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Part 1 of 3: APA should be renovated, not razed

February 11, 2010
Adirondack Daily Enterprise

It's been said a million times before, but it's true: This part of New York we live in is special, and should remain so.

The Adirondacks are uniquely gorgeous in landscape and rich in wild forests, beautiful waters and unique mountains. These things are full of benefits for people, such as fitness, reflective peace of mind, sustenance from fish and game, and revenue from natural resources - hopefully in ways that don't ruin the land.

And that makes the communities of people here extraordinary, too, just as a seashore town is special, or a town where important historical events took place. It's easy for local residents to overlook such things and tell outsiders to leave them alone, but nevertheless, there exists an obligation - to humans the world over, to the natural world and to its creator - to conserve the goodness of one's home place.

New York's people were right to set the Adirondacks aside for special treatment: first by creating the Adirondack Forest Preserve in the 1880s and then by creating the Park in the 1890s. We also cannot help but say Gov. Nelson Rockefeller was right in the 1970s to establish the Adirondack Park Agency to contain private development and oversee the Department of Environmental Conservation's management of state land. If the APA had never existed, we believe, much more of the Park's shorelines, byways and wild places would have been abused and marred, and no one would have stopped it. The Adirondack Park had no unified governance, and needed one. The state, which created the Park when it was still gloriously wild, was obligated to conserve this deeply valuable asset - to stop its bleeding and keep it special.

We believe Adirondackers, too, don't want this part of the world to be like everywhere else, though they may not see it with a preservationist's eye.

So yes, we support an APA, but this one was never set up right. Recent developments highlight its inherent flaws even more. Don't blame the people who work there now, though; they didn't design it.

A government agency cannot work effectively without the consent of the governed, and the APA does not really have that at present. Renovating the agency to gain something like the trust that people place in other government agencies will require some demolition as well as rebuilding.

In this three-part series we intend to - respectfully - outline the APA's flaws, as we see them, and propose a renovation plan. We hope our suggestions will help transform what is now mostly a rancorous war into a constructive process of remaking a sustainable, sensible and trustworthy APA.



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