Aaron Mair of Schenectady, New York served as 57th President of the National Sierra Club. A retired epidemiological-spatial analyst with the New York State Department of Health, Mair’s experience includes more than three decades of environmental activism and over twenty-five years as a Sierra Club wilderness volunteer leader, where he has worked diligently for environmental justice. Mr. Mair recently joined the Adirondack Council to direct a “Forever Adirondack Campaign” to protect clean water, jobs, and wilderness. Editor and wilderness advocate, David Crews, had a chance to talk with Aaron about the inescapable mutuality of connection from Yosemite to the Hudson Valley and Adirondacks. This interview was previously published in Adirondack PEEKS, and is forthcoming in Wild Northeast (2021). (Reused by permission, thanks to John Sheehan at the Adirondack Council)
The original ideas and arguments organizers used to create roadless wilderness were created by New York’s Bob Marshall. All our ideas about the value of wilderness began with him. If we ever have to mobilize to save public lands, or if we want to create more of it we need to revisit his arguments that motivated the country to acquire it in the first place. Unfortunately, in the last 50 years many of his arguments have been lost and forgotten, but they worked well once and will work again if we can recover and reintroduce them into the next generation’s advocacy conversation.
From the 1930s through the ’70s, the arguments used to persuade voters that roadless wilderness must be preserved, originated in Bob Marshall’s 1930 essay, “The Problem of the Wilderness.” In that essay, parts of which ended up in the 1964 Wilderness Act, he creatively explained the many diverse and marvelous reasons the preservation of roadless wilderness was essential if mankind’s basic humanity and civilization itself were to survive.
As I watch Governor Andrew Cuomo’s press conferences daily, I continue to be extremely impressed by his overall handling of the COVID 19 Pandemic. His daily briefings are fact-based with his opinion sprinkled in. It is inspiring. He may have stumbled out of the gate on how quickly he started the State’s PAUSE, his handling of the nursing home situation, and his kerfuffle with Mayor Bill de Blasio is a distraction, but overall I give him an A minus.
The phases to opening the state within each of the State’s ten regions is nothing short of genius. Its fact based, has clear phases and for each phase has clear criteria for determining whether to go to the next phase or whether things need to be shut down once again. His plumbing valve metaphor for opening the state with gauges to help determine whether the state will continue to open the valve or close it down based on how the gauges/indicators are doing is a model for the rest of the country. I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t work pretty well in helping the state move forward.
It seems pretty clear at this point that the state agencies that manage the High Peaks Wilderness Area, and adjacent Wilderness areas, are not interested in limiting public use.
The state is investing in new parking areas, new hiking trails, and a new hiker transportation system that are all designed to facilitate ever-higher levels of public use in the High Peaks, not limit it.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced the release of the draft New York State Forest Action Plan for public review and comment. The State Forest Action Plan is a 10-year strategic plan for DEC and New York’s forestry community that provides long‐term, comprehensive, and coordinated strategies for addressing the challenges facing New York’s forests today. » Continue Reading.
Fifty years ago this August, Goveror Nelson Rockefeller’s Temporary Study Commission on the Future of the Adirondacks met at Eagle Nest, the great camp of its chairman, Harold Hochshild.
Members brought their spouses, and it seems as though the gathering was a long, country house weekend as much as it was an official meeting. There was horseback riding, water skiing and tours of the nearby Adirondack Museum, which Hochshild had created and which he subsidized until his death in 1981. And, no doubt, cocktails on the veranda at the violet hour.
Experts advising the Commission were invited to present talks on topics related to its work – protecting the Adirondacks from suburban sprawl, over-use and threats to the Forest Preserve. Among those experts was Vincent Schaefer. » Continue Reading.
By the metric of public use the High Peaks Wilderness Area, and nearby Giant, Hurricane and Sentinel Range Wilderness areas, are major successes. The crowds hiking in the High Peaks are at an all-time high. The current dismal state of many of the hiking trails does not seem to be a major deterrent to the throngs of people eager to hike one of the High Peaks.
For many people hiking a mountain like a High Peak is no sure thing and is, and should be, a challenge. There are plenty of highly used and popular smaller mountains throughout the Adirondacks that provide stunning views, but the allure of hiking a High Peak is immense.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) is accepting public comment for the Sentinel Range Wilderness Area Unit Management Plan. The APA will accept public comments October 11th, 2019 regarding Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan conformance for the proposed management actions in the wilderness area.
The Sentinel Range Wilderness Area (SRWA) is located in the northeast portion of the Adirondack Park in the towns of Jay, Keene, North Elba, and Wilmington in Essex County. The SRWA covers 23,874 acres. The namesake of the unit, the Sentinel Range, is a prominent mountain range in the region. The unit also encompasses exceptional watercourses classified under the Wild, Scenic, and Recreational Rivers System Act (WSRRS Act) including the East and West Branch of the Ausable River. » Continue Reading.
In order to cut a lot more trees on the Forest Preserve for new snowmobile corridors, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation and the Attorney General’s Office have announced that they will appeal July’s court ruling against the State and in favor of Protect the Adirondacks.
That ruling by a 4-1 court majority declared that the extent of tree cutting for snowmobile trail construction, when considered cumulatively, violated our state’s constitutional limit on destruction of timber on the Forest Preserve “to a material degree” (Article XIV, Section 1, NYS Constitution, and court interpretations). » Continue Reading.
A SOLO Wilderness First Aid course has been set for Thursday, August 1, and Friday, August 2, from 8 am to 5 pm, at the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Warren County Education Center on 377 Schroon River Road in Warrensburg.
Successful completion of this 16-hour course will enable participants to receive SOLO (Stonehearth Open Learning Opportunities) Wilderness First Aid certification. Registration is open to youth, ages 12 years and older, and adults. » Continue Reading.
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.
Let’s stipulate that religious epiphany requires an understanding of one’s relationship to the divine … to the creator … to God. I would further submit that this understanding is fundamentally a matter of humility. Humility is the recognition that we are not masters of the universe — not even of our own little corners of it — and that we need something more than ourselves if we are to make sense of our lives. What Kennedy’s observation suggests is that this understanding — this humility — is best attained in wilderness.
I am not going to argue that other human experiences cannot have this effect. Try giving birth, for example. Or, if you are not properly equipped, watch your wife do it. Listen to a symphony. Or head to a museum or gallery and see what Georgia O’Keeffe or Ansel Adams saw when they looked at the wild. » Continue Reading.
In 2018, state agencies combined the Dix Mountain and High Peaks Wilderness areas into one grand 275,000-acre Wilderness area, which is now celebrated as the 3rd largest Wilderness area east of the Mississippi River, behind the Florida Everglades and the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. This action certainly merits heralding as a major accomplishment in the history of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve.
It shines a spotlight on the High Peaks Wilderness as a world-class landscape and it begs the questions of how and when will state agencies start to put together a world-class management system that the High Peaks Wilderness deserves. » Continue Reading.
Jack articulates well what many of us baby boomers are feeling as we take up a ski, paddle, hike, or bike with younger friends and colleagues. We think we are reasonably fit, but how to keep up? Especially, as Jack wondered, on the uphill sections? » Continue Reading.
In March 1848 a colleague of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Harrison Gray Otis Blake, sought out Henry David Thoreau to help him on his spiritual pilgrimage, recognizing Thoreau’s need to live a “fresh, simple life with God.”
Thoreau wanted to live his life free from the trappings of the commercial world, enabling him to enrich his inner life. He escaped to his Walden Pond to experience “nature as goodness crystalized.” » Continue Reading.
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