Tuesday, August 3, 2021

12 Ways Indian Lake Supervisor Brian Wells Gets Historic Forever Wild Decision Wrong

connector trail

In an op-ed run in the Albany Times Union on August 1, 2021 and in the Adirondack Almanack, Town of Indian Lake Supervisor Brian Wells got many things wrong about the recent historic forever wild court decision. He makes serious accusations, yet he twists, bends, and distorts reality to fit his narrative. The one thing that he got right was that “Class II Community Connector Snowmobile Trails” were struck down by New York’s highest court because they violated Article 14, Section 1, of the State Constitution, the forever wild clause.

Here are a dozen ways that Brian Wells plays fast and loose with the truth.

One, he accuses Protect the Adirondacks of “sabotage” of an agreement between state officials, local government, and green groups when we successfully sued the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) for approving and starting to build a network of hundreds of miles of new, wide Class II Community Connector Snowmobile trails.

Wells writes rhetorically “Who wins when self-professed environmental groups sabotage a plan that would have provided a net benefit to the Forest Preserve, the people who come to enjoy it, and those of us who live and work here?”

Sabotage? That’s a strong accusation and it’s total bunk. The “plan” referenced is the state’s plan to build hundreds of miles of Class II trails in the Forest Preserve. I’m not sure how it is that Brian Wells could have missed the longstanding concerns of Protect the Adirondacks and others about the constitutional violations of Class II trails. In the late 1990s we were instrumental in forcing DEC actions against the Town of Indian Lake for illegally widening the Rock Lake snowmobile trail. The Town of Indian Lake had to replant trees for miles on that trail.

From 2000 to 2004, during Governor Pataki’s Snowmobile Focus Group, we consistently talked about our concerns that anything like a Class II trail would violate Article 14, Section 1. On constitutional grounds, among other concerns, we opposed the Snowmobile Plan in 2006, the Snowmobile Trail Guidance in 2009, and the Moose River Plains Wild Forest Unit Management Plan in 2010. We talked publicly about our positions on each of these matters.

When the state started to build the new Seventh Lake Mountain Trail in 2012 in the Moose River Plains, the first major new Class II trail, we were out in the field and documented our concerns in letters to the APA and DEC. We published accounts on our website. We widely publicized these views. How is it that when we made our position crystal clear year after year, we’re somehow guilty of sabotage?

The reality is that many folks simply refused to listen.

Two, how is standing up for the forever wild clause in the State Constitution sabotage? Thankfully, after our 8-year legal challenge, Article 14, Section 1, remains intact. The framers of the forever wild clause acted in 1894 to prevent the Governor, Legislators, and state commissions/agencies from making major decisions over the use of the Forest Preserve. Governors, Legislators, and state agencies are all acutely susceptible to outside pressures and influence to make various agreements, and the framers deliberately wrapped the Forest Preserve in unique constitutional protections to ensure that only the People would make the big decisions on its use.

Clearly, state agency leaders and Town Supervisors were content to use the Forest Preserve in the case of Class II trails as a bargaining chip. The Finch deal illustrates perfectly that the vision of the framers was just as important, if not more so, in 2021 as it was in 1894.

Three, how is it sabotage when we stood up for the rule of law? Protect the Adirondacks went to court as a last resort. We went to court when we had exhausted all other options. Again, we did everything we could to try and convince folks that Class II trails were unconstitutional, but nobody listened to us.

When Protect the Adirondacks relied upon the system of checks-and-balances governing, so important to American history and American life, where the courts are one branch that can hold accountable the other branches of government when they break the law, how exactly is that sabotage?

How is it sabotage when the system worked? Calling Protect the Adirondacks’ successful legal challenge sabotage simply does not add up.

Four, Wells talk a lot of about an “agreement” between local government leaders, the DEC, and some green groups around the adoption of the Essex Chain Lakes classification in 2013 and its Unit Management two years later. This was all done after Protect the Adirondacks went to court. This “agreement” was negotiated in secret. Nobody at the DEC or local government or the green groups involved has ever given me the same answer about the substance of this secret agreement.

Recently, the former DEC Commissioner would not even say there was an agreement; he called it a “concept.” One green group that participated said there was no agreement. If this agreement was so important, why was it not made public? Why was a written version never released? Why was this not a public document? Perhaps secret meetings that lead to secret deals that conspire to break the law are not the best way to do business.

Wells says that this agreement was made in “good faith.” In what universe is an agreement negotiated in secret, that’s based at its core on breaking the law, somehow a good-faith agreement? Adirondack Park decision making would truly benefit from greater sunshine.

Five, local government interests got plenty from the state beyond the Class II trails that were struck down. Let’s look at what local governments wanted and what they got around the state’s purchase of the former Finch lands. Brian Wells would have people believe that the only thing that local government wanted or received was the DEC greenlighting Class II trails. The reality is that there were many other parts to the Finch lands deal that were wholly unaffected by the recent Protect decision.

The State of New York purchased around 164,000 acres of the former Finch, Pruyn and Company lands. The terms of this purchase and subsequent recreational use were shaped by local governments. At their behest 95,000 acres were protected under conservation easements, not added to the Forest Preserve. The major recreational right purchased on the easements lands was for new snowmobile trails linking Indian Lake, Inlet, Newcomb, and Long Lake. The conservation easements purchased in 2010 secured dozens of miles of snowmobile trails for the Town of Indian Lake; on easement lands snowmobile trails can be as wide as anybody wants them. At the insistence of local government, private hunting camps were also retained on easement lands, which shortchanged other public recreational opportunities.

The purchase of 69,000 acres of former Finch lands as Forest Preserve was also shaped by local government leaders. Floatplane rights to First Lake on the Essex Chain and Pine Lake were transferred to local governments. This had never been done before, and this decision shaped Forest Preserve land classification options and decisions. Road maintenance easements on new Forest Preserve lands were also transferred to local governments. Again, this had never been done before.

Finch lands were also provided to expand the Town of Newcomb Golf Course. Other Finch lands were transferred to the Town of Long Lake. The cabin at Boreas Ponds and the Farmhouse on the Chain Lakes Road were retained, though neither the state or local government has a plan for what to do with them.

The Polaris Bridge over the Hudson River was retained and the Town of Indian Lake won approval for a second snowmobile bridge over the Cedar River, just a few miles downriver from an existing snowmobile bridge over the Cedar. Miles of motor vehicle roads–the Golf Brook Road, the Chain Lakes Road, and others within the Essex Chain–were kept open as new public Forest Preserve roads. Millions of dollars were provided to local governments in grants and road maintenance contracts.

And then there was the new $25 million Frontier Town Campground.

Protect the Adirondacks opposed many of these things, and agreed with some, but the reality is that these items were all local government priorities and none of these things have been changed by the Protect decision.

Six, Wells’ op-ed clearly illustrates that using secret deals is a poor way to make public policy: the courts will sometimes hold accountable those in power. Yet, it appears that when local government leaders were successful in working in secret to cut deals with the powers that be to rig the outcomes that they wanted everything was fine. When the DEC put its big thumb on the scales to approve local government priorities during the Essex Chain and Boreas Pond land classification processes, ignoring science and the long-established independent assessment procedures in the process, as well as public comments, all was fine. When Unit Management Plans were approved or revised, again with DEC’s big thumb on the scales, ignoring science and the long-established independent assessment procedures, as well as public comments, again local government had no problem with the process. When the DEC and APA weakened the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, for the first time in its 50-year history, for the Essex Chain Lakes Primitive Area, local government supported that too.

But when the system could not be rigged and the decision was taken out of the hands of the powerful and was put into the hands of independent judges on three different courts, where 8 of 12 judges found that the state violated the Constitution, then local government leaders have some really big complaints.

My golden rule as an advocate is to always say the same thing in public that I say in private and to always say the same things in private that I say in public. It would be truly wonderful, and a big step forward, if all other players in the Adirondacks did the same thing.

It’s time for a different way of doing business in the Adirondack Park. Perhaps recent events will inspire Team Cuomo and their Adirondack allies to change their ways and embrace openness and transparency. Cutting deals in secret isn’t working.

Seven, Wells complains about the definition of the word timber. Wells does himself and his cause no good with this debunked argument. Wells needs to read the trial record. He needs to read Adirondack history. He needs to read dictionary definitions from the 1890s. He needs to read the debate over forever wild from the 1894 Constitutional Convention where the words trees and timber and wilderness were used interchangeably. Timber in the historical context in the 1890s was defined as wooded lands, the whole forest. It was used by the framers as means to protect the whole forest and go beyond protections simply for trees.

The DEC and APA staked their whole case on a modern and narrow definition of the word timber. When the historic record clearly showed that the actual meaning of the word timber to the framers of Article 14 was something much more than simply big trees of commercial value, the state’s case became a house of cards and fell apart. Why is Wells doubling down on the state’s failed historic interpretation?

The State Supreme Court sided with Protect the Adirondacks on the meaning of the word timber and about what a tree is. The Appellate Division, Third Department sided with us on these two things too. The Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, did not address the issue specifically but cited the fact that 25,000 trees were destroyed as part of its rationale for finding Class II trails illegal. The lower courts had established a firm factual record that 25,000 trees were destroyed by using a consistent and historic standard for the meaning of timber and for determining that a tree was a tree at 1 inch diameter at breast height or bigger.

Wells’ talk about “seedlings” is a total red herring. The trial record was clear that Protect the Adirondacks was never talking about “seedlings” and we went out of our way in trial testimony to show that “seedlings” were not part of the 25,000 trees cut down in the first 27 miles of Class II trails. There are simply no “seedlings” that grow up in a matter of months to a tree over 1 inch diameter measured at 4.5 feet off the ground. Wells is playing games here to try and muddy the waters. Wells can gripe about the decision all he wants – there are lots of US Supreme Court majority decisions that I gripe about – but deliberately distorting the decision with factual inaccuracies and misleading statements does nobody any good.

Eight, Wells talks about the “benefits” to the Forest Preserve from the DEC supposedly closing “interior” snowmobile trails and building new Class II trails on the periphery of a Forest Preserve unit. Again, Wells would benefit from reading the trial record and also getting out in the field.

During the trial in 2017, Protect the Adirondacks presented an analysis of every mile of these “closed” trails in the Moose River Plains Wild Forest Area and concluded that there was no ecological benefit to the Forest Preserve when compared with the damage caused by a brand new 12-mile-long, extra-wide Class II trail.

The snowmobile trails in the Moose River Plains that were “closed” included some “trails” that were overgrown and had not been used by anybody for anything for decades. The environmental benefit from these trail closures happened long ago. Other “trails” that were “closed” to snowmobiles remained open for public or administrative motor vehicle use, so there was no environmental benefit to the Forest Preserve from them. Other trails that were “closed” to snowmobiles remained open for hiking and mountainbiking, but were dead-end trails that did not connect communities and had long since stopped being groomed for snowmobiling, so they were snowmobile trails on paper but not in fact. Two other trails “closed” to snowmobiles at Ice House Pond and Helldiver Pond were transformed and rebuilt to provide universal accessibility for the disabled.

Nine, Wells writes that “The Community Connector Trails agreement would have helped turn the page on decades of Adirondack Region job losses brought on by industry disinvestment and Forest Preserve expansion.” The reality is that every community in Hamilton County is caked with signs right now saying HELP WANTED, a trend that is mirrored throughout Rural America. Across the U.S., there are more jobs than people. This is especially true in Rural America, and it’s true right now in the Adirondacks.

When Wells talks about “decades of job losses” he’s making stuff up. While clinging to the notion that Forest Preserve acquisition has caused a loss of jobs, local government has never presented a sliver of data to back up their claims. Our long-term study on population and economic data found that the number of jobs in the Adirondacks had increased from 1970 to 2010.

Ten, Wells asks “Who benefits when a group tears up a good-faith agreement, but only after they got everything they wanted?” I know we’re all transfixed with the summer Olympics right now, but it’s true mental gymnastics for Wells to allege that Protect the Adirondacks could tear up an agreement that we never had a hand in making. How is it a good faith agreement when so many were excluded? By definition a secret agreement that excluded so many is hardly something that is made in good faith.

Eleven, let’s talk about who got what they wanted. For Wells to argue that Protect the Adirondacks somehow got everything we wanted is fantasy. There was plenty about the overall Finch lands deal that we had to swallow, that we strongly opposed. From the floatplane rights being given to local governments to the buildings and bridges and miles of motor vehicle roads opened, to the weakening of the State Land Master Plan, there’s a lot we objected to.

Yes, there is new Wilderness in the Hudson Gorge and around Boreas Ponds, and, yes, the Essex Chain Lakes are motorless, but had we truly gotten our way, suffice to say there would be plenty of things different.

Twelve, last, let’s talk about the need for “reflection.” Wells calls on Protect the Adirondacks to reflect on our legal challenge to uphold forever wild. Fair enough. Indeed, there are many hazards with legal challenges. That’s why we rarely undertake them.

In exchange, though, we earnestly hope that Brian Wells embarks on some reflection too, since his piece in the Times Union and Almanack shows that he has not done his homework and relies on falsehoods and fabrications to support his narrative.

It’s time not only for state officials and state agencies to get serious about upholding Article 14, but also for the Cuomo Administration, its leaders at the DEC and APA, and its allies in local government and across the Adirondacks, to move decision-making out of the shadows, out of secret hand-picked groups, and into open, public, transparent forums where a diversity of voices are welcomed.

Sunlight will produce better results for the communities, residents, visitors, and the environment of the Adirondack Park and the forever wild Forest Preserve.

Photo: Snowmobile connector near Lake Harris/Almanack archive

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Peter Bauer

Peter Bauer is the Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks.

He has been working in various capacities on Adirondack Park environmental issues since the mid-1980s, including stints as the Executive Director of the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and FUND for Lake George as well as on the staff of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century. He also worked at Adirondack Life Magazine. He served as Chair of the Town of Lake George Zoning Board of Appeals and has served on numerous advisory boards for management of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve.

Peter lives in Blue Mountain Lake with his wife and two children, enjoys a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities throughout the Adirondacks, and is a member of the Blue Mountain Lake volunteer fire department.

Follow Protect the Adirondacks on Facebook and Twitter.




51 Responses

  1. Dave Ritchie says:

    Yay and thanks to Protect the Adirondacks to have gone to bat to restrain the over-zealous increase in boulevard-style snowmobile trails, the detriment they would do to the forest preserve, and the undermining of the Forever Wild clause in the NYS Constitution!

  2. COL (R) Mark Warnecke says:

    Perhaps he is like you saying that the ruling should not effect cutting for hiking trails. Amazing how we make the narrative fit out own opinions. By the way, yours is not the only one, nor being yours does not make it automatically correct.

    For example, planting trees in the approximately 20 miles of already cut community connector trails. Really? With DEC understaffed and underfunded this is wise use of their time and the taxpayers dollars? Especially when you consider that within 4 or 5 years, left unmaintained, they would naturally regenerate. Just take a look at some in the Essex Chain and Boreas Ponds that 5 years ago you could drive a car down.

    It’s time we put forth a Constitutional Amendment to the forever wild clause of Article 14 that would allow for trail construction and maintenance, road maintenance and so forth. If this ruling has pointed anything out, it’s that. Let the people speak.
    For the record, I am not a snowmobiler, but I believe in multiple use. I also believe in conservation (the wise use of our natural resources). I have degrees in Natural Resources Conservation, Biology and Education and worked in the Environmental field for 20 years.

  3. Paul says:

    Not sure if these kind of back and forth articles are really such a good idea. It reminds me of the old “point – counterpoint” skits with Dan Ackroyd and Jane Curtin on SLN in the day. They do show that relationships between these groups and local community leaders has really disintegrated.

    As Peter has kind of indicated with their turn to the courts in this is a case – where folks decided to lawyer up in a sense. The towns should probably do the same now and look into an amendment to Article 14 to solve the issue once and for all, one way or the other. Since snowmobiles are allowed on the FP (nobody disputes that) there valid arguments for why these trails are good for the environment given how the sport has evolved. Machines slogging through a wet area where a well designed trail with bridges (like we have for hikers – even giant staircases in places like Ore Bed Brook) and culverts is probably what is needed now in 2021 and beyond. As a cross country skier I like the concept of groomed community connector trails – similar to what we see in Scandinavia. It’s good for everybody. Maybe we need a wider trail to accommodate both. Remember these trails are capped so there can only be so much.

  4. Bill W says:

    Peter trying to pretend that the original framers of article 14 would be on his side is self-delusion in the extreme. Article 14 was and is about preventing clear-cutting. Not preventing reasonable recreation. Read any account from the late 1800s and it’s clear as day that timber and “trees” are not the same thing. This guy needs to be stopped.

    • Boreas says:

      The court decided otherwise based on their interpretation of Art. 14 and subsequent rulings. So until Art. 14 is rescinded or amended to include various special interest groups (and their modifications) that were not present over a century ago, IT will continue to determine usage in the FP – not snowmobilers or environmentalists.

  5. Boreas says:

    Thanks Peter. Excellent read!

  6. Dave says:

    Peter, to your knowledge, when this deal was being hammered out between the parties, did anyone raise the issue that it might not be constitutional and would therefore be open to legal challenge?

    Seems like quite the oversight if that wasn’t anticipated or at least discussed. Were the towns reassured or otherwise misled by the State on this point? And if it was anticipated, and they proceeded knowing this outcome was a possibility, it’s hard to buy into the “we were bamboozled” narrative.

  7. geogymn says:

    Excellent retort! It is so encouraging to know some are out there that see the bigger picture and are willing to wage the good fight. Thanks Peter.

  8. Tim says:

    Not many of us like snowmobiles but what concerns me is the potentially far reaching unintended consequences of Peter and his gang abusing the court system to get city judges (who can’t tell an ash from a white pine) to redefine what “timber” means. Hiking Trails all over the park are in dire need of being relocated (not just maintained) and the high peaks need of acres and acres of additional parking just to bring our parking situation up to “barely adequate” from the current state which can be only described as laughable. If we have to count every blade of grass now as “timber” how will we ever make the sorely needed improvements for other types of recreation?

    • Boreas says:

      I would suggest you read the actual ruling and not all of the hyperbolic narratives coming from special interest groups and various stakeholders. The ruling makes no such restriction on foot trail maintenance or construction. This is just misleading gibberish coming from DEC to divert attention and responsibility from what they tried to do and to create more animosity between groups. Please read the actual ruling.

      • Paul says:

        I don’t think the DEC is trying to create “animosity between groups”. I don’t think that is a fair charge to make. I think they are just trying to do their job in an environment that is polarized like everything else these days.

        • Boreas says:

          Perhaps creating animosity may not be their goal, but their methodology doesn’t seem to do much to bring stakeholders and user groups together based on what I have seen.

          • Paul says:

            So you think that creating animosity (as you call it) could be their goal? I think that’s nonsense. The compromise has already been made, it’s called a CAP on milage. That brought the groups together. – a consensus (the DEC’s methodology as you say). Not good enough for one side, that isn’t the DEC’s fault.

            • Paul says:

              Same goes for their compromise on the RR corridor. Good enough for most, not for the extremes. Already talk by the trail people on wanting the rest of the RR, and they haven’t even finished the compromise plan yet!! Insane.

              • Boreas says:

                In my opinion, the RR compromise was the only good decision DEC has made lately. As you say, still plenty of venom left in that debate.

            • Boreas says:

              No, I don’t think creating animosity is their goal. I think diverting attention from their missteps is the reason for the moratorium on maintenance and blaming it on the lawsuit. THAT is nonsense.

          • Todd says:

            Everyday we Americans become more like the French. Arguing is their national pastime.

  9. Steve Gloo says:

    I’ve posted this before, no one won in this situation other than the lawyers and law firms. The state used a shell game to convince the locals that the expenditure of taxpayers money on over priced land that the same “”Protect my opinion “ groups will try to keep free of pesky taxpayers, was a good idea.
    Imagine the good that the DEC and APA could do if they cut their legal staff and over priced land purchases, and set about ministering to the needs of the land and taxpayers.

  10. Mick Finn says:

    Article 14 says that these lands should have been left as working forests and easement purchases should have been made instead of the fee title purchase. One could argue that the deal was invalid and the land should be returned to private ownership.

  11. Larry Roth Larry Roth says:

    It’s a nice commentary.

    Too bad Mr. Bauer has no problems with the way Governor Cuomo rammed through the decision to rip out the rails between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid. That was as big as any damage to the system of checks and balances he defends here. The dirty little secret of relying on the courts is that it requires pockets deep enough to put up a creditable legal battle against the state.

    Forever Wild is a wonderful concept, but putting it in practice is no longer possible when the hand of man is being felt around the world through climate change.

    The tourism the park depends on for economic survival is impossible without transportation, and investing in upgrading the rail connection that used to reach Lake Placid to full time passenger and freight service could have made a big contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A third of the nations emissions come from transportation; this is a lost opportunity to start changing that.

    As it is the millions of annual visitors to Lake Placid will have no real choices except cars now, and there will be no way to reduce the number of trucks that use the highways to supply the needs of the region.

    And please don’t tell me using the corridor for real rail transportation is not economically viable, not when millions are being spent to subsidize two more weeks of snowmobiling.

    • upstater says:

      I agree entirely. Anything that encourages more automobiles, RVs, trucks, snowmobiles or motorboats is detrimental to the Adirondacks. It would benefit everyone to have 500 or 2000 fewer cars in the Adirondacks. Has anyone ever seen tourism in Switzerland to understand how railroads could benefit the region. Cuomo is a “car guy” by his own description. Whatever being spent rehabbing the portion of the railroad to Tupper Lake will not be sufficient to provide an alternative to more cars and RVs.

  12. Pete says:

    You lost all credibility in the fifth paragraph when you referenced “the state’s plan to build hundreds of miles of Class II trails in the Forest Preserve.”

    You know full well that there is no such plan. You know full well that the ASLMP limits trails on forest preserve to a total of 848.88 miles and there are already close to 800 miles. So at most there could be about 50 additional miles built. That is far from “hundreds.”

    You also know that the DEC’s plan for the “second snowmobile bridge over the Cedar River” requires some tree cutting and because of the lawsuit the construction of that bridge was put on hold. Will the bridge have to be scrapped because of the court decision? I’m sure you hope so.

    Your position that leaving a few roads open in Essex Chain and Boreas even just for snowmobiling and mountain biking is some environmental disaster when the property have been logged for a hundred years and not long ago log trucks were driving those roads and log skidders were ripping up the woods. You got your way. Most of the roads and skidder trails are closed to any motorized use and some even to mountain bikes and horses. Overall you got a lot more of what you want than other constituent groups.

    By the way, Frontier Town was Frontier town before the campground, not ‘forever wild’ Forest Preserve. How does this have any relation to building snowmobile trails or anything else on forest preserve lands?

    etc.

  13. Michael Caffrey says:

    Touche.

  14. ADKresident2 says:

    Thank you for your advocacy Peter!

  15. Bibi Wein says:

    Bravo, Peter Bauer!

  16. Todd says:

    Ah, the contentious arguments continue over what should be the balance between protecting the wild nature of the Adirondack State Park and what public developments should be permitted that doesn’t destroy the wild nature. Peter Bauer blows out of the water most of Mr. Wells arguments identifying his parts that are misinformation. When I read opinions such as these, I always attempt to discern what is NOT being said, which often is as important, and in many cases, more important in what is said. In this case of the Mr. Wells and Mr. Bauer’s articles, it is clear that it is Mr Bauer who sets the record straight with information that backed up and uses also accurate terms to do so, whereas, Mr. Wells’ info lacks accuracy, substantiated information, and clearly leaves out many important issues. Mr Wells and exposes such a one-sided biased view that cannot question some of his statements. At the end of the day, the Adirondack State Park is owned by the people of NYS and the people of NY decide what happens in the Ads–the three courts decisions rightly made the correct conclusions consistent with the intent of the State Constitution.

  17. JB says:

    It is amazing to me that, in this day and age, there is so much disagreement on the “facts”. Or, maybe this should not be surprising given the fact that people, even in the farthest recesses of the Park, can now absorb the untruths being hurled in all directions at the speed of light, or at least at the speed of a modern Japanese motor vehicle travelling down our well-maintained road network. The Adirondacks are better connected and more accessible than ever before, and that fact necessitates that the Park is actively managed as such. The days of our communities being cloistered away from the world by surrounding wilderness are long gone, and perhaps this explains the renewed opportunism and opposition to preservationist activities. In reality, recent developments highlight the need now more than ever for counterbalancing measures to prevent the larger forces at play from creating a very different Park–one that begins to resemble the places outside of its boundaries that Park residents have chosen to avoid and often disdain. Many everyday people who choose to live in the Park, as well as state residents at large, embrace, or at least quietly benefit from, the concept of the forest preserve, just as most residents of small towns and cities alike will oppose large scale development in their own backyards–if only those in government could be more attuned to the realities and desires of everyday people. The idea that Adirondack towns are being smothered and starved of money by the forest preserve is perhaps the biggest untruth of them all. Kudos, Peter, for briefly pointing that out (and providing a hyperlink for people who will choose to do their own research).

  18. ANDREW MIRONCHUK says:

    Good work Peter Bauer. Let’s hope the forest doesn’t burn down while there’s a conflict of how to save the trees.

  19. Mike says:

    Great job Peter, keep up the good work. The Park needs protection now more than ever.

  20. Mary says:

    Thank you and happy thanks to Protect.

  21. louis curth says:

    Many thanks to Peter Bauer for bringing some much needed balance to the one-sided opinion piece offered up by Indian Lake’s Republican town supervisor Brian Wells.

    Sadly, Republicans like Mr. Wells have a long history of demeaning environmental organizations which have a stellar record of protecting this unique and wonderful Adirondack Park.

    Supervisor Wells use of the term “”self-professed environmentalists” is a cheap shot intended to smear environmentalists. It joins the “rich,outsiders” allegation which is tossed around freely by many Adirondack Republicans – especially those like Mr. Wells – who choose to align themselves with the Anti-A.P.A. Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board.

    Can’t we do better than this? For starters, how about a commitment to the rule of law. How about abiding by our state and federal constitutions, and for public officers, how about taking your oaths of office as more than empty words to be ignored. Above all, how about going back to that old fashioned notion that truth and facts matter?

    • Zephyr says:

      Apparently, snowmobilers driving $50K trucks pulling two $25K snowmobiles up from New Jersey don’t fit in the “rich outsiders” category.

      • Paul says:

        Where can I get a nice truck for only 50K?!

        • Boreas says:

          I can let my 2005 Colorado go for that! Only 75k miles.

        • Steve B. says:

          Nissan Frontier. $30,000 or so new. You’ll never find a used one. Very basic and reliable, hasn’t been updated in like 15 years other than a new engine and transmission, so none of the nanny crap like front radar and oops I drifted out of my lane alarm bells, $2,000 side mirrors, etc….

    • Boreas says:

      Louis,

      Sadly, this is the way of the world now. Get your opinions from entertainment TV or unscrupulous social media, then treat those opinions as facts. This is the pandemic we need to be worried about.

      • Zephyr says:

        As we approached the top of a mountain over the weekend I could hear a loud voice lecturing about the evils of the vaccine, Fauci, and the government. I found it very hard not to argue back as we arrived at the summit, but I noted that this person was of a certain age, overweight, and didn’t seem to be in the best physical condition. Kudos for her making it to the top, but sadly she might soon regret not believing in a dangerous virus and the ways proven to mitigate it. We live in a world where denying facts and what is right in front of your nose defines a particular tribe.

        • Boreas says:

          Good thing you didn’t engage – she may have been packing heat… I give people a wide berth nowadays.

          • JohnL says:

            Wow. How many stereotypes can we pack into a couple comments. Let’s see, we have ‘certain age’, ‘overweight’, ‘bad physical condition’, ‘packing heat’. Can you think of anything more to attribute to her point of view? BTW, I’m only 1 of those stereotypes (I’m old), but for the vaccines and Fauci I have to agree 100%. About the government, I’m still deciding.
            Whatever happened to freedom of choice. If the vaccine is all it’s cracked up to be, all us vaccinated people should be in good shape. The non-Vaxers know the risk THEY’RE taking. We used to be about choices, assumption of risk, etc etc in this country. We’re becoming sheep-like.

        • JB says:

          Zephyr, forgive my wry sense of humor, but your anecdote of summiting a mountain and “hearing a loud voice” at the top sounds like a biblical parable (“Sermon on the Mount?”). The tribalism that you describe–“cultural conflict”–has been analyzed by social theorists (“critical XYZ theory”) for hundreds of years, but now the principles underpinning those theories are completely breaking down (in our modern world that has become substantially materially modified). The old epistemological (“fact”) and class struggles seem to no longer apply in a world where symbols (vaccines, guns, snowmobiles, “Mother Earth”, body-image, etc.) have replaced reality (utilitarianism, techne, Heidegger’s “readiness-to-hand”)–to an unfathomable degree and for virtually unimaginable reasons–and psychological gymnastics have replaced the productive harmonies of skepticism and faith, leaving the rest of the world, once boundless and inexhaustible, lying slouched and prone between the grizzled monoliths of the gristmill until the mechanism grinds itself into atmospheric dust in a telos where someone will be waiting to claim credit for reinventing the wheel. How can most of us hope to escape the entelechy of such a situation, how can we defy becoming either the boubour or the snob when history necessitates that the sage becomes the scholar and the individual becomes his own creation?…By allowing the few sacrosanctities that still remain to persist as they are, not only in spirit, in vein of Pessoa’s Alberto Caeiro, but also materially. And, in fact, this ultimately means acknowledging that the spirit and material are not disjunct, but rather continuous. The “medium” is not the “message”, it is the whole shebang.

          • JohnL says:

            She seems to be trying to summarize your post Zephyr. Do you concur?
            An aside: Usually summaries are shorter, more concise and easier to understand than the original, but hey, this works for me. Thanks JB. P.S. I think, instead of the word ‘shebang’, you really meant to say ….’the full monty’. You’re welcome.

            • JB says:

              JohnL, I’m glad that you took some valuable insights away from that. Although, maybe it did not come through that I was agreeing with you (as a fellow Republican man) just as much as I was summarizing Zephyr–my fault. Impenetrable, ambiguous, concise–all facets of the same diamond; I guess that this one of my points: things are what we make of them, but are they?

              “Shebang” was an intentional choice, based on my vague familiarity with its etymology, in the sense of a cabin, enclosure, and especially “char à bancs” (“chariot with benches”), since the unity of opposites of mobility and confinement, in the form of a 19th century tour bus nonetheless, played nicely with the allusion to Marshall McLuhan’s phrase “the medium is the message” and my attempted physicalization of an abstract concept, which after all was the entire theme of the commentary. I’m not very familiar with phrase “the full monty”.

              • JohnL says:

                The Full Monty – “everything which is necessary, appropriate or possible; ‘the works'”
                The Whole Shebang – “the whole thing : everything that is included in something”
                Looking back, you’re probably right, it’s one of those potato – potahto things. Nice chatting/speaking/talking/texting with you JB.

                • JB says:

                  JohnL, to be fair, I think that you understood quite well something of the spirit and tone of my comment. While I was being half-serious and tried to make some valid points, I was also intentionally being a bit of a boorish, genteel snob in my excessively verbose and tedious response. Apologies if I appeared to be gas-lighting you. I would take back as a bit of presumptuous exaggeration the quip about being Republican–I’m more Libertarian (and in my defense, my guess would be that you’re probably not a Bernie guy).

                  I am certain that we disagree on many things, but in all seriousness you exhibit a healthy skepticism in defense of free thinking–what used to be known as liberalism–that has called to mind Karl Popper and his ideas on falsificationism, the “open society”, positive utilitarianism (fostering happiness) rather than negative utilitarianism (preempting suffering), holism (choices of individuals and social groups shape reality) above historicism (human history is pre-ordained by scientific laws, e.g. self-fulfilling prophecies of Marxism tending towards totalitarianism). People forget that without improbable thinkers and freedom of choice, we would have no Maxwell, Einstein, semi-conductors, or vaccines. Case in point: Just this summer, I was reading some botanical publications from Russia and China, and it was amazing to me how little was known about certain local flora, due to the lack of freedom for scientific exploration, clear fear on the part of the researchers of “saying the wrong thing” (upsetting ultra-nationalist government censors), and lack of communication and consensus with the global scientific community that has allowed knowledge in liberal democracies to flourish. Yet, in the West, I am often reminded of the quote, “It is possible to be so open-minded that one becomes closed-minded” (Popper said something like this, I am almost certainly misquoting here).

                  I do in fact disagree with most Popperian ideals, but that does not mean that I cannot admit that there is a great deal of truth in his thinking which is now becoming especially relevant. Going back to my first comment: Fundamentally, the problem is that Popper has three ontological worlds; I would say that there is just one, but one in such a way that most of us stand so high upon the echelons of our lofty ideals that we cannot see our circumstances, but, often problematically, we can still see each other flickering through the mist.

                  • JohnL says:

                    Last comment JB. It’s been fun.
                    “boorish, genteel snob in my excessively verbose and tedious response”. Check-Check-and Check.
                    As for gas lighting me – I still feel the same way as I originally expressed in my 10 sentence (or so) comment. So, if you had been GL’ing me, it didn’t work.
                    You really should try to pull your many and varied thoughts together more concisely in the future. Might get your message(s) across better.
                    I’ll give you the last word. I’m sure others are really glad to hear that.

                    • JB says:

                      Okay, so maybe you’re no Karl Popper.

                      [Removes 200 sentence philosophical discourse on “why”]

  22. Habitatman says:

    Ya gotta love Mr. Bauer. He really nailed it here!!

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