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Humans live in the Adirondacks, too

January 9, 2012
By Jon Kopp

Is it not surprising that Bob Glennon and Adirondack Wild are demanding new hearings for the Adirondack Club and Resort? It brings to mind how often our views of the past can be distorted by our own desires for the future.

I believe that some in the Adirondack Park Agency and green groups like Adirondack Wild, the Adirondack Council and Wildlife Conservation Society would like to see a better definition of the term "undue adverse impact" when it comes to determining the extent of change caused by a development project to the environment and wildlife populations. The APA law is somewhat vague when it comes to defining what that term means, and that bothers them.

A term that is always bandied about by those groups is "biological integrity." It's used on 24 occasions in the testimony provided by Wildlife Conservation Society's Michale Glennon and Heidi Kretser at the adjudicated hearing.

Biological integrity is associated with how "pristine" an environment is and its function relative to the potential or original state of an ecosystem before human alterations were imposed. Although not specifically stated, the implication is to weigh economic development against biological integrity; however, biological integrity is not so easily defined because of the dynamic nature of the environment: the impact of weather, climate, forest composition and species distribution over time.

Approximately 12,000 years ago, the Adirondacks were under glacial ice. If a person was born to live 100 years and when he died another was born to live 100 years and so on for 12,000 years, that would represent the lives of 120 persons. If we were to put them in a room and asked each to describe the Adirondacks, each person would have a different viewpoint.

So often we use and accept terms like "native species" as if they were always here, but if you consider that 12,000 years ago the Adirondacks were under ice, then all species are non-native. At what point in time does a species become native?

It's unreasonable to think that biological integrity can be used as a basis to determine an undue adverse impact for economic activity because it's not definable. It's a made-up term, skewed with prejudice against human activity. The concept is nothing but an attempt to make people think that humans, and the species of wildlife that are associated with us, have less value to be here than the isolated species of an imagined human-less world.

The green groups believe that an anthropogenic environment is inferior to an environment without humans, ironic in the sense that each of them lives in the anthropogenic world. They drive cars on tarred roads, live in houses; many even have bird feeders or perhaps a cat. Yet, when they look out the window, they become fearful because they sense the loss of an imagined pristine past, the unspoiled wilderness.

What they don't seem to see is the value of the change, the architecture of a building or the beauty of a starling murmuration or watching gyrating nighthawks feeding on insects, drawn in by the artificial light of the village street light.

Is there no more room for humans in the Adirondacks? How much bigger does the Forest Preserve have to be?

I believe the Adirondacks are more than just an ideology; it's where we live and play, the store down the street, our friend's house, and the hopes and best wishes for our children. It's everyone's dream and not for one group or ideology to decide.


Jon Kopp lives in Tupper Lake.



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