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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Monday, January 18, 2016

While I am all in favor of there being open space "woodlands" with easy access for folks to get in and out of, I am also very much a "wildlands" advocate, or as Howard Zahniser(the father and author of the 1964 Federal Wilderness Act) put it: "A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain".............. "An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable".................Such a two-prong open space matrix(wildlands and wilderness) seems to be the optimum way of providing all animals(including us human animals) a viable long term persistence plan that will allow for us all to thrive into the future..............New York's FOREVER WILD moniker for large swaths of of what is the Adirondack State Park came into being in 1894, a good 70 years prior to the Federal Wilderness Act coming into existence..............Even more impressive was that the FOREVER WILD NY lands were preserved for eternity, the only way they could be changed would be an amendment to the state constitution, not some political whim of the moment...................As written in the NY Constitution, the FOREVER WILD clause, Article X1V, Section 1 states: “The lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands"............... "They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed"


Adirondack Wilderness: Wild By Law, Not Administrative Whim

Wilderness around Fulton Chain from Castle Rock above Blue Mountain Lake

The former chief of publications at The Smithsonian Institution Paul Oehser once joked that “You’ve never experienced wilderness until you’ve driven through Iowa on Interstate 70 in a heavy rainstorm!” His quip reveals one of many connotations of the inextricably entwined words wilderness and wildness.
Paul Oehser’s use of wilderness to evoke chaos harks back to Europe when urban areas began to be seen as a high earthly expression of order. By contrast, wilderness was unordered landscape outside the pale of humankind. Watch TV news today however, and our modern unordered wilds seem to be big cities. Their seeming disorder makes the wilds of the Adirondacks places of cooperation and restoration.
My father Howard Zahniser summed up lexical talk about wilderness with a carefully mixed metaphor: “Wilderness is where the hand of man has never set foot.” Or Zahnie, as he was known, might say “Wilderness is like virginity. It is defined by what you don’t do.”
Zahnie once explained wilderness for a group of dam proponents, including New York State legislators and Conservation Department officials, in just those terms. The Black River Regulating District Board had called a meeting on the Panther Mountain Dam proposal, which threatened to obliterate much lowland wilderness, important wintering grounds for deer.

Created in 1892 as one of the first Forever Wild Forest Preserves in the nation, the Adirondack Park is a unique wilderness area. At 6 million acres, it is the largest publically protected area in the contiguous United States. The state of New York owns approximately 2.6 million acres, while the remaining 3.4 million acres are devoted to forestry, agriculture and open space recreation. The Adirondack Park is not a National Park - there's no fee to enter and the park doesn't close at night, nor is it a state park, a common misconception. It's also the largest National Historic Landmark, covering an area larger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier and the Great Smokies National Parks combined.

Just before Zahnie’s remarks, Adirondack guide and conservationist Ed Richards presented petitions with 200,000 signatures against the dam. The law didn’t require the Regulating District Board to consider public sentiment however, and they did not. Such was the case for wilderness issues in the early 1950s. Still, Panther Mountain Dam was soon defeated by a vote of the people.
Today New York State boasts more officially designated wilderness acreage than designated federal wilderness. That fact has a rich history. New York did not use the term “wilderness” for eighty years, but the Empire State beat the feds to the punch by keeping state lands “forever wild” starting in the late 1800s. What’s more, these lands were to be preserved in perpetuity under the state constitution, not by administrative whim of state conservation officials. This would be the central intent of the federal Wilderness Act of 1964: wild by law not by administrative whim.
Zahnie was the primary author of and chief lobbyist for the National Wilderness Preservation System Act of 1964. He also played a strong role in the wilderness battles for the integrity of the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve lands in the 1940s and 1950s.  In his book Cabin Country Paul Schaefer wrote that “Zahniser added national pressure through the Wilderness Society and other national groups.

In the thick of the fray in 1948, Schaefer wrote that “Zahniser and his Society have left no stone unturned that might aid New Yorkers in maintaining their Forest Preserve inviolate.” Zahnie brought eight national conservation groups to those Adirondack wilderness controversies and in 1972, through the State Land Master Plan (now being revised by its administrators), New York created its own wilderness system, adopting the definition of wilderness Zahnie wrote for the 1964 Wilderness Act.
Zahnie shepherded the federal wilderness legislation through sixty-six revisions and nineteen public hearings over the eight-year push for the law. He worked on more than a few of those drafts at his desk in a cabin in Johnsburg at the edge of the Siamese Ponds Wilderness.
Zahnie and Paul Schaefer first met in early 1946 in the wilderness canyons of New York City, at the Hotel Pennsylvania. Seven months earlier Zahnie had left his secure federal government employment to become executive secretary and editor of the fledgling Wilderness Society. The Society had been formed in 1935 through the aegis of Robert Marshall, whose wilderness eye-teeth were cut in the Adirondacks. Zahnie was a charter member.

Marshall was a forestry scientist, author, explorer of Alaska’s Brooks Range, and federal forestry bureaucrat. John Muir founded The Sierra Club, and his name is synonymous with Sierra Nevada wildlands, but Bob Marshall has come to personify American wilderness preservation. The Bob Marshall Wilderness Area in Montana is now affectionately known as “the Bob.”
Too often overlooked is that Bob Marshall was a second-generation wilderness advocate. His father, eminent jurist Louis Marshall of New York City, was a member of the 1915 New York State Constitutional Convention who led the floor fight to defend the state’s forest preserve lands created by the 1894 provision known as the “forever wild” clause, now Article XIV, Section 1:
“The lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.”

Wilderness is in fact, as Zahnie joked, defined by what you don’t do. Unfortunately, a concerted constituency ever lurks, ever eager to do those things to and with wilderness that make it cease to be wilderness. As the late great wilderness champion David Brower asserted: “When they win, it’s forever. When we win, it’s merely a stay of execution.”
When Adirondack wilderness areas were designated in the 1970s, the impetus was to protect some land from activities that would diminish their truly wild nature.  It turns out that what we were really protecting was an entire regime of processes, parts of which we still haven’t identified and most we still don’t understand.  The -ness of wilderness was not a thing but rather ways of working and interrelating. Wilderness statutes, state and federal, are the statutes that specifically intend to protect the ability of wild lands to proceed by their own inherent dictates.
This requires constant advocacy by citizens however, as recent plans by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Adirondack Park Agency to motorize and mechanize the Essex Chain Lakes starkly reveal.  The recently announced DEC and APA plans would usurp the State Legislature’s prerogative by changing the law without legislative action.

These plans will also obliterate a wilderness future for 40 designated primitive areas that current law specifically protects in anticipation of their wilderness futures.
Once again, administrators are bent on wrestling wilderness away from its protection by law. In the process they also threaten the legal framework that protects the Adirondack Park Forest Preserve itself.
Photo of Adirondack Wilderness by John Warren.

Ed Zahniser retired as the senior writer and editor
 with the National Park Service
 Publications Group in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
. He writes and lectures frequently 
about wilderness, wildlands, and conservation history
 topics. He is the youngest child 
of Alice (1918-2014) and Howard Zahniser (1906–1964).
 Ed’s father was the principal
 author and chief lobbyist for the National Wilderness
Preservation System Act of 1964. 
Ed edited his father’s Adirondack writings in Where 
Wilderness Preservation Began:
 Adirondack Writings of Howard Zahniser, and also
 edited Daisy Mavis Dalaba Allen’s
 Ranger Bowback: An Adirondack farmer - 
a memoir of Hillmount Farms (Bakers Mills).
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