve word much these days.

      Agencies like DEC and the APA are, among other things, charged with protection of the Forest Preserve. Sometimes that protection may conflict with the idea of letting a wilderness area suffer damage. They do their best to keep the Forest Preserve as healthy as possible.

      The problems begin with heartfelt emotional definitions colliding with reality. It is wilderness until I run into too many people there – then it is not wilderness.

      The SLMP, therefore, should have a new classification to deal with this. The current ‘wilderness’ should have two subsets.

      One, where recreating humans (w/o gas powered machines) can recreate, camp, have fires, trails with ladders and bridges, etc. This would be managed in proportion to it’s use. Think wilderness as human playground, tightly managed. I am not sure what to call this, but it isn’t wilderness.

      The second, where humans are essentially not allowed. Not on foot, or with a canoe, not by float plane. No camping, hunting, fishing. No trails. It can be viewed from the edges, from afar. It is not managed, except as needed to be kept w/o humans. And it will be whatever it will be, forever. This is certainly not the High Peaks.

      The good news is the region is so big we can have both, each in it’s own area. But trying to have these two feature sets in the same place isn’t ever really going to work.

      I don’t pretend SLMP change this would settle anything. The rhetoric of wilderness will always be with us. But it is a practical response to an emotional and philosophical question.

      For me, while we call parts of this region wilderness, in fact, mostly it is not. The High Peaks certainly is not. All of it is within a day’s walk. Rescue is a cell phone call away.

      Want to see and experience actual wilderness? Then visit Alaska. Get dropped someplace and left for two weeks. No rescues, cellphone coverage, nothing but the call of the wild. A gun just in case of brown bears or, worse, polar bears. Eat what you catch fishing. Never see another soul. That is a wilderness experience. We don’t have that here. We’re remote but how many millions visit or live within a days drive?

      So, I’m for managed wilderness. We need to acknowledge that we use it for it’s ecological services, water, carbon storage, and recreation among others.

      Yep, it is a Park after all. And the Forest Preserve is part of it, some parts more ‘Preserve’ and others more ‘Park’.

  2. Bill Ingersoll says:

    In 1995 we experienced a major windstorm that devastated (read: leveled flat) many acres of wilderness forest, primarily in the Five Ponds region.

    The management response was to monitor the fire danger from all the destroyed timber. That fire threat came and went without threat. No fallen timber was salvaged; other than the need to reopen trails, the windstorm caused no significant change to the management of the Five Ponds Wilderness. It was a natural event, and though it marred the scenery for a few years, the primary purpose of the wilderness area was to allow natural forces to rein supreme. Man did not intervene, except to ensure that recreation could still occur.

    Therefore I’m not sure the what difference Pete Nelson sees between a wilderness forest damaged by a storm–a frequent occurrence in the Adirondacks–and an insect infestation, and why it should trigger an alarmist’s response. Wilderness guidelines **DO** require passive management strategies in regards to natural events. A wilderness environment is not intended to be static; changes are already occurring, and will continue to occur. The purpose of the designation is to step back and witness these changes, not manipulate them toward a preferred outcome. The only thing left to manage, then, are direct human impacts, such as recreation and fires.

    Also, the benefit of having **large** wilderness areas is that their size serves as a protective buffer. An intact ecosystem stands a better chance of adapting to external environmental changes than does a woodlot surrounded by suburban development. The natural Adirondack environment has been withstanding (and adapting to) natural changes for millennia. In recent memory these have included acid rain and beech blight. The arrival of deer ticks and invasive plants is the current change-in-progress. None of these have required constitutional or SLMP changes, and I see no Doomsday scenario on the horizon that should change that policy.

    The point being: change is an inherent part of natural processes. Some of these changes may seem catastrophic at first, but wilderness is a resilient resource. There is an implied humility in the wilderness concept that stipulates we should not be playing god. We can manage our own direct impacts, but if the wind blows over a tree we can’t go in with glue and stick it back up to ensure there is no loss of habitat. Likewise, if insects are threatening to attack one species of tree, the solution is not necessarily to go into the forest armed with chemicals.

    • Paul says:

      I totally agree. And yes when they are our impacts. ash borers as an example, we perhaps should try and intervene.

      • Bill Ingersoll says:

        Intervene before the ash borers get here, rather than waiting until the last minute. And figure out strategies to prevent the spread of invasive pests in the future.

        Not that I want to see EABs in the Adirondacks, or that I’d be happy to see ash trees vanish from our forests. But at the same time the Adirondacks aren’t Michigan. There are many ash trees in our wilderness areas, but overall they comprise just a fraction of the forest. If, in a worst-case scenario, the EABs arrive and kill all of the largest ash trees, then it would be a terrible event akin to the loss of mature elm trees. But it wouldn’t be the end of the forest.

        If we can’t find a way to manage the emerald ash borers before they reach the park, then I’m not sure what anyone thinks they can do about them after they get here. By then it will be too late. Suspending Article XIV or amending the SLMP in an attempt to manage nature is not the answer, because any such cure will almost certainly be worse than the disease.

        Pete Nelson wants to manage nature, although he is vague about the actual ways he think we should do that. The flaw in his argument, as I see it, is that when humans engage in the business of managing nature, it is always for the purpose of producing a preferred outcome. He cited my SLMP history series, but I suspect he would benefit from reading it again. His idea of “managing wilderness” falls squarely on the conservation side of the spectrum, even if he doesn’t see it himself. Nothing he is advocating is new.

        But at least the conservationists of yore had more clearly stated goals: sportsmen wanted more game, and loggers wanted more lucrative spruce stands. Even if you disagreed with them, their motivations followed a certain logic. When I read the article above, I see a lot of question marks in Pete’s text. He doesn’t really know what he wants, perhaps other than to spark a debate. If he has a specific course of action to propose, then let’s hear it.

        • Paul says:

          I agree there probably wouldn’t be a hugely noticeable impact from the EAB on Forest Preserve land. It could have a more noticeable impact on some of the private parcels. For example Ash compromise a large portion of the trees surrounding Lake Flower in Saranac Lake. If it hit there it could look different as in lots of houses much more visible from the water. Maybe some of the cold snap we had last winter did some damage to the EAB. Are things like Mountain Ash susceptible?

          Yes when I think of “manage” I usually think of things like managing the forest for game. Thinning to improve deer forage or improve spruce grouse (or other grouse) habitat and things like that. When I think of Wilderness I think of just leaving it alone. But you could make a strong argument for management of Wilderness being involved in legally protecting it. That does not happen on its own.

        • Lou Gunther says:

          Bill, I have a camp off Parkerville Rd in Indian Lake and our area is being devastated by the Balsam Wooley Aldegid BWA. I don’t hear much talk about it but if this continues I don’t see much hope for the Balsam Trees. A good percentage of the Balsams have died already or are presently infested! Apparently no one has seen this coming. There is talk about the Hemlock Wooley Aldegid which is similar to the BWA but that insect has not arrived yet but is fast approaching! If we lost all the Balsam & Hemlock Trees in the Adirondacks it might not be a pretty sight. Just a topic for conversation…Your thoughts?

          • Bill Ingersoll says:

            Looks like this pest has been around a while and is well studied. If widespread devastation was going to occur, it would’ve happened already. This document is from the US Forest Service:


            It recommends controlling outbreaks by culling infested trees–a statement directed at timberland managers, not necessarily wilderness managers. But there are also natural controlling factors, such as predation, climate, and tree resilience.

            I can’t say that I’ve noticed the gouting described in this document in any of my travels. Balsam fir is a tree that typically grows fast and dies young anyway. I see lots of firs toppled over by wind, or drowned out by beavers. Nature can be cruel, and there are lots of little buggers out there trying to make a living at the expense of some other organism. If we are concerned about the impacts of invasive pests on our forests, then perhaps we need to do a better job at preventing the spread of these pests in the first place.

            • Lou Gunther says:

              I agree Bill. I haven’t seen any gouting either, all stem infestation by me. Hopefully a few cold winters will get rid of them! Thanks for the reply.

        • Bill Ott says:

          Sportsman who wanted more game or loggers who wanted more wood were not conservationists. They were the exact opposite. Check out Colvin Verplanck and others who realized what was happening to the Adirondacks shortly after the Civil War. They were the people who made this park happen. It took a lot of people to make this great park, and I do not think loggers were at the forefront. Sportsmen would be more on the conservation side.

          As far as invasive species go, we should do what we can and just can what we can’t. As far as global warming, promote recreational uses that do not use gas.

    • A says:

      Bill – I totally agree… Unless that insect was introduced to the environment because of people.

  3. Paul says:

    Good article.

    “But that does not mean that the guidance provided to the SLMP should be hostile all the possible tinkering that might benefit the Forest Preserve.”

    Note from the editor…

    I think it is “hostile TO all the possible tinkering”.

  4. Bill Ingersoll says:

    Also, I think it’s important to point out the definition of the word “trammel,” which according to Webster’s dictionary is “to hinder, restrain, or shackle.” Marking a foot trail or building a lean-to does not hinder, restrain, or shackle the surrounding wilderness resource. Trails may lead to some amount of trampling, but that’s not the same thing as trammeling. However, managing the environment to prevent certain changes that humans find aesthetically undesirable would be trammeling—and antithetical to the Wilderness legal concept.

    The idea behind Wilderness is that nature got along just fine on this planet for 3 billion years in the absence of the species Homo sapiens, and that if we can refrain from intervening in a few select locations, nature will continue to do just fine without our help—and in fact may do even better. Within these protected zones, nature will continue to progress on its own course. The presumption is that it is highly improbable these places will degrade into uninhabitable wastes because of our laissez faire management approach.

    Recreation management is the management of our own behavior within these places. It should in no way be confused with ecological management, which is about directing natural processes toward a preferred outcome.

    Therefore, Pete Nelson, either you want Wilderness and all that that entails, or you want a managed environment. You’re citing me in your commentary, and now I’m calling you on it. You are expressing a conservation-based argument. The fact that you are not personally interested in an increased deer herd or a more valuable spruce yield is immaterial; the real truth is you don’t seem to think nature can get along without human help.

    The way I see it, the real threat to Wilderness in the twenty-first century is not the emerald ash borer or global warming, but the indifference and waffling of people like you—people who theoretically are the beneficiaries of protected Wilderness, but who can’t articulate a compelling argument for why we should stand firm in our resolve to preserve it. We have protected Wilderness areas today not because people wrote lots of commentaries fifty years ago, but because a group of people adopted a specific course of action to thwart what they perceived to be a very real threat: the complete loss of unmodified landscapes. They proposed a concrete solution and worked hard until the job was done. Several of them didn’t live to see the fruits of their labor.

    Now, fifty years later, many of us have lived all our lives never knowing a world without these protected Wilderness areas. Since they’ve always been there, it’s too easy to take them for granted. The work to preserve them was completed decades ago, and now they are little more than playgrounds where we can amuse ourselves on the weekend. And if they are playgrounds, we want the right to renegotiate the rules of what we can and cannot do within their boundaries, because it’s not fair that we should be forced to play by rules set by a bunch of dead guys we never met.

    So, at the heart of all other arguments and discussion topics, the one fundamental question that all Wilderness supporters and users need to ask is this:

    Is “Wilderness” a line in the sand against human interference—“we shall go this far, and no further”? That the guidelines established nationally in 1964 are the starting point for preservation, and that if any adjustments need to be made to the Wilderness definition, it should be to reduce human ecological influences even further?


    Is “Wilderness” a relative term, defined by a prior generation to suit the national condition as it stood at a certain point in time, giving every successive generation the right to adjust the guidelines as society evolves? As human knowledge and technological ability advances, the legal definition of Wilderness should be modified and advanced as well, for recreation and stewardship activities alike?

    I have already answered this question to my own personal satisfaction, and that answer drives my words and actions whenever I speak about Wilderness. It provides what I hope is seen as a clarity of purpose in my words and actions. Any other writer who would presume to tackle the subject of Wilderness advocacy and stewardship should also be prepared with an answer. I see some people today who behave as though they are undecided, saying one thing and doing another. There is no right or wrong response, but because the question is designed to expose a bias, and because no one can be biased in two opposite directions, everyone with a personal connection to Wilderness should be able to arrive at a personal response.

    In my case, I see the legal definition of Wilderness as a line in the sand. I want to die knowing I did everything in my power to ensure that the experiences I am enjoying now in the twenty-first century will continue unaltered into the twenty-second, for the benefit of unborn generations after me. Not every acre of public land needs to be Wilderness, and not every aspect of the Wilderness guidelines may be perfect. But society’s drift to a more technological future only emphasizes the need to preserve wildness today, the way a prior generation did for my benefit. If there are any changes in the Wilderness resource by the year 2114, let them all be natural ones.

  5. Nate says:


    The answer to your question is clearly the second.

    A blue line in the sand is simply our policy – the policy of “don’t touch”. To an extent.

    However, your value laden tone reminds me of religious discussion. For a writer to be able to discuss Wilderness, they need to have answered some specific questions regarding their devotion to a idea of Wilderness (from which, we can then, I would suppose, judge their qualifications for laying out these opinions). When did discussion become a monopoly?

    Clearly you believe that we should not change a thing. Changing our policies now would amount to a loss of integrity. That’s fine. In fact, I think its critically important. We need people who know the history of the Wilderness and can bridge the gap between the thinking of the past and the thinking of the future.

    This construct is purely a human invention, though. We have a blue line in the sand that says “don’t touch”. Well, more specifically, people can visit, but after that don’t touch. How do you suppose we ended up here? I’m sure it was not a forgone conclusion for the original constituencies involved. I would gander that some were more devoted to removing all human activities, and others less. What we ended up with was a human construct that our society could accept.

    Such constructs constantly need to maintain coalitions, lest they become unsupported by the society that put the rules in place. People like you are critical to maintain these coalitions in the face of change. You help bridges the past and the future. Please help us understand the history of wilderness, help us understand why decisions were made the way they were. But recognize that future (and even current) generations are sovereign to make their own decisions. Through sharing your knowledge you can help guide our discussions, help us avoid the stumbling blocks and mistakes that were made in the past.

    By endeavoring to truthfully and openly discuss options, ideas, and challenges,maybe we can keep this coalition together for those future generations. By turning away anybody trying to bridge the wilderness of today with the wilderness of tomorrow, you risk losing the ability to help convey your knowledge and ideas.


    • Bill Ingersoll says:

      “Please help us understand the history of wilderness, help us understand why decisions were made the way they were. But recognize that future (and even current) generations are sovereign to make their own decisions. Through sharing your knowledge you can help guide our discussions, help us avoid the stumbling blocks and mistakes that were made in the past.”

      I’ve already done that. Read Pete Nelson’s article, find where he mentions my name, click on the link, and read my five-part history on the State Land Master Plan. Then take a gander at some of my books, and then decide whether I haven’t done an above-average job to share my knowledge about the Forest Preserve and its history. You ask the question of how we ended up here, but I did my best to answer precisely that question about a month ago.

      Also, please note that my proverbial “line in the sand” is NOT the Adirondack Park’s Blue Line, which incorporates all 6 million acres. This discussion is specifically about those public lands that have been designated as Wilderness, and the SLMP management guidelines that govern their stewardship.

  6. Bob Meyer says:

    WOW! i really wouuld love to have Bill & Pete sit down together and discuss Wilderness !
    Remember, both of these fine people genuinely love the Adirondacks with all their hearts and want the best for all the Park.
    This is a vital discussion particularly toward maintaining and building the support [read coalitions] that will ALWAYS be needed to protect ALL wild, wilderness and ecologically zones lands in the Adirondacks and elsewhere.
    Remember folks, words are always loaded. We cannot get away from that any more then we can get away from our impact on wilderness no matter how we manage it. My hope is for real dialogue, clarification followed by action [inaction] for us, for future generations and for the land itself.

  7. Jim Fox says:

    Dave Gibson sketched the descimation of beech trees in these pages in Feb. 2012. The Beech Bark Disease started killing mature beeches in the Adirondacks in the sixties. The handsome giants are gone, but are coming back… without our help. The American Chestnut needed our help to develop a disease resistence, and will not reseed itself without our help.
    Keep the dialogue going Pete and Bill. The science vs. wilderness debate is vital for the future of our Park.

  8. Hawthorn says:

    I feel torn on invasive species issues–not certain we should spend so much time and effort on them. Change is inevitable, and Wilderness to me as a concept does not mean we want to put the Adirondacks into a museum and preserve it as is for all eternity. It evolves and changes.

    • Bill Ott says:


      To be torn on invasive species is only natural unless you know what damage they can do to any environment. Just imagine yourself as an animal that eats a lot of different berries. Then where you live, purple loose-strife invades, and takes over from the berries. You nor any other creature in the area eats purple loose-strife. The plant was imported from Europe(?) some long time ago for its beauty, but it does not fit into the Adirondack environment – it is disruptive, has no natural restraints and dominates its habitat.

      Most invasive species were brought here by us, because of their beauty or other reason. They did not blow in from Europe or Asia on the trade winds.

      Before my July trip up the Oswegatchie, I printed photos and text of the 8 invasives I decided were most important to identify. I am not trained in this field so I needed the photos etc because invasive species may resemble natural plants. I found no invasives, but that does not mean they were not there. (I did photograph over 20 wildflowers.)

      The most important places to catch these devils are roadsides, trail heads, and canoe/boat put-ins, before they invade the back woods. Getting rid of these suckers takes special care; you cannot just yank and toss. If you type “invasive” in the search box you will find lots more reading. I would suggest reading Hillary Smith.

      I converted my word document cheat sheets to jpg and posted them on facebook: go to and look at the invasive album.

  9. JR says:

    Why do liberals not count S. Americans and Mexicans illegally invading America as part of their war on invasive species?
    Sorry if this takes away from the above conversations,
    but it is something that has puzzled me for years and seems rather hypocritical.
    Knowing that whites are soon to be the minority by being out bred by illegals, why is this seen as a bad thing for our lakes and trees when the human invasion is “good” for America? Why do we not embrace the change?
    It seems a direct correlation to me. Disease to native trees or disease to native humans (200+/- yrs) being transmitted from the invasion is of small consequence, because it is for the ‘greater good’ of America. At least that is what I’m told by our Media.

  10. Pete Nelson says:

    Thanks all for the comments. At the moment time does not allow for me to craft the thorough response that the challenges to my article deserve. In fact I’ve just been able to read them thoroughly today. I will get to it eventually, perhaps in the form of a response column.

    I will say this briefly: in my view the question is not whether the wilderness can or cannot get by without our help. Surely it can. Nor does the issue divide between conservation and preservation, as it used to, as those terms have been used in the past. I’m no conservationist in the traditional sense, no matter what Bill wants to say. There is a qualitative difference between managing the land for recreational or commercial utility and engaging in stewardship to promote and defend ecological integrity. Don’t take it from me – ask the Wilderness Society.

    Bill may be right when he places his line in the sand and says that the goal should be “to reduce human ecological influences even further.” But I think that’s not self evident. I think it’s a real and important discussion.

    And it’s multi-faceted in a way that troubles Bill’s line. Here’s are two serious questions: what constitutes human ecological influence?; and is reducing human ecological influence best accomplished by leaving wilderness alone? I’m not taking the answer to that second one on assumption. Climate change is a human ecological influence. So are many other global human phenomena, acid rain being a notable example. We didn’t leave wilderness alone when the ravages of acid rain were devastating our lakes. Was that a bad choice?

    The scope our human ecological influence has become so encompassing, so powerful and destructive that it requires us to take different stock. That’s my point.

    The land I most cherish in the Adirondacks happens to be an undisturbed, classic boreal forest. There may be no saving it but leaving it alone surely won’t do it. The arc of climate change is all but certain to mean its end. Do we just accept that? Do we essentially give up our American boreal forests, one of our rarest ecosystems? That’s a real question.

    Bill chides me for not having answers and he’s right – I don’t. I look to science to provide more knowledge and understanding, possible alternatives… perhaps even some ways we can prevent or mitigate such losses if we so choose. Recognizing that, and with it the complexity of a growing problem that is much different than it was fifty years ago is not waffling.

    Nor, Bill, is it indifference. That’s a curious and aggressive charge and comes with a whiff of high and mighty in your tone. Just because you have a line in the sand doesn’t mean that it’s the only line in the sand, or the best place for it.

    There is nothing about my desire to protect the Adirondack Park that is indifferent. If you want to have a debate with me about that be my guest (it strikes me as frivolous). But that’s a different debate. One thing at a time.

  11. Erich Shum says:

    Great Article. article . I loved the facts . Does anyone know where my company could possibly find a sample DD 250 example to fill out ?

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