A few weeks ago, I went to Crane Pond Road to take photos for a story that will run in the next issue of the Adirondack Explorer.
The dirt lane became a cause celebre two decades ago when the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) tried to close it. » Continue Reading.
Posts Tagged ‘Forest Preserve’
Ever since 1894, when delegates to a New York State Constitutional Convention voted to keep the Adirondack Forest Preserve “forever wild,” conservationists have come up with any number of arguments in defense of wilderness. Some have been utilitarian, some populist, some historical, some spiritual. Those arguments have always been necessary, because the opponents of maintaining the Forest Preserve as lands forever wild have been many, and at times powerful.
In fact, one of the few valid reasons to oppose another constitutional convention is the political fragility of the state constitution’s Article XIV, the clause that prohibits the destruction of the Forest Preserve. The more astute politicians among the conservationists have always understood that it is the better part of prudence to avoid endorsing a single defense of wilderness, thereby retaining the support of proponents of all other possible arguments.
In part because of that catholic perspective, the Adirondack Park has been able to support “a multiplicity of visions,” as Dr. Ross Whaley, the co-editor of “The Great Experiment in Conservation: Voices from the Adirondack Park,” puts it. But new arguments in defense of wilderness can only buttress the cause, and here’s one that’s beginning to emerge: forests offset greenhouse gas emissions and thus play a valuable role in slowing climate change.
In a 2008 issue of BioScience, the journal of the American Society of Biological Sciences, researchers quantified the amount of carbon that Midwestern forests keep out of the atmosphere. They concluded that the forests could offset the greenhouse gas emissions of almost two thirds of nearby populations. While deciduous forests are very good at storing carbon, boreal forests are even better, says John Sheehan of the Adirondack Council, and, he adds, the Adirondack Park contains approximately 800,000 acres of those boreal forests. That’s reason enough for New Yorkers to support the preservation of even more land, if not by New York State, than by conservancies and land trusts.
But if the Adirondack Park has value as carbon storage, we asked Sheehan, could a price be attached to that value? Could the Adirondack Park, for instance, be awarded pollution credits that could be sold for the economic benefit of its residents? Here’s Sheehan’s response: “We are working with a few people right now to see what value could be placed on the global ecological benefits of lands on which we know the trees will continue to grow for centuries to come, that is to say, in the Forest Preserve and in wilderness lands on which New York State holds easements.”
As to whether the Adirondack Park could be awarded credits for storing carbon that would otherwise be sent into the atmosphere, Sheehan said, that’s conceivable. “We think we can seek and win federal credit for those Adirondack communities as part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or in a carbon trading program adopted by Congress.”
While our thought was that any funds derived from the sale of credits should somehow be apportioned among local governments to offset property taxes or to create jobs, Sheehan said, “We think the state should direct the money it receives into the Environmental Protection Fund, and the communities could use the money for planning or for grants to residents and businesses for energy conservation.” But however the funds were used, local governments might now have some financial incentive to support (or at least not oppose too loudly) the preservation of the Adirondacks.
Of greater importance, understanding the role that the Adirondack Park plays in slowing climate change can only deepen our appreciation of these woods – and of those who fought to make and keep them forever wild.
For more news and commentary from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror http://www.lakegeorgemirror.com
The Adirondack Park has not quite returned to Google Maps, but something is taking shape: the Adirondack Forest Preserve.
On October 8 we noticed that the green shape representing “Adirondack State Park” was reduced to a little slice over the Cranberry Lake area. Users let Google know about the error through its “Report a Problem” link. As it incorporates user data, Google is apparently trying to restore the park, but it’s not all there yet.
One commenter suggested that the map distinguish between public and private land, which Google is now doing. It’s good to see state land shaded green, though not all tracts are labeled and Google apparently can’t tell Wilderness from Wild Forest. Also missing is the park boundary and the words “Adirondack Park.” (The boundary in the image above was drawn by Adirondack Almanack for context.)
This is a complicated place. Some private landowners and Adirondackers say the “park” label makes the uninitiated think that nobody lives here, or that all land is open to the public. Niki Kourofsky of Adirondack Life had some funny anecdotes in this fall’s Collector’s Issue (“Your Place or Mine?”) about residents who’ve found people picnicking on their lawns, and visitors who ask rangers, “What time does the park close?” Even though it’s not all government land like Yellowstone, this region is still distinct and has been designated a park for 117 years. Tourism-dependent businesses that promote the Adirondack name and conservationists who have invested more than a century in the ecological integrity of both private and public lands would surely like to see “Adirondack” somewhere over this part of the map.
It was also suggested that Google show conservation easements, as this Adirondack Park Agency map does. Conservation easements are voluntary restrictions on use of private land, usually preventing development to retain natural conditions. But since every easement is different and public access is determined tract by tract, another land designation might just confuse things even more. The state and private conservation organizations have acquired hundreds of thousands of acres of easements in the Adirondacks over the past three decades. While so far the legal agreements seem to be keeping timberlands intact and are working well for landowners, from a public recreation standpoint they are a tangle. The writer Neal Burdick put it well a few years ago when he said that instead of the old metaphor of a “patchwork quilt” of public and private lands, the Adirondack Park might better be called a “bowl of spaghetti.”
Map from a Google screen capture; park boundary drawn by the Almanack
We often have some outstanding discussions here at Adirondack Almanack, debates that carry on long after the story has left the main page. I thought I’d take a moment to point readers to two active and interesting debates that have recently slipped off the main page.
The first involves Mary Thill’ s October 8 post “Posted Signs Do’s And Don’ts” which has 21 insightful comments on navigation law, trespass, private property and paddlers.
A second post also generating a lot of discussion is the recent announcement I made about a planned North Creek to Tahawus Rail Trail on October 14. There you’ll find nearly a dozen comments on the subject of abandoned railway easements and the Forest Preserve. Both discussion are enlightening—take a moment to check them out.
There has been a lot of public discussion about the potential for a constitutional convention in 2017 (as allowed by the current state constitution every 20 years), one that could influence the future of the Adirondack Forest Preserve and the Adirondack Park.
The New York State Constitutional Convention of 1967 (the last State Constitutional Convention) was held in Albany April 4 – September 26, 1967 and the revisions submitted to the voters that November; all of the convention’s proposals were rejected. Among the proposals that failed during the process were those to establish the forerunner of the Department of Conservation and to make it easier for the legislature to take land from the Forest Preserve (with voter referendum).
Wilderness preservation issues are likely to be hotly debated in the run-up to a constitutional convention—in fact, former Governor Mario Cuomo recently called for a chance to revise the constitution using, in part, these words:
A constitutional convention is a peoples’ meeting to design or redesign the peoples’ government. The legislature has traditionally not favored calling such a body to life. It feared that a convention might take steps to diminish the legislature’s institutional power or incumbents’ chances of re-election.
Others with particular interests to protect have also been skeptical. For example, environmentalists worry—needlessly, we think—about a convention altering the present constitution’s commitment to keeping our parks in the Adirondacks and Catskills ‘forever wild.’
This is short-sighted. Environmentalists might make gains at a convention by convincing us to constitutionalize positive rights to clean air and clean water.
Sure, it seems a long way off, but the idea that a new constitution might either abolish the forever wild clause, or “constitutionalize positive rights to clean air and clean water” is something Adirondack residents take seriously.
The New York State Library has recently digitized and made available online a treasure trove of documents relating to the 1967 convention. The current NYS Constitution can be found in pdf form here.
People who spend time off-trail in the Adirondacks occasionally stumble across signs that others have walked there before them: old bottles, fire rings, chewing gum wrappers. Maybe a hunter kept watch in that spot years ago or as recently as last fall. A few people I know have also found simple structures in the middle of nowhere, usually on Forest Preserve. Maybe some of these were left by hunters too and used as shelters or blinds. Some are clearly kids’ forts constructed of downed branches. But others have more permanence.
The cabin in this picture is on Blood Hill, within earshot of downtown Saranac Lake traffic. The ground is littered with beer cans and a mildewed old blanket. As hidden huts go, this is one is detailed, with planed floorboards and a glassed door, easily imported because of its proximity to town. Probably just a party spot, but a sturdy one and startling to come across on a bushwhack.
On nearby Dewey Mountain a freshly built cabana, I guess, appeared this spring, walled and camouflaged with logs and balsam. The door was a bedspring woven with evergreen branches. The structure was notable for its size (big enough to garage a truck) and for a David Lynchian sparsity of amenities: a blue tarp, two tubs of Vaseline, and a fire ring beneath a central ceiling hole. It’s falling down now.
Last summer between Blood and Dewey there was a bivouac next to a log in the forest where some poor guy (?) was sleeping out nightly. He kept his sleeping bag and clothes in a trash bag and hung other accessories on a tree. He got up early each morning, maybe to go to a job, and I never saw him. He’s not there this year.
Here is a Flickr photo album of the Blood Hill and Dewey Mountain huts, shot this summer.
On Monday, August 17, 2009, Ross Whaley, past Chairman of the Adirondack Park Agency, will present a program entitled “Private Lands in a Park: An Historical Accident, A Mistake, or an Asset” at the Adirondack Museum. Whaley will discuss the importance of private land stewardship in defining the character of the Adirondack Park, as well as the challenges of maintaining a park that is unique in the world.
Part of the museum’s Monday Evening Lecture series, the presentation will be held in the Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. There is no charge for museum members. Admission is $5.00 for non-members.
Ross S. Whaley is President Emeritus, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Since October of 2007 Dr. Whaley has served as Senior Advisor to the Adirondack Land Owners Association. He assumed this post after serving as Chairman of the Adirondack Park Agency for four years. He brought to these positions more than 30 years experience as a university teacher, researcher and administrator. He also served as Director of Economics Research for the US Forest Service for six years. Whaley holds a bachelor’s degree in forestry and a PhD in natural resource economics from the University of Michigan.
From 1984-2005 Dr. Whaley was associated with the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, 16 years as its President and subsequently as University Professor. As Professor his interest focused on the political economy of sustainable development.
Ross Whaley has served as a consultant to or member of several state, national, and international commissions devoted to natural resource and environmental issues. In recognition of these activities he has been awarded the Pinchot Medallion by the Pinchot Institute for Conservation, the Professional Conservationist Award by the New York Conservation Council, the Heiberg Memorial Award by the New York Forest Owners Association, and is an Honor Alumnus of Colorado State University.
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.
I received this week from John Sheehan, Director of Communications for The Adirondack Council, the following interesting history and analysis of the recent Nature Conservancy sale and what it means to the history of logging in the backcountry. I’m reprinting it here in its entirety for the information of Adirondack Almanack readers:
When the ATP Group, a private investment company that handles pension funds for the Danish government, made its first major investment in the United States Monday, its purchase of 92,000 acres of commercial forestlands from The Nature Conservancy brought to an end the era of the industrial ownership of the Adirondack Park’s vast, private backcountry. » Continue Reading.
Proposed Cap on State’s Tax Payments to Localities Undercuts 122-Year-Old Compact Between State & Adirondack/Catskill Park Towns, Counties and School Districts
As the deadline nears for Gov. David Paterson to make last-minute changes to his 2009-10 budget plan, more than 100 government and civic leaders from the Adirondack and Catskill parks are urging the governor to discard his plan to cap the state’s property tax payments to local towns, counties and school districts that host state Forest Preserve lands. » Continue Reading.
The arrival of the shiny, emerald green beetle, about 1/2 inch long and 1/8 inch wide, in the U.S. may be as serious a threat to white, green, and black ash trees as Dutch elm disease was to the American elm.
Ash trees are a common species; green and black ash grow in wet swampy areas and along streams and rivers; white ash is common in drier, upland soils. Many species of wildlife, including some waterfowl and game birds, feed on ash seeds. Ash is used as a source for hardwood timber, firewood, and for the manufacturing of baseball bats and hockey sticks. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets estimates the total economic value of New York’s white ash to be $1.9 billion dollars. » Continue Reading.
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