Fifty springs ago, the Upper Hudson River was conserved as a wild, free flowing river. The Schenectady Gazette’s writer Pete Jacobs reported the news in the April 17, 1969 edition of that newspaper:
“Without opposition, the Assembly gave swift approval to legislation prohibiting the construction of the Gooley Dam on the Upper Hudson River, branded by conservationists as a threat to the wild river country.”
In addition to Gooley, the bill blocks construction of any reservoirs on the river from Luzerne to its source in the Adirondack Park.» Continue Reading.
In July 1946, Howard and Alice Zahniser drove with their children to the Adirondacks for the first time. Howard had started work as the first executive of The Wilderness Society in Washington D.C. the year prior. Howard would begin drafting the federal Wilderness Act of 1964 (66 drafts in all) from a cabin he acquired in the Adirondacks.
Howard kept a journal of his first trip to the Adirondack Park. The rest of us know about it thanks to his son Ed Zahniser’s small book, Where Wilderness Preservation Began – Adirondack Writings of Howard Zahniser (Ed Zahniser, Editor., North Country Books, 1992). For 72 years the extended Zahniser family, now including the fourth generation, has returned to the same place in the Adirondacks. This August I held a cook-out to welcome them back. » Continue Reading.
Grassroots Activism and the American Wilderness: Pioneers in the 20th Century Adirondack Park Conservation Movement, a new exhibit featuring material from the John S. Apperson and Paul Schaefer collections, will be on display in the Lally Reading Room of Union College’s Schaffer Library through December.
The collections, spanning from 1899 to 1996, provide a window into the history of the American environmental movement and the tensions that erupted over efforts to conserve the Adirondack Forest Preserve and expand the Adirondack Park. The materials also give a broader understanding of the history of national park and wilderness preservation and the critical role activism played in those efforts. » Continue Reading.
During his years as a senior advisor to many younger Adirondack conservationists, Paul Schaefer told some interesting stories. He witnessed the following incident in the New York State Legislature in 1953, when he was about 45-years-old, at the height of his effectiveness as a conservation organizer. The following story is about passage of what was called the Ostrander Amendment, an amendment to Article 14, Section 1 – the “forever wild clause” – of the New York State Constitution.
In 1953, the Ostrander Amendment had been twice passed by the State Assembly and the bill was on the floor of the State Senate, then being chaired by Lieutenant Governor Frank Moore. The Clerk of the Senate began to read the bill when a State Senator came up to the Lt. Governor’s desk, grabbed the bill from the Clerk, and quickly left the Senate Chamber. The Lt. Governor sent one of his aides after him and as the aide rushed out of the Senate chamber, he saw the Senator headed into a washroom. Following him, the aide found the State Senator about to flush the bill down the toilet. The aide, a big man, grabs the Senator by the collar, snatches the bill from his grasp and takes it back to the Senate Chamber and hands it back to the Lt. Governor, who said, according to Paul, “the next man who tries to take this bill I will personally hit with this gavel.” » Continue Reading.
My father Howard Zahniser wrote the following in his monthly Nature Magazine book review column in 1945, the year before he first met Paul Schaefer and first came to the Adirondacks. Nevertheless, Paul would have been one of the “few of those” my father invokes:
“Many of us seldom get, or take, the opportunity to sense the magnitude of the whole scheme of Life of which we are only a part. We know only the rush of human events, and we seldom even challenge the presumption of those who call this rush the march of time. Only a few of those who are in the midst of this rush, and it includes us all, can ever be expected to break pace long enough to fall in step with the greater procession that moves through the natural seasons.” » Continue Reading.
In 1892 the New York State Legislature created the Adirondack Park and in 1894 placed “Forever Wild” forest protection into the State Constitution. Thus began a process of wilderness protection for what today covers thousands of lakes and millions of acres of forests.
During the following sixty years however, there were scores of determined efforts by developers, local governments, and subsequent legislatures to weaken that protection to promote mining, logging, hydroelectric power, roads, commercial recreation and off-road access by jeeps, snowmobiles, floatplanes and motorboats. To repel these threats, America’s first modern grassroots wilderness protection campaigns began. » Continue Reading.
As a builder of Adirondack cabins, conservationist Paul Schaefer did not consistently solve the problem of water supplies. About 1950 Paul had a well dug in front of his old log cabin on the the Cragorehol property in Baker’s Mills. Paul told me he bought the 100-year-old cabin – then sited elsewhere – and moved it before I was born.
The well still provides delicious, cold water, although the cabin no longer exists. The main, extended Fogarty family cabin – formerly owned by Paul’s and his siblings’ parents – now has its water pumped in by electric pump from its own, drilled well. Many years ago we kids helped carry the well water in buckets over to Cragorehol camp – quite the laden tromp for youngsters. » Continue Reading.
Gray-green lichens slowly increase their hegemony on the large rock that sits below our family cabin Mateskared in Bakers Mills and fifteen feet west of its outhouse. My older sister Esther’s daughter Layla Ward remembers sitting on this rock as a child and fearing falling off. Its steep downhill side slopes into depths of tall blackberry plants, ferns, goldenrod, and fireweed. » Continue Reading.
I was traveling with a friend recently and she spoke about opening her seasonal Adirondack camp this month.
Having a workable, effective routine over the 50 or so years she’s owned it makes a very big difference, she said. Actually, if you close camp properly, she opined, opening it becomes a lot easier. I worked summers at a boys’ camp. I can relate to the importance of a comprehensive “closing camp” routine that saves much effort come the following May or June.
That led me to think more about opening an Adirondack camp. There is a lot to be done, especially if there is running water, waterfront, and a dock or two to be concerned about. But one must not forget the most important step on the list – to breathe deeply and to proclaim out loud “great to be here”! » Continue Reading.
It was during the late 1980’s that Paul Schaefer introduced me to Daisy and Earl Allen in Bakers Mills. Earl has passed away this past month, and his wife Daisy died some 14 years before. But the memories of Daisy’s warmth and kitchen, and Earl’s legend as a teamster, maple sugar maker, artisan, maker of hay rakes, and master of old engines remain strong. Both would do anything they could for people.
Paul and his fellow hunters relied on Earl for some twenty years or more to hitch up his team of work horses to a wagon and bring there gear into hunting camp and out again. Rev. Daisy Dalaba Allen was pastor of the Sodom Community Church and president of the Pentecostal Holiness Association. » Continue Reading.
My first childhood memories of Paul Schaefer are of his hands. They were huge to me. They seemed big enough to serve as lasts for making baseball gloves. I also remember Paul from my earliest Adirondack summers as a quality of expectancy.
On Wednesday nights we four kids used to sit on the big wood beam Paul had placed in front of our outdoor fireplace at our family cabin Mateskared and wait for his pickup truck headlights to turn off Route 8 onto Edwards Hill Road. Into the 1950s you could still see headlights on Route 8 two miles south of our cabin at Bakers Mills. Headlights heading up Edwards Hill Road generated immediate tension. Would they make it as far as the second bridge – about half of the two miles from Route 8 to Mateskared – without turning off into a driveway? » Continue Reading.
In Tibet they practice celestial burial. The deceased’s body is cut up into pieces small enough to be fed to the gathered vultures, who, because of this practice, are considered sacred birds. In our part of the Adirondacks we see few vultures, but, in part, a like ubiquity of rocks drives certain practices here.
During our early family summers on the edge of Adirondack wilderness, we children dreaded being assigned to bury the garbage. Waste disposal still decentralized in the early 1950s. To find where you could dig a hole deep enough to inter garbage was a serial ordeal of trial holes frustrated by hitting nonnegotiable rocks. » Continue Reading.
The Wilderness 50th Steering Committee will sponsor a public event in North Creek to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of The National Wilderness Preservation System Act of 1964.
The event will feature remarks by members of the Wilderness 50th committee, including but not limited to Adirondack Wild, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, and Chad Dawson, Professor Emeritus at the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Professor Dawson is also the editor of the international Journal of Wilderness.
The event is also intended to recognize the legacies of Howard Zahniser and Paul Schaefer. The National Wilderness Act’s author and chief lobbyist Howard Zahniser took his inspiration from New York’s “forever wild” constitutional protection of the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve. That constitutional protection also marks its 120th anniversary this year (1894-2014). Zahniser said many times that New York State set the example for the national Wilderness movement and for the legislation. His legislation was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on September 3, 1964. » Continue Reading.
On a warm September day in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed what is now recognized as one of the most significant legislative acts in American environmental history. This was the national Wilderness Act. Before then, federal lands, even those protected as national parks or national forests were expected to serve a variety of functions. The national forests, for example, permitted logging, mining, and grazing. The national parks were often centered on opulent hotels and other all-too-civilized amenities. The idea of setting aside part of the public domain as wilderness, even though this word was and is difficult to define, was radical then, and it remains controversial today. It was a monumental step, and its roots lie in the Adirondacks.
How European-Americans have thought about this amorphous thing we call wilderness has been a complicated, often torturous story. (How Native Americans navigated these shoals is another story altogether, but their views have seldom if ever been consulted as this country has gone about the process of setting land-use policy.) If we go back far enough, we find a pervasive hostility to what many of us now treasure. In 1620, for example, the Pilgrim William Bradford contemplated the forests of eastern Massachusetts, which seemed to stand between his band of cold and hungry settlers and any sort of security, and declared despairingly that nothing lay before them other than “a hideous and desolate wilderness.” Wilderness, in other words, was the enemy. If these people expected to survive, let alone prosper, the wilderness had to be eliminated as soon as possible. » Continue Reading.
My 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.