Today, the Forest Preserve encompasses a patchwork of 2.4 million acres throughout the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park.
Posted Apr. 3, 2016 at 3:45 AM
Where is Verplanck Colvin when we need him? Colvin wore many hats — lawyer, author, illustrator — but he’s perhaps best known as the topographical engineer who was hired by New York state in 1872 to do a geographical survey of the Adirondack Mountains. Thanks to him, the wilderness became the park we know today.
Colvin was intrigued by the forest and became enraged to find clear-cut logging of the mountaintops. He determined that if left unchecked, it would eventually lead to the deterioration of the Adirondack watershed and subsequently threaten the viability of the Erie Canal, critical to New York’s economy. Colvin was later named superintendent of the New York state land survey, which led to the establishment of the Adirondack Forest Preserve in 1885, and the eventual creation of the Adirondack Park in 1892.
Forest preserve threats loom today
But Colvin would not be happy with some of the things going on in the Adirondack Park today. And neither should we. On a clear day, we can see these majestic mountains rising on the horizon from atop Deerfield Hill, just outside the city. They provide an easily accessible resource not only for recreation, but remain critical to the watershed that serves our region and beyond. They must never be compromised.
Richard Booth, like Colvin, worries that is happening. Booth is a professor at Cornell University where he teaches environmental policy and land-use law, and has been a member of the Adirondack Park Agency for nearly a decade. The agency, created in 1971, does long-range planning for the future of the park.
During its March meeting, Booth dressed down the agency for a lack of transparency he believes is caused by interference from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his staff that he says is undermining the park’s wilderness and primitive areas. In an 11-minute speech to his APA colleagues, Booth pointed specifically to changes made to the State Land Master Plan, regulations that shape management of the Forest Preserve.
Case in point: Amendments to the plan regarding the Essex Chain Lakes Complex that will allow bicycles in primitive areas for the first time as well as motorized vehicles to be used by state workers to maintain some of those trails. Booth believes this is setting the stage for bigger problems. And he may be right.
“The core of the State Land Master Plan is aimed at protecting Wilderness values,” Booth said. “All of these lands, or virtually all of these lands, are protected by the forever wild clause of the State Constitution. There was no reason to create a State Land Master Plan unless at its central purpose was to provide much more protection than was afforded in a general sense under Article XIV.