The Forest Preserve has been and will continue to be the best tool we have in the Adirondacks to keep land – and the community of life it supports – in a “forever wild” state. Now is not the time to lose faith, nor to indulge in the conceit that nature is static and can be kept unchanged under a glass bubble. The Follensby Pond Tract needs to be added to the cultural and natural heritage we call the Forest Preserve, and the public needs to be invested in its future.
What made these new lands different from most others, though, was undoubtedly the fact they were already occupied by hundreds of hunting camps. This was not simply opening up vast acreages of forest that had been previously denied to the public-at-large, but driving out the leaseholders who were already there. One can rightly argue that as public lands they will serve more people and provide all sorts of wilderness-based benefits, but I’m sure it still stings for the minority who find themselves at the losing end of the equation.
Part 3 of 4 Here this account takes on a new perspective, because I view what happened during the past quarter century as one who was actively involved. In the early 70s I completed my graduate work, started hiking again, and became an advocate for trails. As an advocate for dispersing hikers throughout the Park, I was frustrated from the start in ways I never expected.
The Adirondack legacy of former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is more than just a land acquisition and a failed snowmobile master plan. The one project that can be fully attributed to Cuomo involved a mine, a protected wilderness, and a highly controversial amendment to the state’s constitution that allowed one to gain access to the other.
When I moved to Upstate New York in 2013, acquaintances kept telling me about the Adirondacks, how magical they are, with their steep-sided mountains and layers of forest, mirror-calm lakes and clear-flowing creeks; bears, moose, loons. Having lived most of my adult life in the West and coming to New York from interior Alaska, I was skeptical, but hopeful. Could there really be such a large protected area in the Eastern U.S.?
The preferred method for preserving the “Cotton Lake Wilderness” as a state-recognized wilderness is to remove the quotation marks – for the APA board to take definitive action and reclassify the land per the procedures set in place by the SLMP. Doing so would elevate Cotton Lake to equal status with the nearby West Canada Lake and Ha-de-ron-dah areas.
To figure out solutions to protecting the High Peaks Wilderness, first we need to fully understand what is threatening it on an ecological and social basis. Those threats might include some aspects of high use, such as improper disposal of human waste and trail erosion in sensitive habitats, but if we choose to only focus on these impacts we run the risk of fixing a leak in a dam that is about to burst.