Grab your coffee, here comes a Friday morning Pop Quiz.
Ready? Let’s play.
Which of the following is the largest public nature preserve in the continental United States: Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Great Smokies or Glacier?
WRONG! You fell for it!! It’s a trick question. The largest park in the lower 48 is the Adirondack Park in upstate New York, which at 6.6 million acres is bigger than those other five parks COMBINED.
It may also be the one that has had the greatest impact on nature conservation in this country. That’s because, just eleven years after the preserve was set aside, in the fall of 1901, Vice President Teddy Roosevelt was camping on the shoulder of Mount Marcy when a courier arrived to tell him that President McKinley was not going to recover from a recent assassination attempt. Teddy hot-footed it down to the train station and headed off to be inaugurated in Buffalo. Perhaps once he took office in Washington, that episode stayed with him, because he championed the greatest amount of conservation in our history, which led to dozens of new parks and the eventual creation of the National Park Service.
So who cares? I mean, that’s all ancient history, right?
WRONG AGAIN! Geez, what’s up with with you this morning? This past week, in perhaps the most important such legal decision in almost a century, the New York Court of Appeals ruled 4-2, overturning a lower court decision, that the state cannot cut down thousands of trees to create recreational swaths for things like snowmobiles.
Opponents of this decision have argued that the original creation of the forest preserve was intended to protect against widespread destruction from such things as clear-cutting by loggers, and that this decision will hinder tourism development efforts. But in its ruling the court pointed to a 1930 precedent which prohibited the folks in Lake Placid from cutting down a forest to make room for a bobsled run for the ‘32 Winter Games. Case closed.
The decision ends an argument that has been festering for years. As a result, the Adirondacks will remain truly forever wild, as intended. And the waters flowing down the Hudson, Raquette, Ausable, Saranac, Salmon, Grasse, Oswegatchie, Indian and East and West Canada rivers will continue to run clear. So that the millions of people who live in those watersheds can brew a fresh cup of coffee every single day.
Maybe you are one of them. If so, go ahead and brew up a second cup. And even if you are not, you might want to tip your mug to our wonderful wild places.
Ready? Let’s do it.
Excelsior! Bully! Cheers!
– Mike Keeler