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Buy Whitney Park for Forest Preserve

The editorial “Whitney Park should be protected, not state-owned” (August 8, 2020) was a sad read. It was sad because it seems that the Adirondack Daily Enterprise has given up on its editorial advocacy for better management of the Forest Preserve. It was also sad because the editorial was poorly informed.

Everybody agrees that we need better management of the Forest Preserve. The lack of investment in Forest Preserve management during New York’s flush-budget years pre-COVID19 was mystifying. Though Governor Cuomo has shown extraordinary competence in some areas, he is inept at public lands management.

The Governor personally promoted the Adirondack Park, using his star power to encourage people to visit with his annual raft races. And while people visited the Adirondacks in record numbers since 2010, the Governor refused to adequately invest in improved management to educate and control the crowds. The dramatic increase in public use of the High Peaks, and other places in the Adirondacks, mirrors trends across the country as wild and beautiful places are overwhelmed.

We should not give up on the 125-year bipartisan and multi-generational success of the Forest Preserve because of the poor management of one Governor.

The answer is not to put fences around wild places and keep people out or rely upon some group or Billionaire X to protect wild places. In New York, the Forest Preserve is the people’s land. And, while some people who use the Forest Preserve need basic education in public lands use and stewardship, the vast percentage of the Forest Preserve today stands wild, intact, unblemished, and beautiful.

By the logic of the Daily Enterprise, just because some people toss their cigarette butts or spit out their gum on the sidewalk, we should give up on public sidewalks. Only half of Americans vote, a stark failure compared with most other major democracies in the world, so perhaps we should give up on that too.

The Forest Preserve in the Adirondack Park underwrites our local quality of life. The Forest Preserve underwrites our local economy. The Forest Preserve keeps the waters in our many world-class lakes clean. The Forest Preserve has inspired and made memories for millions. It would be a profound mistake to give up on the dream of the Forest Preserve because some people who hike there are poorly educated about how to use it.

The editorial talks about the loss of the native fishery in Little Tupper Lake after its sale by Mary Lou Whitney in 1997 to Governor Pataki. The loss of the native fishery was sabotage, not an error of state management. This was aggrieved people who opposed the Wilderness classification, and who spiked Little Tupper Lake with bass in retaliation, even though Wilderness was encouraged by the Whitney family. The bass flourished in the lake, and connected waterways, such as Rock Lake and Round Lake, and a 4,500-acre native fishery was lost.

Don’t give up on the dream of the Forest Preserve and let those who sabotaged the native fishery on Little Tupper Lake win.

My kids are their 20s. They grew up camping on Little Tupper Lake and Round Lake. I remember a friend’s daughter as a five-year-old yelling out of her tent at the grown-ups sitting around the fire to “tell the loons to shut up” because their continuous and loud tremolos that night awoke her. At other trips, we sat on the sandy beaches huddled in sleeping bags listening to coyotes howl across the water. At others, we marveled at the Milky Way reflected magnificently in the dead calm black waters.

Here’s the reality. Despite the challenges facing the High Peaks and the Forest Preserve management, the public is generally extremely happy with their opportunity to hike and explore these marvelous public lands. They keep coming back! Yes, we need to improve public education, and we need more Forest Rangers, Wilderness managers, trail crews, and a visitors center for the High Peaks, but it would be a mistake to give up on the Forest Preserve.

Thankfully, short-sighted thinking was resisted by past Governors. The naysayers did not win out when Governor Charles Evans Hughes purchased Mount Marcy, Redfield, Allen, and Skylight mountains or when Al Smith bought Lake Colden. Imagine today if the state’s highest mountain was privately owned. Thankfully Governor Thomas Dewey did not listen to the naysayers when he bought islands and long stretches of wild shoreline on Lake George.

Thankfully, Governor Nelson Rockefeller bought the Moose River Plains. The hundreds of thousands who have camped on the Cedar River-Limekiln Lake Road or snowmobiled there for 50 years are probably pretty happy that the land belongs to the people.

Thankfully, then DEC Commissioner Peter Berle and Governor Hugh Carey bought Lake Lila and Armstrong Mountain, Basin, Blake, Colvin, Dial, Gothics, Haystack, Saddleback, Saw Teeth, Upper Wolf Jaw, Lower Wolf Jaw, and Noonmark Mountain. Anybody who has hiked the Great Range, or gazed upon it in wonder from any number of High Peaks, are probably pretty happy that these mountains are part of the Forest Preserve.

Thankfully, Mario Cuomo bought Low’s Lake, happily paddled by hundreds of thousands since. Fortunately, George Pataki did not listen to naysayers when he bought Little Tupper Lake, Round Lake, Lyon Mountain, and Madawaska Flow.

Seriously, have our dreams grown so puny that the frustrations of inept management by one Governor’s administration will cause us to give up on the 125-year success of the public Forest Preserve? Are we to be a country with public lands that belong to the people, are managed by the people, and for the people? Or, are we to be a country where the people are dependent on the benevolence of Billionaire X to provide for us our American birthright of wild spaces?

Don’t give up on the dream of the Forest Preserve. Save Whitney Park by purchasing it for the public Forest Preserve.

Sign a petition to buy Whitney Park at savewhitneypark.com. Help make these lands Forest Preserve. #SaveWhitneyPark.

Peter Bauer is Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks

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