The estate of author, conservationist, and former Adirondack Park Agency commissioner Anne LaBastille has donated her 32-acre “West of Wind” property on Twitchell Lake, north of Big Moose in the Western Adirondacks, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
LaBastille, the famed writer and conservationist who died on July 1, 2011, envisioned that her land be protected to “preserve the natural, ecological, and historical integrity of my 30 acres of North Country wilderness, where writers can find inspiration in the Adirondacks.”
Anne LaBastille inspired many through her writings and work to protect wildlife and wild lands. Her autobiographical Woodswoman (1978) chronicled her journey from urban New Jersey to cabin dweller on an Adirondack lake. She lived without electricity, running water, or even a road to her 12′ by 12′ “West of Wind” cabin she built with friends and neighbors in 1964.
An award-winning author and conservationist, LaBastille published numerous books – including four in the Woodswoman series – over 150 popular articles, and 25 scientific articles. Over her 50-year career, she worked to raise awareness of environmental issues including acid deposition in the Adirondacks, loss of biodiversity, invasive species and climate change in the decades before threats were widely recognized. Dr. LaBastille served as a Commissioner on the Adirondack Park Agency from 1976 to 1993.
LaBastille was a pioneer for women in conservation fields. She was the sole female in her wildlife classes at Cornell University where she earned her B.S. and Ph.D. degrees and was hired as Cornell’s first female professor in its Department of Natural Resources. One of her first jobs was as a wildlife tour leader for the Audubon Society – its first woman leader. She was the first woman to conduct research at a Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit in the U.S., and among the first female licensed guides in New York.
LaBastille penned in her will “I’d like our grandchildren to not lose sight of preserving the silence, beauty, the serenity – in short, the essence of wilderness experience. As the land is now, it shall be in the next century…no indoor plumbing, electricity, television, or telephones. Woods trails and lake ice for walking, no road to the property. Simplicity.”
Although she did not will her land to New York State, the trustees of her estate proposed donating her land to New York State to protect her property and obtained necessary court approval to make the gift to the state’s Forest Preserve.
The “West of Wind” cabin has been donated to the Adirondack Museum. It was carefully dismantled in the winter of 2014-15 and the logs transported across the ice and trucked to the Museum. The logs had been purchased 50 years before from a logger and floated down the lake for the cabin construction. The cabin is expected to be re-constructed and on exhibit in the new Adirondack Experience area of the Museum is scheduled to open in 2017.
Through a funding gift from her estate, the LaBastille Memorial Writers Residency has been established through the Adirondack Center for Writing to provide a “writers retreat in honor of other nature writers who lived and wrote in log cabins which encouraged me to follow in this eloquent tradition,” envisioned by LaBastille.
Photos: Above, Anne LaBastille at Camp Sagamore (courtesy Lorraine Duvall); middle, LaBastille’s cabin before it was dismantled (courtesy Adirondack Museum); and below, “Rain and Mist on Twichell Lake” (photo by Anne LaBastille / EPA).