by Dave Gibson, Partner
Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve embraces the “Forever Wild” provision of the New York State Constitution not only as the law, but as the only hopeful way forward for the Adirondack and Catskill Parks.
To our knowledge, it is the only forest protection measure on the globe incorporated within a governing constitution.
The words of Article 14 of the NYS Constitution, unchanged since they were approved by the voters of 1894, are as relevant today as ever. Read them again: “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” – Article XIV, Section 1 of the NYS Constitution.
“Forever kept as wild forest lands.” There is a genius here. They mean entire lands, complete watersheds, whole ecosystems inclusive of people. This constitutional, ethical and moral responsibility applies to us, and to succeeding generations – and its popular support is tested whenever a specific exception to it is sought through amendment. Despite many efforts to compromise or dilute its powerful impact, this wilderness by law has survived for 115 years because New Yorkers have supported it strongly. It has brought all of us and Park communities healthy headwaters, clean water, vast recreational opportunities, sparkling lakes, stable stream flows, old growth forests, rare intact northern hardwood and boreal forests teaming with migrant birds, and a great diversity of other wildlife. It constantly brings us spiritual renewal. Adirondack Wild will do what it takes to safeguard these benefits of wild lands.
Article 14 of the NYS Constitution should not just survive, but thrive. It promises the clear purpose, the high standard, the great opportunity to plan and administer all land ownerships in these parks for their wild character and for the economic and climate advantages that only undefiled, unfragmented wilder landscapes can provide.
Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve will promote, support and foster economic benefits that come from wildlands like the Forest Preserve:
- Green jobs in wildlife and heritage tourism, wilderness guiding, boatbuilding and traditional outdoor education and skills development.
- Taxes for all purposes – property and school- are paid in full on all Forest Preserve lands by all who benefit from these wild lands
- Recreational spending from use and enjoyment of the Forest Preserve • Centers of learning in the towns and villages of the Park about the scientific, philosophical and spiritual wonders of this wilderness
- Larger, older growth forests on private lands which have multiple and additive economic and ecological values for the landowner in a time of climate change
Ecologically, Adirondack Wild: Friends acts for wildlands because:
- Safeguarding the Wild means opportunities for once endangered wildlife like Bald Eagle and Moose to thrive
- The wild Adirondacks and Catskills act as vast watersheds, providing clean drinking water, absorbing storms, preventing floods, preserving stream flows and delivering natural services and benefits at extremely low cost
- If we are to protect our vital life support systems, we must have scientific data from whole, intact, wild ecosystems in order to compare with data from intensively developed and damaged landscapes
- More than 85% of our wild ecosystems in the northeast are in the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve, a fact which highlights our responsibilities for safeguarding this wild legacy
- Intact wild forests act as the lungs of the state, taking in carbon dioxide, and storing that pollutant in older forests, and durable wood products made from enduring private forests. Safeguarding the Wild helps us to buffer ongoing climate change.
In uncertain times, we have the opportunity to apply the optimism, the promise, the enduring certainty and wisdom of Forever Wild to help address a changing climate and many other economic and social challenges facing communities in these Parks. We must ensure that payments of taxes on the Forest Preserve are as “forever” as the wild lands themselves, and not compromised by tax caps. We invite you to join us as we work to celebrate and safeguard through vigorous advocacy and legal defense when necessary wild lands on which we so depend.
1] Posted 10/0/710
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