Rivers policy and history, stewardship of our Forest Preserve, and positive interactions with young people from Albany came together on Arbor Days, April 27-28, north of Lake Luzerne. Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve was pleased to play a role. First, let’s review some history.
The role of Paul Schaefer’s Adirondack Hudson River Association: Many years ago, the utility giant Niagara Mohawk power company owned land along the upper Hudson River in Luzerne, Warrensburg and North Creek. One of their goals was to create large hydroelectric dams at Hadley-Luzerne, and the shoreline was considered flowage, where water levels would fluctuate up and down 50 feet or more during power generation, and reservoir filling. Other mega-dams on the Upper Hudson were being planned by the Army Corps of Engineers, which would flood the river as far north as Newcomb. » Continue Reading.
Public wild lands protected by law in New York State can fall under the public jurisdiction of a variety of state agencies. Some of them are part of the system of state parks administered by the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP). In northern Saratoga County and across the Hudson River in Warren County lie more than 4,000 acres of beautiful and protected public wild land, part of the Moreau Lake State Park. Much of this land was acquired by the nonprofit Open Space Institute from Niagara Mohawk, and then sold to the public in 1998.
Moreau Lake State Park tripled in size at that time, and is now the largest state park in the region. The six million-acre Adirondack Park north of Moreau Lake, of course, has a completely different legislative history and legal context. It is not part of the OPRHP system of state parks.
This past week, I joined an enthusiastic group of state park officials, staff, park friends, volunteers and concerned citizens at Moreau Lake State Park. The occasion was an Earth Day ribbon cutting at the park’s new nature center, led by NYS Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. Moreau Lake State Park’s director, his educational staff and the volunteers of Friends of Moreau Lake were given appropriate credit for this new space and added capacity to work with school groups, some of the 400,000 annual visitors to this park. The facility “showcases State Parks’ commitment to environmental education…shared by experienced and passionate outdoor educators,” said the Chair of the Saratoga-Capital District State Park Commission Heather Mabee.
This was visible progress. I once worked as a part-time naturalist and recreation staffer at Moreau Lake and Saratoga Spa State Parks, so it was gratifying to see the greatly improved educational facilities, interpretive exhibits, and dedicated staff that did not exist in the mid-1980s. On the other hand, even in those days I experienced a strong connection to the Adirondack Mountains and the solitude and beauty of the wilderness each time I went to Moreau for a program or a hike. The forests at Moreau do, in fact, act as a transition between the Appalachian oak-pine forests and the northern mixed hardwood forests of the Adirondacks, while the elevation gains to the park’s ridge trails resemble those on many Adirondack hikes.
I was invited to the ribbon cutting for a different reason. Four years ago, Saratoga County Water Authority’s water intake and pipeline from the Hudson River were constructed through a section of Moreau Lake State Park, in violation, we felt, of our State Constitution’s “forever wild” clause that protects the Forest Preserve as defined in State law. Saratoga County is one of 16 counties in the state that fall within the legal definition of Forest Preserve. The vast majority of Forest Preserve lies within the boundaries of the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, but some falls outside these boundaries in the named counties.
Moreau Lake State Park was no legal exception, and it certainly has public wild lands characteristic of the Forest Preserve, so we challenged OPRHP’s allowance of the county water line’s construction through parts of this park. As readers know, the State Constitution’s Article 14 states that lands constituting the forest preserve “shall be forever kept as wild forest lands,” and “shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private…” The Saratoga County Water Authority, a public corporation, had, in our view, unconstitutionally taken parts of Forest Preserve at Moreau Lake State Park.
Ultimately, the water line was constructed. Although the coalition did not go to court on these grounds, we came to a legally binding agreement with OPRHP that commited $300,000 of public funds to build educational facilities, like the park’s nature center; other funds to add to the park’s wild land acreage; and a commitment to manage large segments of the park as if it were Forest Preserve – although OPRHP is reluctant to name it what I think it truly is. A professional management plan is in place at Moreau, most of the wild land is managed appropriately as Park preserve land, and there is a visible educational and passive recreational emphasis at the park. There are well-advertised hikes, an educational staff is in place, and an active friends group helps the small staff serve the public, including area schools and youth groups.
In short, I am glad we reached the agreement we did. On the other hand, vigilance is still called for. All state agencies responsible for New York’s “wild forest land” should understand and embrace those responsibilities, and resist any kind of taking and exploitation of our wilderness for commercial or expedient ends. After all, our wilderness is a big part of what distinguishes New York State; and our “forever wild” Constitution is the envy of every other state, and every other country on earth.
Photos: Hemlock grove; springtime on the trails; nature center at Moreau Lake State Park.
Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered an inspiring State of the State message, which I heard on the radio this week. He invoked the past, gave us all hope for the future, and had a long list of policy accomplishments to point to. He pointed to the need to invest state dollars in the upstate New York economy, especially people who are struggling in Buffalo and surroundings. He spoke up for major state investment in our aging infrastructure. He spoke glowingly of the performance of his economic development councils, and public-private partnerships. If I had to sum it up, in his speech the governor tried to set a high standard for New York, and inspire its citizens to reach for such a standard.
However, the governor said nothing about the high standards of New York’s environment, and how much the state benefits from this condition. One very distinguishing high standard for New York State is and has been its tremendous water supply and water quality, which derives from its undeveloped, mountain forest headwaters – in the Catskill Mountains, in the Finger Lakes, in the Adirondack Park, in the Long Island Pine Barrens, in the Schenectady aquifer, and found in many other very valuable, special places. Lt. Governor Robert Duffy, a former upstate Mayor, understood the value of watersheds for his City of Rochester. As Mayor, he championed the Environmental Protection Fund for its role in preserving his city’s clean water supply from the Finger Lakes.
Governors should never forget how, for instance, the three million acre Forest Preserve in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks distinguishes the state from every other state, and every other nation on earth. These wild lands, just hours distant from twelve million people, provide water to urban and suburban areas which does not require filtration to meet clean drinking water standards. These wild watersheds provide nature benefits which, if they became polluted and not usable, would cost the state many billions of dollars, with untold other costs not measurable in dollars.
In his formal office at the Capitol, Governor Andrew Cuomo has replaced the portrait of former Governor Theodore Roosevelt with one of a former Governor he admires even more, Al Smith. Regarding a proposal to dam an Adirondack river for hydroelectricity back in 1926, here is what then Governor Al Smith had to say about the Forest Preserve:
“In view of the definite attitude of the people of the State with regard to the preservation of their rights in the Forest Preserve, and in view of the further fact that by no stretch of the imagination can this River Regulating District be brought within the purview of the Constitution, I respectfully suggest that the application be denied” (it was).
On another occasion, Governor Al Smith said:
“We owe it not only to ourselves but to the generations to come that the Adirondack Preserve be kept the property of all the people of the state, and should any part of it be flooded, the floodings should be restricted to the public benefit now set forth in the constitution and not for exploitation by private interests.”
Al Smith thought past his own generation, and understood the long-term values of protected Adirondack watersheds. He is the same governor who blocked his ally, the powerful parks council chairman and builder Robert Moses, from constructing an automobile “tourway” around the shore of Tongue Mountain by buying the mountain for the Forest Preserve. Smith also opposed Moses in his bid to construct rustic motels, roads, and gas stations in the Adirondack Forest Preserve. He is the same governor who in 1924 put up a state bond for $15 million – a great sum in its day – to acquire Forest Preserve, including many miles of the eastern Lake George waterfront for the public.
I am hopeful that Governor Cuomo pays attention to this part of Al Smith’s legacy, and internalizes for himself the great competitive advantages in keeping and wherever possible expanding the quantity and quality of large blocks of intact, forested landscapes, many of which are embedded within our State’s Constitution.
Yes, Governor Cuomo and his team have pledged not to compromise “forever wild” principles, which of course is entirely laudable and sensible from an economic as well as environmental perspective.
But isn’t it long past time simply to treat “forever wild” as a rule not to flout, and limited to just the Adirondack and Catskill Parks? Why should it not be an eminently successful and advantageous ethic and policy to embrace and affirm in a State of the State address? Why not propose to strengthen the state’s environmental quality review to measure and control the carbon emissions of many different types of development? Why not study the advantages of expanding the boundaries of the Catskill or Adirondack Parks? Why not pledge to acquire Follensby Pond, or the Essex Chain of Lakes? Why not embrace the Park’s status as an International Biosphere Reserve, and encourage the world to invest in climate and ecological research here? Why not assure localities of the full taxation of the public’s Forest Preserve by placing such a commitment within the Constitution itself? If, in the environmental resilience it gives us, and in its component parts “forever wild” is indispensable as policy, why not develop ideas to investigate and stop any degradation? Why not buttress it, and offer incentives for state and localities to expand upon forever wild in other parts of the state?
One answer may be that there are always strong temptations, matched by lack of awareness and understanding, which can result in great damage in order to achieve short-term ends, even in the Adirondacks and Catskills, much more so everywhere else. Hydraulic fracturing for gas, on the scale contemplated (several thousand permits per year), will forestall the re-wilding of watersheds across a million or more acres of the state. The spidering of roads, trucking, lighting and drilling from the Marcellus shale formations will industrialize a good bit of the state’s rural landscapes, damaging what are now pretty intact forested uplands, wetlands, streams. Were the values of these landscapes monetized, and their nature benefits calculated, the cost-benefit analysis of hydraulic fracturing might be weighted heavily on the cost side of the equation.
Another example where the governor’s high standards are not yet being applied is his Adirondack Park Agency, which should be setting the highest standard for review of development, as well as promotion of applied “smart growth.” Instead, the Agency may be poised to deliver a permit for the worst kind of speculative, sprawling subdivision in its history – the Adirondack Club and Resort – which has failed to properly value its forests, watersheds, water quality, and wildlife, and which greatly overestimated its real estate, tax and sales projections – in a Park which the statutes say must be protected for future generations, and must avoid unnecessary environmental impacts.
Many Governors, and their Lieutenant Governors, in depressed and good economic times, have embraced the idea that managing forest land for ecological integrity is their highest and best use. These leaders have done so despite the ever-present siren song of short-sighted exploitation. Consider these words of Lt. Governor Frank Moore, c. 1951, during an address at the Buffalo convention of the New York State Conservation Council:
“Over the years the greatest enemy of the Adirondacks has been man himself. For almost a century the fight has continued to protect them from the despoiler…The people of the state unquestionably need more water power, but the place to get this…is from the Niagara and St. Lawrence, not by destroying the virgin forests of our great Preserve; not by destroying the Adirondack sponge which is providing our greatest water reservoir. In the solution of our water supply problems in this State we may find our greatest asset to be the Forest Preserve.”
The same could be said today by Governor Cuomo or Lt. Governor Duffy concerning carbon storage and sequestration, stormwater management, water quality to urban and rural areas, and educational, recreational and tourism benefits, among many others. Your honors, it’s a year to go beyond lip service, and embrace our wild watersheds.
Photos: Elk Lake and the High Peaks beyond; Article 14, Sect. 1, NYS Constitution.
Phil Terrie’s essay in the current Adirondack Explorer, “forests don’t need our help,” rebuts those who claim that no further land acquisition is justified because the state “can’t take care of what it already has.” Phil is absolutely correct to call the list of unmet recreational maintenance projects on a given unit of Forest Preserve, such as a trail or lean-to in rough shape, as a lame excuse for not adding additional strategic lands to the Preserve.
He is incorrect, however, in asserting that the “forever wild provision of the state constitution provides a perfect management plan. It costs nothing and provides the best guarantee possible for healthy, aesthetically appealing, functional ecosystems.” Article 14, the forever wild clause of our Constitution, has never been self-executing. Its implementation requires both a vigilant defense to prevent bad amendments from being passed, as well as an offensive team of alert citizens and principled and funded state agencies to proactively carry out its mandate that the forest preserve is to be “forever kept as wild forest lands.” Call it field management, if you will. Over time, you can not preserve wilderness, or shall I say, Forest Preserve without actively managing ourselves, the recreational user. This prerequisite demands that we have management principles, plans and objectives in place, and that we oversee and measure the results.
I don’t mean a lean-to here, or a trail there that may be out of repair and needing maintenance, and not receiving it. What I mean is that the underlying philosophy, principles, plans and objectives for managing our uses of “forever wild” land are vitally important if you expect to still have wild, or natural conditions years hence. Remember that a part of the Wilderness definition in our State Land Master Plan (which echoes the national definition) is to “preserve, enhance and restore natural conditions.” Howard Zahniser, author of the National Wilderness Act, was inspired by New York’s Forever Wild history. He always maintained that our biggest challenge, once Wilderness was designated, was to keep wilderness wild, especially from all of us who could, and often do love wilderness to death. The same applies to the Forest Preserve. Of course, restoring “natural conditions” in a time of climate change is a significant challenge that wilderness managers are facing across the country.
Remember the way Marcy Dam used to look? Restoring that area from the impact of thousands of boot heels and lean-to campers took decades of effort. The High Peaks Wilderness Unit Management Plan established clear management objectives of, for example, restoring native vegetation at heavily used lean-to and trailhead sites, and redistributing and limiting the heavily concentrated camping pattern that once existed. It then took additional years to actively carry out those objectives, measure their progress, and achieve the desired results.
So did the efforts led by Edwin H. Ketchledge, ADK, DEC and Nature Conservancy to ecologically restore the High Peak alpine summits. In the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest, the UMP is seeking to restore wilder conditions in the central core area, and move some of the dense snowmobile traffic to the perimeter of that unit.
In the Siamese Ponds Wilderness and Jessup River Wild Forest, it will take years of well directed management effort to restore parts of the western shoreline and islands of Indian Lake to achieve “natural conditions” after decades of uncertain management and overly intensive day and overnight use. Without a Siamese Ponds Wilderness UMP, there would be no clear wild land objectives, and no timetable to achieve them. Yes, those timetables are often exceeded, but these UMPs hold our public officials feet to the fire, and accountable to the State Land Master Plan and to Article 14 of the Constitution.
Our Constitution’s assertion that lands constituting the forest preserve “shall be forever kept as wild forest lands” are, in these myriad and laborious ways, carried out for future generations. And yes, wild land management requires financial resources and devoted personnel. That is why it was so important a decade ago to establish a land stewardship account in the state’s Environmental Protection Fund. Yes, these funds are insufficient, so a stronger public-private partnership for Adirondack wild lands is needed.
Lost so far in the debate over whether and how to acquire some 65,000 acres of Finch, Pruyn lands for the Forest Preserve is the good thinking that should be underway about how to best manage these lands as wild lands, for their wild, ecological and recreational values. Assuming that some day these lands will be part of the Forest Preserve, time and effort needs to be devoted now to management planning that may help keep these lands as wild as possible, preserving their ecological integrity while planning for recreational uses that are compatible with the paramount need to care for these lands as part of the Forest Preserve.
For example, public access will need to be closely managed if wild land and natural conditions are to be preserved, enhanced or restored. During a visit sponsored by the Adirondack Nature Conservancy, I was impressed, for example, with the extensive logging road network leading to the Essex Chain of Lakes south of Newcomb. This beautiful chain of lakes offers a fine future canoeing and kayaking attraction in the central Adirondacks, as well as an ecologically interesting and important aquatic resource.
State and private natural resource managers are giving quite a bit of thought, as they should, to how and where the paddling public might access the chain of lakes. Closing off some of the roads to motorized traffic, turning these into narrower trails, and requiring paddlers to carry or wheel their boats longer distances to enter or leave the lakes would create or restore wilder and more natural conditions along these sensitive shorelines, conditions which would appeal to paddlers from across the Northern Forest and Canada. Special fishing regulations may also be required to preserve the fishery long treasured by the private leaseholders here. The same level of planning thought will be needed to assure or restore both wild and natural conditions at Boreas Ponds, the Upper Hudson River and other former Finch lands and waters that merit Forest Preserve status.
Photo: Paddling on the Essex Chain of Lakes, south of Newcomb, NY, as guests of The Nature Conservancy.
I’ll risk it and take the bait in responding to Senator Betty Little, Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward and others concerning a proposed constitutional amendment to permit logging and forest product utilization on newly acquired Forest Preserve.
Their simplistic ecological arguments for the amendment, such as wanting to see more rabbits on the Forest Preserve, or expecting that logging the Preserve would help the climate are being made up as they go along and will not withstand serious scrutiny. I prefer to focus more on their constitutional hurdles.
The Senator is clearly motivated to keep the Finch lands and Follensby Pond out of the Forest Preserve. Unstated may be a desire to maintain certain leaseholders occupying the Finch lands – such as the politically influential members of the Gooley Club west of the Upper Hudson. These are at least rational positions to take and, while I have a different viewpoint, I can respect theirs. They will also attempt to accomplish their objective of keeping the lands out of the Forest Preserve through legislation, and one would think that an easier step than a constitutional amendment. Perhaps they think not. They apparently believe a good way to accomplish their objective is to create a separate class of Forest Preserve that on some date certain, after a constitutional amendment is approved by the voters some years hence, and after new Forest Preserve is acquired will permit the practice of forestry on the new land. They may feel that the public would accept this, knowing that the existing three million acres would still be “forever wild.” They may believe that all they need to do is neatly sidestep a sticky clause in Article 14, Section 1 of the Constitution, and exempt new lands from its provisions. That clause states: “nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.”
But that’s not all they have to do. Theirs is no technical amendment. By attempting to exempt only new Forest Preserve from the strictures of Article 14, they must amend all 54 words of Section 1 of Article 14. They must roughshod over the very constitutional language which voters have refused to change – despite given numerous opportunities to do so – in 116 years.
Perhaps they are betting on a constitutional convention virtually doing away with Article 14 as we know it, and I’d say that’s a poor bet.
Section 1 unifies the Forest Preserve. Its first sentence states that “the lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands.” A simple exception clause for new acquisitions after some date would not do the trick. “Hereafter acquired” means just that. “Forever kept” means forever. The words pertain to any lands owned before, or acquired after the effective date of Section 1 of January 1, 1895. They were reaffirmed at the 1938 and 1967 constitutional conventions, and on many other occasions in the 20th and 21st centuries through passage of over 30 limited, site specific amendments which nonetheless preserve the overarching language of Section 1.
The second and final sentence of Section 1 is just as problematic for the Senator. “They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.” Allowing DEC, a public corporation, to supervise and control logging on newly acquired Forest Preserve would constitute a clear taking of the lands. The legal agreements to permit logging activity by private parties on any parts of the Forest Preserve might likely constitute a lease, further violating that provision. The third and final clause of that sentence – the one that the Senator may think is the only hurdle – speaks for itself.
I conclude that pretty much all 54 words of Section 1 would need to be amended, rewritten and stripped of their present and historic meaning in order to achieve a separate class of Forest Preserve managed for forest products. The public may be willing to make occasional, limited, site specific amendments to Article 14 for worthy objectives that both meet a legitimate public purpose and enhance the Forest Preserve. However, the voters have demonstrated over a very long period that they are unwilling to make substantial changes to the “forever wild” policy because the Forest Preserve as now constituted provides such enormous benefits. It is the envy of the world. It distinguishes New York from all other states and from all other nations. It is woven into our social fabric, as well as our laws. It provides billions of dollars in ecological and recreational services. It pays taxes for all purposes. The voters would be especially unwilling when the reasons for doing so, on economic, ecological, social and public policy grounds, are so questionable.
Prior to 1983, Senator Little’s amendment might have a better public policy rationale and more public appeal. That was when the conservation easement legislation was approved that permits the State to acquire rights in land without the land becoming Forest Preserve, and which has been so effective in keeping forest management and forest employment alive in the Park, which are the stated objectives for the amendment. Putting more resources into effective programs like this would be the more realistic way to achieve them.
The signing of an important conservation easement last week protecting a large percentage of the former Finch, Pruyn lands reminds me of a visit I paid to Paul Schaefer in March, 1990. At that time, Governor Mario Cuomo had proposed an Environmental Bond Act, which required legislative approval before going to the voters (it was ultimately voted down). How was the bond act being received in the legislature, Paul asked. I gave him the news that it was having a rough reception politically. Paul remained optimistic. The bond act was important because it would permit the purchase of conservation easements in the Adirondacks, and that should be enough to tip public support in its favor, he felt.
Later that year, Paul formed Sportsmen for the Bond Act. It was one of many highly focused organizations he created in his lifetime. This effort, one of the last he personally led, revealed an evolution in Schaefer’s approach to Park conservation. Since 1930, Paul had fought for any appropriation that would add more Forest Preserve, public land protected as “forever wild” by Article 14 of the NYS Constitution that would eventually be classified wild forest or wilderness. He persuaded many organized hunters to support his wilderness philosophy. But he also came to believe that many private holdings in the Park should be available for active forest management, which he viewed as complimentary, both ecologically and aesthetically, to adjacent “forever wild” Forest Preserve. » Continue Reading.
Of all the recent press about the State’s attempted sale of 92-acre former minimum security prison known as Camp Gabriels in the town of Brighton, nothing has yet been written about the small problem of the NYS Constitution which says that the lands of the state now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve, as now fixed by law…shall not be leased, sold or exchanged” (Article 14, Section 1).
Are the 92-acres of Camp Gabriels, in fact, Forest Preserve lands which the State unconstitutionally used for purposes of a minimum security prison? And, despite their developed condition, can the State now simply dispose of them like any other “surplus” property? » Continue Reading.
I recently did a paddling trip in the northern Adirondacks that had been on my bucket list for a few years. I launched my canoe in Hatch Brook and traveled downstream to the Salmon River and down the Salmon to Chasm Falls.
It’s a delightful trip, largely wild, with interesting scenery, lots of birdlife, and a great swimming hole. Click here for a detailed description, directions, and more photos. One unusual thing about this excursion is that it begins inside the Adirondack Park and ends outside of it. Of course, there is no sign on the river–either man-made or natural–to let you know when you leave the Park. The trip reminds us that wildness does not end at the Blue Line.
As a matter of fact, two state commissions on the Adirondacks (in 1971 and 1990) recommended extending the Park’s boundary northward to include the tract that I paddled through. But that didn’t happen. Consequently, when I crossed the Blue Line I simultaneously crossed the boundary between the Debar Mountain Wild Forest (part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve) and the Titusville State Forest (not part of the Forest Preserve).
Most people familiar with Adirondack history know that Article 14 of the state constitution prohibits cutting trees in the Forest Preserve. Logging, however, is allowed on State Forest lands.
Fewer people realize that some of the Forest Preserve lies outside the Park.
Article 14 declares that “the lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands.” And an 1885 law defined the Forest Preserve as “all the lands now owned or which may hereafter be acquired by the State of New York, within the counties of Clinton, excepting the towns of Altona and Dannemora, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, Saratoga, St. Lawrence, Warren, Washington, Greene, Ulster and Sullivan.” (The lands in the last three counties are in the Catskill Forest Preserve.)
Reading Article 14 and the 1885 law together, you might reasonably conclude that nearly all the state lands in eleven northern counties belong to the Adirondack Forest Preserve.
But you’d be wrong, according to Norman Van Valkenburgh, the author of The Forest Preserve of New York State in the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains.
Van Valkenburgh tells me that a constitutional amendment in 1931 permitted the state to acquire lands outside the Park in the Forest Preserve counties for reforestation. These lands can be managed for timber and wildlife habitat.
Yet the lands outside the Blue Line that the state owned prior to the amendment are part of the Forest Preserve. The Temporary Study Commission on the Future of the Adirondacks estimated in 1971 that there were 12,867 acres of Adirondack Forest Preserve outside the Park (not including lake and river beds).
Like the Preserve inside the Park, these lands must be kept forever wild and cannot be logged. Van Valkenburgh said this requirement leads to a legal anomaly when a piece of orphan Forest Preserve lies within a State Forest tract. Even if all of the surrounding land is logged, the Forest Preserve parcel must remain untouched.
If the Adirondack Park boundary were expanded, would the State Forest lands automatically become part of the Forest Preserve?
“That’s a good question,” Van Valkenburgh said. “I don’t know, but I think not.”
Van Valkenburgh noted that the State Forest lands were purchased with a specific purpose in mind and so may be exempt from Article 14’s forever-wild mandate.
This interpretation seems to jibe with the view of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century. In its 1990 report, the commission recommended not only extending the Blue Line, but also amending the constitution to prohibit “the continued management of existing reforestation areas” added to the Park.
The commission wanted to extend the Blue Line to the north to encompass all of the towns of Bellmont, Brandon, Dickinson, Peru, and Saranac; part of the town of Malone; and Crab Island in Lake Champlain. It argued that doing so would protect extensive forestlands and farmlands on the Park’s border.
Do you think extending the Park’s boundary is a good idea?
I was privileged to know Paul Schaefer for nearly a decade at the close of his life. He was my early mentor in all things Adirondack. In 1987 I was fortunate to have been selected executive director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, the organization Paul served as a Vice-President. Each Friday I would try to stop by his house to learn more about his and Adirondack history. John Warren’s piece about the Moose River Plains suggests the great influence Paul had in preventing the Plains from being flooded by the proposed Higley and Panther Mountain dams. Among the highlights in my career was seeing Paul presented with the Governor’s Environmental Achievement Award in 1994 – just one of many recognitions he received in 65 years of tireless, leading work for wilderness conditions in the Adirondacks.
For those who don’t know, Paul Schaefer’s coalitions not only preserved the Moose River Plains, but 30 other valleys from inundation by dams in the 1940s and 50s; saved the Upper Hudson River from four large dams in the 1960s, the largest of which would have flooded the valley all the way to Newcomb; and fought and achieved designated Wilderness and Wild, Scenic and Recreational River legislation in the 1970s, among many other achievements.
Paul Schaefer hunted white-tailed deer every fall in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area near his Adirondack cabin, a hunting club which he founded in 1931. He always credited the sportsmen and women of New York State, and their organized clubs united within the NYS Conservation Council, for providing legions of people who would stand up to save wild Adirondack habitat threatened by the dam builders, and to support wilderness preservation.
Joe Martens, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo’s Secretary for Energy and the Environment, called me one day in 1994 to give me advance notice that Paul Schaefer, then 85, would be receiving the Governor’s award, and asking for background. Joe knew Paul pretty well himself. It was decided to present the award as part of a well-attended conference we were sponsoring in honor of the Centennial of Article XIV of the NYS Constitution (known as the Forever Wild clause). The conference was to be held at the YMCA Silver Bay Conference Center on Lake George.
On the big day in early October, the conference was going full-tilt with speakers and panelists. Bob Bendick, then a DEC Deputy Commissioner, was in the middle of a presentation when we all heard the whop-whop-whop of a helicopter over by the lake. Everybody knew the Governor was arriving, and Bob understood it was pointless for him to continue. “I feel like the warm-up band to the Rolling Stones,” he told us, and everybody made for the doors. Out on the great lawn above Lake George stood the State chopper, blades still rotating. The Governor emerged with his small entourage and, surrounded, slowly made his way to Morse Hall where the award presentation would take place.
All were in their seats, chaos had given way to order, and introductions made. The mood was electric, the applause for the Governor resounding. His speech was pure Mario. Joe Martens had prepared him well. Departing frequently from his prepared remarks, the Governor humorously and eloquently painted a picture of Paul Schaefer and all he had contributed to the Adirondacks, to the wilderness of the great Empire State. The Governor also humorously reminded us that even those Republicans in the North Country who might be inclined to vote for him that fall would suffer a “palsy” when they reached for the Democratic lever.
When he was done, Cuomo asked Paul to join him on the podium to accept the award. All his life, Paul instinctively knew when to make a stand, and when to speak. A year earlier, in 1993, Paul rose to speak after Governor Cuomo during a bill signing ceremony on Lake Champlain. The audience had held its collective breath at this breach of protocol, but to Paul this was simply getting in critical points at the right moment – when they would be remembered.
Now, Paul took the stage to present Governor Cuomo with, of all things, a beaver gavel! Paul’s friend Ken Rimany had fashioned this for Paul, taking a beaver chew as the gavel’s head and fashioning it tightly onto a stick from a beaver dam, and then writing the words of Article 14 on the gavel’s head. Paul told the Governor how all his life he had admired the beaver, the state’s finest and sole wilderness engineer, and that only the beavers, meeting in secret, could have engineered this gavel for the Governor. Cuomo smiled but, not to be outdone, he responded “any beaver can make a beaver gavel, Paul, but only a Governor can present a Governor’s award.”
The exchange made, the Governor departed, leaving us to wonder about his political fate, and leaving Paul time to gather with some friends to tell tales and, as Paul was inclined to say, “add it all up.” It was Paul’s final award. He died on July 14, 1996 following surgery on a knee he had damaged decades earlier while investigating caves along the shores of the Upper Hudson River during his successful efforts to preserve the Hudson Gorge from flooding. He and his wife Carolyn are buried in the Keene Cemetery. His spirit has inspired all of us who knew him to continue his work and extend his legacy on behalf of the New York State Forest Preserve in the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains.
Photo: New York Governor Mario Cuomo presents the Governor’s Environmental Achievement Award to Paul Schaefer in 1994.
After months of discussion and evaluation, the decision was made on Saturday to formally consolidate the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks (AFPA) with the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks (RCPA) and to form a new organization called Protect the Adirondacks. The new organization will continue a better than 100-year history of protecting the Adirondacks so I thought I’d take a moment to take a look at the new group and how it developed historically.
At their annual meeting last Saturday at Heaven Hill Farm outside the Village of Lake Placid, the memberships of both organizations voted in favor of consolidation, which enables the process to move through the final legal steps of incorporation. The membership of the Residents’ Committee voted 83-0 in favor of the consolidation. The membership of the Association voted 111-2 in favor. » Continue Reading.
One story has been lost in the drama coming out of the New York State Legislature lately: the Constitutional amendment. In May, before it became completely dysfunctional, the NYS Senate passed a bill that would give after-the-fact permission for a new power line from Stark Falls Reservoir to the Village of Tupper Lake. The Constitutional Amendment is necessary to provide an exception to the Forever Wild clause of the Constitution (Article 14, Section 1). The Forever Wild clause forbids logging or development on the Adirondack Forest Preserve, and that includes power lines. The Amendment requires passage by two separately elected legislatures, which is now complete, and then approval by voters on a statewide ballot this fall. » Continue Reading.
We’ve moved one step closer to having a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot in November that affects a corner of the Adirondack Park in Colton in St. Lawrence County. Monday the NYS Senate passed (62-0) a bill that would allow the construction of a power line from Stark Falls Reservoir to the Village of Tupper Lake. The supplemental line would pass through a section of Route 56 roadside within the Adirondack Forest Preserve between Seveys Corners (near the Carry and Starks Falls reservoirs) and the hamlet of South Colton. The line is part of a project to improve power reliability for the Tri-Lakes communities of Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. » Continue Reading.
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