Almanack Contributor Edward Zahniser

Edward Zahniser

Ed Zahniser retired as the senior writer and editor with the National Park Service Publications Group in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. He writes and lectures frequently about wilderness, wildlands, and conservation history topics. He is the youngest child of Alice (1918-2014) and Howard Zahniser (1906–1964). Ed’s father was the principal author and chief lobbyist for the National Wilderness Preservation System Act of 1964. Ed edited his father’s Adirondack writings in Where Wilderness Preservation Began: Adirondack Writings of Howard Zahniser, and also edited Daisy Mavis Dalaba Allen’s Ranger Bowback: An Adirondack farmer - a memoir of Hillmount Farms (Bakers Mills).


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Wilderness 50th:
Howard Zahniser And The Black River Wars

Howard Zahniser at Mataskared, Crane Mtn in backgroundHoward Zahniser knew he needed two things when he came to the Adirondacks in 1946. The two things could help him prove himself to his national wilderness mentors—now his new employers—at the Wilderness Society. They could also help him build the practical and functional organization needed to pursue a national wilderness preservation system. First, Zahnie, as he was known, needed honest-to-goodness wilderness in reasonable automobile vacation reach of Washington, D.C. for our family. Even this was a two-day car trip then, and we would camp overnight on the way. Second, he needed to leave his professional comfort zone of public relations and public information and journalism work. He needed to expand into grassroots political organizing and consensus building. That is, he needed to learn to operate in the larger world that would become the environmental movement twenty-five years later.

The Adirondacks and their Edwards Hill setting—soon to be Mateskared—met the first need. Paul Schaefer met the second. Paul was my father’s ticket out of his own comfort zone. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Johnsburg: Where Wilderness Begins

DSCN1728My father and mother, Howard and Alice Zahniser, named our cabin Mateskared not long after they bought the place in August 1946 from Harold and Pansy Allen. It sits at the end of a road off Route 8 in Bakers Mills, Warren County.

The late  New York State conservationist Paul Schaefer partly owned the land to the west of our place. Paul served as middleman on the deal because our family lived in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. We were a two-day drive from the Adirondack State Park in those days. I was not yet one year old. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ed Zahniser: The 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act

image003(5)My father Howard Zahniser, who died four months before the 1964 Wilderness Act became law 50 years ago this September 3, was the chief architect of, and lobbyist for, this landmark Act. The Act created our 109.5-million-acre National Wilderness Preservation System.

Had I another credential, it would be that Paul Schaefer—the indomitable Adirondack conservationist—was one of my chief mentors and outdoor role models. Paul helped me catch my first trout. I was seven years old. That life event took place in what is now the New York State-designated Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area in the Adirondacks. Izaak Walton should be so lucky. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Cub Schaefer, A Bull Story, And Other Tales of Summer

From left to right - Mathias Zahniser, Francis -Cub- Schaefer. John Hitchcock, Tommy Senate, Tommy TaylorAdirondack summers for the Zahniser clan on Edwards Hill Road in Johnsburg were wonderfully and inextricably bound up with the Schaefer clan. Even these 40 years hence, memories of those years play, as Cub Schaefer told me in July 2000, like videotapes.

Many of those scenes come from summer in Bakers Mills in the 1950s with  The Rainmakers, our young band of avid trout anglers that included Cub, Matt and Ed Zahniser, Johnny Hitchcock, Tommy Senate, and Tommy Taylor. We named ourselves The Rainmakers part way through the summer, realizing that every time we all went fishing, it rained.

The story opens with the whole troupe of us strung out along the diminutive stream through Johnny Robbins old place across Route 8 from Johnny Steve’s farm just beyond the road into the Oehser’s camp east of Bakers Mills. We are all looking for likely holes, meaning a pool deep enough to keep a trout’s dorsal fin from drying out. Willows overarch parts of the stream. All is idyllic until Matt Zahniser, the senior Rainmaker, comes crashing down the middle of the stream below some willows shouting “Bull! Run!” He wasn’t talking Civil War reenactment. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Wilderness, Our Community of Life

What follows is a talk given at the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks’s Arthur M. Crocker Lecture Series in 2006.

It somehow takes the pressure off public speaking to know that one stands up here, rather than sits out there only by accident of birth. That is to say: my father Howard Zahniser, who died four months before the 1964 Wilderness Act became law, was the chief architect of, and lobbyist for, this landmark Act that created the now 106-million-acre National Wilderness Preservation System. I am up here because of his accomplishments. » Continue Reading.