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.
Preparing for the annual Christmas Bird Count is, like the entire holiday season, on the hectic side. The binoculars and spotting scopes have been set aside and need to be found. Packing a good lunch a few hours in advance is a good idea, but rarely accomplished.
My highest hurdle is getting up and out early in the morning to meet my team of counters, whose punctuality and other habits, after nearly thirty years of counting in the dead of winter, are rather well known. » Continue Reading.
Peter Bauer has well summarized the current Adirondack Park Agency application by New York Land and Lakes Development LLC for 24 housing lots (plus five common lots, including the lakes themselves) on 1,120 acres around Woodworth and Hines Lakes in the southern Adirondack Park, Towns of Bleecker and Johnstown.
The land is zoned Resource Management: “where the need to protect, manage and enhance forest, agricultural, recreational, and open space resources is of paramount importance.” The basic purposes of RM lands is “to protect the delicate physical and biological resources, encourage proper and economic management of forest, agricultural and recreational resources and preserve the open spaces that are essential and basic to the unique character of the park.” » Continue Reading.
The APA’s “Listening Sessions” about the State Land Master Plan (SLMP) conclude this month. I’ve been to several on behalf of Adirondack Wild and appreciate the low-key, helpful competency displayed by the APA staff that receive inputs, write down comments, and field questions from the public in a one-on-one style. While absent of confident, inspired opening statements by the APA about the origins, importance and relevance of the Master Plan which they are by law obliged to uphold, these sessions do foster thoughtful, private questions, comments and enhanced listening, all of which are a good thing.
At Adirondack Wild, however, we see opportunities for strengthening the SLMP and its paramount purposes – the protection of natural resources and wild character of the Forest Preserve – and that’s been the theme behind our inputs to APA. To prepare ourselves, one of the first people we wanted to sit down with was the principal author of the SLMP, Peter S. Paine, Jr. » Continue Reading.
As I look out on the political landscape this week, I can give in to despair at the sour mood, the anger and the apathy.
Or I can think of this Wilderness 50th anniversary year, which gives us hope. Amidst all the Great Society social justice legislation of President Lyndon Johnson, the Wilderness Act of 1964 may appear “below the fold,” but I cannot remain hopeless for long in reading again the thoughts of the Act’s author Howard Zahniser:
“We are a part of the wildness of the universe. That is our nature. Our noblest, happiest character develops with the influeance of wilderness. Away from it we degenerate into the squalor of slums or the frustration of clinical couches. With the wilderness we are home. ..It is good and sound to realize that in preserving areas of wilderness we are recognizing our own true human interest. It seems good, ethical, to consider ourselves as members of a community of life that embraces the earth – and to see our own welfare as arising from the prosperity of the community.” » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park Agency has announced that they will hold “public sessions” in the coming weeks to consider changes to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. The State Land Master Plan has been part of the Executive Law since 1972. It is the planning document guiding the management and public use of all state lands in the Park, including the New York State Forest Preserve. It includes landscapes as distinct from each other in character as the Five Ponds Wilderness Area and the Crown Point State Historic Site.
All of these sessions could be positive if they are respectful, well informed, organized, focused and led. The sessions also should be well grounded in State Land and Forest Preserve history. » Continue Reading.
Aquatic biologist Peter Tobiessen (shown at left) had found spiny water flea in his morning sample of Sacandaga Lake’s water, and by noon on October 10, 2014 he had several specimens under his microscope for us all to see. The occasion was the 4th annual meeting of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve at Camp Fowler in Lake Pleasant.
This small aquatic “invader” from Europe has concerned lake ecologists since it first showed up among the zooplankton in southern Adirondack lakes around 2010. Spiny water flea, about ½ inch long, is related to native water flea, Daphnia, but it has a very long spine at the end of its body, reproduces rapidly and can dominate the large filter-feeder level of the lake’s food web at the expense of native species. Its long spine also gets tangled in fishing lines and can clog fishing rod guides. » Continue Reading.
If my memory services me, I believe 2015 will mark the 20th since the Hadley Mountain Fire Tower Committee was organized in 1995 with the help of a spirited group of local leaders and historians in Hadley and Luzerne and Corinth, as well as the leadership of Jack Freeman of the Adirondack Mountain Club, the NYS DEC Forest Rangers, and a volunteer from the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks (AFPA), Linda Champagne.
As a leader of AFPA I was glad to join Linda at one of the committee’s early meetings. Now working with Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, I still hike the mountain every year in recognition of a voluntary group completely dedicated to an educational, historically significant part of the NYS Forest Preserve. And I hike up in hopes of talking with a Summit Steward.
I doubt any Hadley Fire Tower friends organization can claim to have a better newsletter than the annual Hadley Fire Tower Mountain News issued each spring for twenty years by the aforementioned Linda Champagne. The News is packed with historical, cultural and environmental news, paintings, photographs, perspective and poetry from the viewpoint of mountain people who have known the mountain for generations, and who with the vital help of NYS DEC are doing a lot more than simply keeping the fire tower upright – although the tower’s restoration and maintenance was a founding purpose of the committee. » Continue Reading.
It must have taken great courage, the kind needed to overcome the natural fear of rejection and isolation, for the first woman and the first person of color invited to join the board of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks.
For one hundred years, from 1901 until 2001, those directing the work of the Association had been entirely white and mostly male. So had the boards and staffs of most environmental organizations in the Adirondacks, in the entire state and, I imagine, in the country. I hope we were all warm and welcoming of these courageous individuals when they first joined. Their experience and character made a difference.
The recent conference in Newcomb at the Adirondack Interpretive Center, “Toward a More Diverse Adirondacks,” brought the reality of courage, fear of rejection and isolation to everybody’s heart. It required everyone participating to re-examine assumptions. Many governmental and non-governmental organizations today applaud diversity and are trying to find ways to walk that talk and be more diverse. This recruitment is challenging, but what this conference made clear is that it is even harder to welcome, include, accept, and embrace difference. » Continue Reading.
Adirondack pilot and conservationist Clarence Petty maintained that the only way to really protect places in the Adirondacks that lend the Park its distinctive character and integrity was to acquire and protect them on behalf of the public. He certainly put his all into that cause for decades and helped the work of the Adirondack Nature Conservancy and others, including their acquisition of the former Finch, Pruyn Company lands. Yet, Clarence was also a proponent of protecting much smaller tracts of land that rated highly in terms of the threat of their change in use (development) or their value as recreational open space or their intrinsic, wildlife or ecological value.
Like Clarence I have often sought to protect land to add it to the NYS Forest Preserve or to protect it with a conservation easement. While working for organizations such as the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks or Adirondack Wild, my colleagues and I have often asked State government to pay for land protection through a bond act or the Environmental Protection Fund.
But acquiring “conservation land” myself and paying for the privilege is something I had not experienced. I soon hope to have that opportunity, but my Susan and I did not seek it out. The opportunity or emergency sought us. » Continue Reading.
The other day some friends and I enjoyed a day in the Forest Preserve, paddling on the waters leading out of Canada Lake, eating our lunches at a primitive campsite along the shore, and walking down a trail into a vly or large wetland flow. We were in the Forest Preserve unit known as the Ferris Lake Wild Forest, one of several large Wild Forests in the southern Adirondack Park. Ferris Lake WF is 147,500 acres in size, spanning parts of four towns in three different counties.
As we arrived at Stewart’s Landing and dam holding back Sprite Creek, the outlet of Canada Lake, we noticed a number of all-terrain vehicles parked and ready to ride. As we put our canoes and kayaks in the water near the dam we noticed and appreciated this Forest Preserve reminder: “Carry it in, Carry it Out.” This is a shared, public-private resource. One side of the flow is Forest Preserve, the other private Adirondack camps. Upstream, many kayakers and motor boaters were enjoying the Forest Preserve. With their motors turned off at their campsites, wildlife and their own awareness and appreciation of this beautiful wooded shore, held sway. A minority raced their boats as fast they could, kicking up waves and making paddling difficult. » Continue Reading.
An article in the Post Star on July 16 by reporter Amanda May Metzger announced that the Zip-flyer, the thrill ride from the top of French Mountain in Queensbury-Lake George, has received its final Town of Queensbury approvals.
The 900-foot ride on three inch steel cables running down a 35-50 foot wide swath cut on the north face of French Mountain at the very entrance of the Adirondack Park has been controversial from the moment it was proposed. Adirondack Wild asked the NYS Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to convene a public hearing on the project because only through a hearing could all the impacts and viable alternative routes for the Zip-Flyer be discussed comprehensively and openly. APA Staff did not recommend a hearing, and APA members, to my memory, did not even raise the possibility of a hearing. Adirondack Wild strongly disagreed with the APA’s decision in March to issue a permit in the absence of a hearing. Several actual or anticipated project impacts, including visual impacts along State Route 9, loss of the scenic values and hiking opportunities on the summit, consistency with the area’s Rural Use classification and Towers Policy, and rigorous analysis of alternatives, among others, went largely unaddressed in the APA’s discussion and permit conditions. » Continue Reading.
The draft Unit Management Plan (UMP) for the Essex Chain of Lakes is out and available for public comment until July 18th. To discerning readers, it will be clear that many of its recommendations and management actions, which the APA must deem to be in compliance with the State Land Master Plan, are just going ahead anyway. For example, primitive tent sites, parking lots and other facilities throughout are being completed this summer “prior to adoption of the Unit Management Plan.” These are not interim steps. These are final decisions as to number, design, and location.
I understand why the State appears to be rushing to complete this parking and camping by permit system on the Essex Chain and Upper Hudson River. These are vulnerable aquatic systems and nobody wants to establish an early pattern of recreational overuse which could degrade these ponds and their shorelines and rare ecological plant and fish communities. I conceptually support this UMP’s camping permit reservation system. It makes management and stewardship sense, as does the inclusion of the Student Conservation Association and the Adirondack Interpretive Center in managing such a camping reservation system. » Continue Reading.
In April, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and Adirondack Park Agency issued draft permits and unit management plan amendments respectively that would allow NYCO Minerals to conduct mineral exploration this summer on Lot 8 in the Jay Mountain Wilderness.
The State would authorize such activity with only the most rudimentary information about what’s currently living and growing on Lot 8, no standards by which to judge the impacts of drilling on Wilderness character and resources, and no information about potential direct and indirect impacts of mineral testing beyond Lot 8. » Continue Reading.
This year, New Yorkers are rightly commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the National Wilderness Preservation Act of 1964. Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, Rockefeller Institute of Government, NYS DEC, and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry recently kicked off that anniversary with events in the Capital Region. More events and activities with students, faculty and college collaborators are planned.
2014 is also the 120th anniversary of our “forever wild” clause of the NYS Constitution protecting the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve. It was that late 19th century constitutional protection which so inspired the 20th century’s Howard Zahniser of The Wilderness Society to undertake his 18-year campaign to both author and lobby for the National Wilderness Act. That’s one reason, and there are others, why wilderness preservation, in terms of designation and protection, began in New York State. Bob, George and Jim Marshall’s upbringing in the Adirondacks by noted forever wild advocate and attorney Louis and his wife Florence Marshall, and the later creation of The Wilderness Society by Bob and allies is another reason to make this claim.
But there’s an older 19th century anniversary this year that cannot be overlooked without missing what has influenced humanity around the globe to conserve since 1864, the year a Vermonter named George Perkins Marsh (1801-1882) wrote Man and Nature; or Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action. Woodstock and Burlington, respectively where Marsh was born and lived parts of his adult life and which influenced his book, could legitimately make the claim that Vermont is where wilderness preservation began in America and, indeed, in the world. » Continue Reading.
In so far as a judicial ruling expected later this year, nothing can be determined by the questions the judges posed this week regarding the Adirondack Club and Resort, that precedent-setting subdivision near Tupper Lake still being litigated. But the questions raised by several of the judges on the Appellate Court in Albany (and answers given) were interesting because they were unexpected (by me, anyway) and largely unrelated to the big, controversial issues surrounding the spreading out of the Great Camps, the use of the Resource Management lands for exurban sprawl development that is neither “on substantial acreages or in small clusters on carefully selected and well designed sites” (quoting the APA Act), or about the lack of substantive information in the hearing record about the project’s financing, marketing, sales and tax projections. » Continue Reading.
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