In 1945, the forerunner to Adirondack Wild – Friends of the Forest Preserve – was founded by foremost wilderness leader for New York’s Adirondack Park during the 20th century, Paul Schaefer. Despite constitutional protection of Adirondack public land, by 1945 large hydroelectric dams threatened dozens of wild, free flowing rivers and their rich, varied wildlife habitats. Motorized vehicles of all kinds began to intrude upon and destroy the serenity of the interior of the “forever wild” Forest Preserve, the Park’s public lands, and no one in authority was stopping them. The state had no money to acquire more “forever wild” land or water and was losing some of the public’s existing land because of poor title. All these and other threats added up to a crisis for the Adirondack Park. Paul Schaefer was determined to fight on all these fronts simultaneously.
He founded Friends of the Forest Preserve as an umbrella under which dozens of groups worked together, starting by blocking the dams on the South Branch of the Moose River which, if built, would open the floodgates to large power dams on rivers throughout the Park. Though it took ten years, Schaefer’s and Friends’ battle for woods and waters on the Moose River was successful. His coalition went on to also protect the upper Hudson River from mega-dams during the 1960s and to stimulate passage of New York’s Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act and classification of Wilderness areas a decade later. Schaefer’s influence on Howard Zahniser helped the latter as he drafted and lobbied successfully for the National Wilderness Preservation Act of 1964. Adirondack guide, hunter, photographer, filmmaker, author and premier conservationist, Paul Schaefer earned a national reputation for protecting Adirondack wild areas to such an extent that at his death in 1996 he was named one of the 100 top conservationists of the century by Audubon magazine. During his lifetime, he received dozens of awards, authored three books about the Adirondacks, and produced two award-winning documentary films about the region including one film which earned a Cine Eagle for non-theatrical events abroad.
In 2010, a core group of a dozen wilderness advocates breathed new life into Friends of the Forest Preserve by re-organizing as Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, with a mission to safeguard wild lands through advocacy and education, to hold conservation officials accountable to the constitution and laws Schaefer worked so hard to pass, to promote needed policies for better care and stewardship of wild lands and to faithfully carry on in the 21st century the legacy of Paul Schaefer and his generation of wilderness defenders. Since 2010 Adirondack Wild has raised over $3 million for its wild land advocacy, recruited 1000 member supporters, and attracted board and advisory members skilled in wildland recreation management, wilderness, land use planning, conservation biology and environmental law.