Dave Gibson, who writes about issues of wilderness, wild lands, public policy, and more, has been involved in Adirondack conservation for nearly 25 years, much of that time as Executive Director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks and then as first Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks.
During Dave's tenure at the Association, the organization completed the Center for the Forest Preserve including the Adirondack Research Library at Paul Schaefer’s home. The library has the finest Adirondack collection outside the Blue Line, specializing in Adirondack conservation and recreation history.
A notice inviting public comment about what seems a relatively innocuous, relatively short (1.25 mile) road construction has been circulated by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, or DEC.
The Adirondack Almanack headlined the matter as “DEC planning new road east of Carry Falls Reservoir.”
This is not a small deal. In fact, the 1.25 miles of new road cut through the forest will result in nearly 20 miles of new public motorized access within a sensitive low-elevation boreal ecosystem. For many years, our DEC has been badly conflicted about balancing resource protection and motorized access to this area. » Continue Reading.
A friend and fellow founder of Adirondack Wild first urged me to read Wallace Stegner’s Beyond the Hundredth Meridian (Houghton Mifflin, 1954). Perhaps my friend sensed connections between the “second opening of the west” and the Adirondacks. Regardless, it remains a fascinating work, to be read and re-read. Although never part of my schooling, it should be on anyone’s lifetime reading list.
Stegner chronicles the explorer of the Colorado River, John Wesley Powell, who spent his middle life and health attempting to teach our late 19th century politicians (and those moving west) that only scientifically-based land use planning and restrictions would save us from the disaster of letting Americans willy-nilly settle, break sod, and farm the arid west under the 1862 Homestead Act.
As head of brand new scientific agencies in Washington DC, the Geological and Irrigation Surveys, Powell acted for the “common interest” through his dry-eyed assessment that 160-acres, a mule and a plow on either side of the 100th meridian were irrational and pitiable against prairie and desert wind, snow, sun, drought and loneliness. Rain, it turned out, did not follow the plow in the 1880s and 90s, or during the 1930s Dust Bowl. Powell fought tenaciously against scientific misconceptions, false prophets, personal gain, corrupt practice, and speculative acquisitiveness – whereby a handful of individuals could and did gobble up millions of acres of the public’s dry lands and whatever little water existed there, for their own use. » Continue Reading.
Wilderness preservationist Louis Marshall would have not only commented about the extremism, murder and related tragic loss of life in Charlottesville, VA. He would have been outspoken against the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazi followers that caused it. Further, he would have responded vigorously and explicitly against President Trump’s persistent equivocation about who caused the violence and loss of life. To the lawyer and civil rights advocate Louis Marshall, love of justice and love of nature bubbled up from the same headwaters.
We continue to live in a time of specialists where our humanity is defined and constrained as lanes we live and practice within. The messages we receive daily are to stay in our separate lanes, interests and specialties. By dint of his and world history and by force of personality, Louis Marshall (1856-1929) would not stay in any lane. Nor did Martin Luther King. Nor do young people today. Nor should any of us. » Continue Reading.
There has been detailed documentation in the Adirondack Almanack about ongoing recreational pressures and resulting damage to parts of the High Peaks Wilderness Area, the largest Wilderness unit in the NYS Forest Preserve (and in most of the country).
Severe impacts have resulted to some adjacent trailheads, highways, roads, and parking areas, and certain areas of the interior. NYS DEC personnel, Summit Stewards, and town governments, indeed all of us, feel the pressure from large numbers of us enjoying the Eastern High Peaks, and in some cases requiring search and rescue. What to do about it all has been debated in this space by various stakeholders, including DEC Forest Rangers, with much good information exchanged and good comments and suggestions.
However, current comments and conditions feel like déjà vu all over again. I refer to the 17 year-old document that very specifically guides our public land manager, the NYS DEC, in addressing recreational user pressure on the High Peaks and how to keep the High Peaks as wilderness.
The 1999 High Peaks Wilderness Complex Unit Management Plan (UMP) is that guiding document. I propose that we spend more time addressing this plan, its management recommendations and actions to date, and how the UMP might be updated to reflect the era, conditions and user pressures we are now encountering. » Continue Reading.
The late Newcomb Town Supervisor George Canon did not concede anything to the environmental side, but in paying my respects to him I admit to admiration for what he accomplished for his town and county and for how, beneath a very tough exterior, George cared little about who he was seen with, who he would approach, talk with or share a drink with. Not that he wanted my organizations to publish pictures of us smiling before the camera. That would have gone too far.
Early on, when George and I met occasionally, our only common ground was to talk about a man we knew from very different points of view – Arthur Masten Crocker. Arthur was a patrician member of the Tahawus Club, so a part-time resident of Newcomb. He was also a leading environmentalist of his time, having grown to young manhood around Masten House, near the old village of Adirondac, and fished lakes Henderson and Colden. Arthur also appreciated Adirondack history, local guides and men who worked for National Lead – men like George Canon. » Continue Reading.
My admiration of the late John Collins of Blue Mountain Lake and Indian Lake grew significantly after hearing the eulogies by John’s family and friends at the Adirondack Museum (Experience).
The slivers of time that I shared with John since I first met him at the Adirondack Park Agency thirty years ago became tall pillars of pine after hearing from those who grew up with John, or grew better and stronger thanks to their interactions and positive influence. » Continue Reading.
I recently led a bird walk up Hadley Mountain (or Hadley Hill), near Hadley and Stony Creek.
Hadley’s firetower marks its centennial anniversary this year (1917-2017) so there is increased appreciation of this forest preserve mountain ridgeline (2653’) and its history in the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest.
Dating to its organization under the leadership of Jack Freeman of ADK in 1995, Hadley’s firetower committee, led by local residents, is one of the oldest, most tenacious and effective in the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.
As this year’s legislative session winds down, more public attention is focused on November’s vote whether or not convene a state constitutional convention in Albany.
As Article XIV – the “forever wild” clause – is of particular relevance to both the Adirondack and Catskill Park regions, I offer the following resolution approved by Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve this spring. » Continue Reading.
The feeling that remains in me following the People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C. is one of renewal. Spring in the northeast has a lot to do with sustaining it. A wood thrush is singing in our woods again (miracle of miracles, given their steady decline in the northeast), a newly arrived pair of gray catbirds are eagerly consuming the mealworms in our feeder, bluebird nestlings can be heard peeping from the nest box. It is a time of renewal of life and of faith.
But to witness the strength and determination of that huge crowd clogging the streets of D.C.; to be with so many in their teens and 20s climbing those big trees on the Ellipse to get a better picture of the immense crowd; to see faces of all colors; to feel the pounding pulse of the drummers from North Carolina who never once stopped their rhythm from 11 am to 4 pm; to see sweat pouring off a not so young woman from that same state determined to keep her banner aloft despite the gusts of wind on Pennsylvania Avenue almost (but not quite) as determined to bring it down; to stay in the close company of three very determined New York State women, each about 76 years young, keeping to their feet all day in 92 degrees (one keeping beat with the drummers with a whistle); these are all impressions I will not soon forget and which renew my faith in humankind. » Continue Reading.
How many times can we use the phrase “world class” and have it mean much?
Governor Cuomo has used that term to describe the $32 million Gateway to the Adirondacks around Northway Exit 29 in North Hudson. This “world class recreational experience will be realized through the establishment of state, local and private partnerships,” said the Governor’s State of the State report. “Transforming this site into an attractive destination will link local and regional resources and provide year round recreation opportunities and services for multiple uses, users and businesses… Drawing visitors to North Hudson to connect with premier opportunities for hiking, biking, horseback riding, snowmobiling and boating. This, coupled with commercial business development, will revitalize communities and help transform this region.”
I join others in certainly wishing this Gateway project well. But in a sense every I-87 Northway exit is a kind of gateway for visitors and residents who seek what the Adirondack Park has to offer – not just recreation but re-creation of ourselves in some cases, not just adventure but transformative experience in some cases, not just an automotive gateway but a gateway to the mind, the emotions and the senses that highly contrasts with our response to populous, pressure packed, polluted places and imagery not far away. When you drive into the Park you immediately realize this is not anyplace USA. That’s not an accident but a result of policies to protect the Park. » Continue Reading.
Long before antimalarial drugs, draining the swamp was a literal human life saver. Sometime after Earth Day 1970, when over 90 percent of the country’s swamps had already been drained, people began to appreciate by their very rarity what swamps looked like, what lived there and how they functioned and benefited society. By 2017, “draining the swamp” has been trivialized into a meaningless electoral slogan. The usage of this phrase infuriates me, but someone inside my head is reminding me to “get over it.”
The actual swamps in New York are highly diverse and on a landscape or local scale contribute vitally to natural infrastructure benefiting our human communities and the more than human world we should aspire to live with. » Continue Reading.
Congressional representative Elise Stefanik should invite the new head of the U.S. EPA, Scott Pruitt, to visit her district. She might introduce Mr. Pruitt to the homeowners in Ballston Spa whose homes have been turned upside down thanks to release of some very bad chemicals from a nearby, now closed dry cleaning facility.
In July 2016, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation requested that EPA perform an environmental assessment. In August 2016, the EPA collected air samples and detected high levels of chloroform; TCE (trichloroethylene); PCE; vinyl chloride; benzene; and naphthalene. These chemicals are likely in the ground water as well. This winter, EPA is evaluating homes downstream of the dry cleaners for vapor intrusion into those homes. » Continue Reading.
Something’s not right when the APA stops writing about open space protection in permits for Resource Management and Rural Use lands – precisely where the State Legislature places great emphasis on open space and resource protection.
The latest example is the draft permit now on the APA website authorizing 15 new residences on 590 acres in Resource Management overlooking the High Peaks, to be accessed off Route 73 near Adirondack Loj Road in North Elba. This subdivision (Barile, Project No. 2016-0114) is up for a vote by the APA Thursday.
In the draft permit for Barile’s North Elba subdivision, project impacts and some mitigation to limit impacts of the 15 new homes, driveways, and accessory buildings are listed for a lot of resources, including Visual, Wetlands, Habitat, Soils, Surface Waters, Groundwater, Invasive Species, Vegetation, Infrastructure, Historic Sites or Structures, and Nearby Land Uses.
Governor Cuomo’s proposed new public-private initiative to revitalize Northway Exit 29 in the Adirondack Park, the former Frontiertown theme park, and to create a new visitor center and “gateway” there to benefit not just the town of North Hudson, but Essex County and the entire Adirondack Park is a good proposal.
After the Governor spent public funds to acquire the nearby Boreas Ponds for the Forest Preserve as a kind of gateway to the High Peaks and Dix Mountain Wilderness, this well-traveled sector of Essex County so close to I-87 deserves a gateway information and interpretive center that helps attract, orient, inform and inspire curious travelers – whether or not those visitors intend an outdoor adventure at Boreas Ponds.
What concerns me is one sentence buried in that same State of the State report (on page 271): “Specifically, DEC will construct infrastructure at Boreas Ponds in the Adirondacks and build trails as part of the “Hut-to-Hut” system that links State lands to community amenities.” » Continue Reading.
As I review notes from several public hearings on the State Land Classifications, including Boreas Ponds, the apparent gulf between voices to “keep it or make it wild” and “this isn’t wilderness anyway and we need motorized access” seem unbridgeable.
Well, perhaps not. More than one or two speaking out for “more access” to the Boreas Ponds (usually meaning motorized) also addressed how experiencing quiet, serenity and wildlife undisturbed moved them personally as much as any wilderness advocate. For their part, several wilderness advocates stressed that economic benefits of access (usually non-motorized) should interest local businesses and governments. The personal values expressed by all the speakers clearly demonstrated the common ground for all of us – a deep appreciation, even love for being in the out of doors Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Almanack's contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The Almanack is the online news journal of Adirondack Explorer. Both are nonprofits supported by contributors, readers, and advertisers, and devoted to exploring, protecting, and unifying the Adirondack Park.
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