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Book Reviews

AN ATTEMPTED PERSPECTIVE

Good Faith Fails to Bridge the Adirondack Gap

By Carol W. LaGrasse
December 3, 2002

 

Ever since the environmentalists succeeded in passing the Adirondack Park Agency Act in 1971, a significant number of them have hoped that they could bring together the two opposing sides and eliminate the unpleasant friction resulting from opponents who keep criticizing government policies related to the State-imposed regional zoning agency. Barbara McMartin's new book, Perspectives on the Adirondacks - A Thirty-year Struggle by People Protecting Their Treasure (Syracuse University Press 2002) is an ambitious attempt at just that. On its pages, she reveals her hope to be the healer of Adirondack antagonisms. Working from numerous interviews, she seems to be trying to be a voice for the people of the region in their resentment of the elitism of environmentalists. With reservations, she sees what she regards as hopeful signs of progress toward the great healing. However, like all those who never mentally leave the shores of their fundamentalist nature-loving Weltanschauung to comprehend the human rights of equal protection of the law and private property rights, she fails to envision the bridge between the two shores. She has never ascertained where the other shore is located.

A History of Thirty Years

After an introduction to the establishment of two interrelated state agencies, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Adirondack park Agency (APA), Perspectives traces with intense detail the thirty-year evolution of the APA and the history of participation and conflict related to the agency. The book is packed with information and sheds light and perspective on important aspects of the Adirondack conflict, but it has so many omissions of essential history and so many distortions and outright errors that, to peruse it in search of dependable information, a reader would have to already be an expert in the affairs under discussion. For instance, in the author's zeal to focus on the development of the new environmental hearing process in conjunction with the early days of the DEC and APA, the author explains the early influence of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter and its financial backing by William Rockefeller, and other wealthy owners of great estates, such as the Webb estate and Brandon Park. She discusses the importance of Paul Bray, the Assembly bill writer, who was connected to the Sierra Club. But it would have been useful to have more than a one-sentence mention of Governor Nelson Rockefeller's brother Laurence, who proposed the Adirondack National Park in 1967, or of Harold Hochschild, the chairman of Rockefeller's Temporary Study Commission on the Adirondacks, the key proposal and study that preceded the agency. McMartin includes less information about Lawrence and Nelson Rockefeller than Tony D'Elia included in his modest book, The Adirondack Rebellion, in 1979, which, for instance, gives a thumbnail sketch of some of the other Rockefeller combination preservation/real estate ventures such as that in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Inclusion of more information about these individuals might have thwarted the key thread in her book about public participation in the park, but it would have honestly revealed certain upper crust machinations that were at least as or more instrumental to passage of the APA Act than the Sierra Club, even considering its wealthy backers. These early omissions set the stage for the omission of key history throughout the book that would give the reader an opportunity to understand the forces at play in events.

The 1990 Conflict

In the first section of Perspectives, McMartin discusses the first two decades of the APA, with a focus on environmental groups and the evolution of the APA. She traces the participation of existing environmental groups and the formation of new ones, most notably the Adirondack Council. Forestry in the park receives a full chapter. Next she moves to the tumultuous years from 1989 to 1993 when Governor Mario Cuomo's Commission of the Adirondacks in the Twenty-first Century issued its recommendations for much stricter controls over the three million-plus acres of private property in the park and a land acquisition map, accompanied by a lengthy bill written by the then-chairman of the APA, Robert Glennon, and a $2 billion Environmental Quality Bond Act to buy up the land that was mapped out. The bill and its many substitute bills, as well as the bond act, failed.

This period brings in many new players in the locally based effort to preserve the local government powers, private land ownership, and private property rights that still existed in the region. While decrying what she portrays as violence and upheaval, McMartin discourses extensively about all of these players, providing the only publicly published portrayal of these many individuals. Yet her distortions both of fact and bias are immense. Mention of one subsection will suffice. She describes "Fall 1990" under a heading containing a second part worded "Events without Direction." Contrary to this heading, 1990 was momentous in its accomplishments by opponents to more land acquisition, and very important to the defeat of the recommendations of the Twenty-first Century Commission.

My husband Peter and I were at the center of activity. We spent several days late in September 1990 researching, composing, and typing out a lawsuit to challenge Governor Cuomo's unlawful use of taxpayer funds to promote the bond act. Millions of little green flyers, "Keep New York Clean and Green," were being distributed by the State.

Realizing that we might not have the confidence and knowledge of court procedure to present the legal points we had so carefully developed, we tried to engage a lawyer to challenge the illegal expenditure, but were unsuccessful. We finally brought our lawsuit to my friend and solid waste engineering colleague Robert Schulz, who, a number of years earlier, had successfully brought a pro se challenge in court to stop government plans to build a sewer that would expedite development of the Lake George Basin. He agreed to lead the lawsuit. Schulz reluctantly allowed Donald Gerdts, who said he once owned a public relations firm in Manhattan, to join our litigation group. We became a full-time, four-person team — in court and in the continuing preparation of the papers for the case, with Gerdts for the publicity. We won all of nine important motions and decisions, Schulz doing all the oral presentation in court. The lawsuit became a lightning rod for negative publicity about the bond act in the remaining weeks before the election, and was repeatedly covered in headline articles through northern and central New York and the Capitol region, with additional articles in major dailies, including The New York Times.

The bond act was narrowly defeated, with heavy turnouts voting as much as 16 to 1 and 20 to 1 against it in some northern towns. Our lawsuit was blamed in significant part for the defeat by none other than the law journal published by the law firm of Peter A. A. Berle, the Chairman of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-first Century.

"…The Bond Act was thwarted by a successful citizens' group suit brought in the last weeks of the campaign protesting expenditures of public funds for pamphlets and other materials advocating its passage. As a result, further expenditures on State-sponsored advertising was enjoined in the final, crucial period preceding Election Day."
(Environmental Law in New York, Vol. 2, No. 1, p. 3)

Many people thought the lawsuit was critical to the defeat. Yet, McMartin's dismisses this accomplishment in her book with the comment, "While the suit only prevented circulation of the last million copies of the pamphlet, Gerdts later claimed they stopped the bond act." This was hardly an event without direction. Almost two billion dollars in funds, mainly for a major Adirondack land grab — the 654,850 acres targeted in the Twenty-first Century Commission report — were blocked.

McMartin's Fairness

One of the most important contributions of McMartin's work is her conclusion, contrary to assertions by certain environmentalists, that the Adirondack property rights movement was homegrown and afterwards became a national force.

Bill McKibben, an author who had risen to prominence by writing a book entitled The End of Nature, wrongly stated in the Sierra Club magazine in 1994 that the reaction to the Twenty-first Century Commission report was supported with big western money. McKibben wrote:

"By the time the report was released, rumor and fear had already plunged the Adirondacks into a stretch of ugly unrest. With money pouring in from Wise Use groups and organizations like the John Birch Society, park opponents were soon blockading traffic on the Northway." (McKibben, "The People and the Park," Sierra, March/April 1994, p. 108)

Writing about the period after the release of the Twenty-first Century Commission report in 1990, McMartin sets the record straight:

"Within a year or two, writers such as Bill McKibben and a committee for the Wilderness Society accepted the idea that the national property rights and wise use organizations not only influenced local Adirondack Groups, but supported them from the start. I believe that proponents of the property rights movement in the Adirondacks took up the idea independently and then reached out to national organizations; Adirondackers actually helped found and strengthen the national group, as in the case of the Alliance for America. There is no question but that those who took up the property rights banner quickly rose to the top of the movement nationally and then used its support for their work in the Adirondacks." (p.140)

Public Participation - the Adirondack Blowdown

The last section of the book moves to state government activities in the 1990's and discussions of certain topics of "public participation" during that decade. In the book, public participation is mainly considered under government-structured processes where the participants do not have ultimate power, as opposed to the situation where citizens do have ultimate control through the vote in elections of their representative officials, which is reflected in the relatively responsive conduct of local officials in town meetings. The topics of public participation in the book include the Region 5 Open Space Planning Committee (one of the regional bodies established by state law at the time the 1990 bond act was proposed) to recommend land acquisition; the Forest Preserve Advisory Committee (a DEC Committee that was an outgrowth of the High Peaks Advisory Committee); the 1995 forest blowdown; motorized and disabled access to the Forest Preserve; DEC Lands and Forests Director Robert Bendick's efforts to expand access to the Forest Preserve; the Citizen's Advisory Committee for DEC's plan for the High Peaks Wilderness Area; and the entire DEC planning process for its defined Forest Preserve "Units" and State's Master Plan for its Forest Preserve

Since the controversy and State-sponsored meetings related to the 1995 blowdown lasted for a relatively short time, it is reasonably easy to explain key omissions resulting in a significantly biased historical presentation, which is illustrative of omissions, errors and bias elsewhere in the book. The blowdown felled a significant number of trees on about a million acres of forest and flattened about 400,000 acres. Like the treatment of nearly all of the other topics selected under "public participation," the book's treatment of the blowdown, after a short, summary of the meteorological event and the author's personal opinion about the source of fire risk, mainly relates what took place in the context of meetings chaired by DEC. The chapter's opening words are, "The way DEC managed the aftermath of the blowdown of 1995 is a glowing example of good management of public interest." (p. 245)

The chapter fails to mention, however, that Governor Pataki became involved immediately after the devastation. Headline articles in local newspapers showed the him in a helicopter appraising the vast area that had become a tangle of downed trees as far as the eye could see. He immediately promised publicly that salvaging would be instituted to reduce the fire hazard. The author describes the meetings chaired by DEC, complimenting the "facilitators" for keeping the meetings moving along and "keeping the attendees from the 3 p's (posturing, positioning, and the politics of division)." She fails to observe that, considering the way the meetings were chaired, those whose concerns conflicted with the views that were solidifying, namely the views of the environmental groups, were marginalized by these facilitators and others in control at the meetings. Subject matter open for discussion was limited, so that basic concerns such as fire risk and fire protection were given little opportunity for expression of the breadth and depth of concern held by some, without appearing disruptive.

The book states that before the working group meetings began the Adirondack Council and other groups warned that it would sue if DEC permitted salvage. According to the press articles, however, this threat was made by the Adirondack Mountain Club when it escalated its language after the DEC finished an early draft study of the blowdown, which it distributed confidentially to the working group members. The study described the immense fuel loading and fire hazard resulting from the blowdown. The Adirondack Mountain Club disregarded the protocol of the working group to complete the discussion of the report before offering public comments, and instead went to the press and own membership, claiming that some DEC staff were making overblown threats of fire hazard to pressure DEC into allowing salvage.

The Adirondack Council's October 1995 "Action Alert" attacked the DEC for supposed exaggeration; it used such words as, "One internal DEC document even says that the downed timber has the fuel capacity to create a giant fire ball that will create its own weather and jump the Northway." Actually these are two separate points, both justified by science and observation. That very same summer, the State's worst fire in eighty-five years, in the Long Island Pine Barrens, with much lower fuel levels than those in the Adirondacks, and which did not generate its own weather, had indeed jumped a comparable interstate highway, the Long Island Expressway. The location where the fire jumped the Expressway can be seen to this day.

Finally, the Adirondack Council threatened to sue. It became apparent that the Governor's position about salvage logging was going to be reversed.

In her book, McMartin fails to reveal what some consider the highlight of the draft DEC report, the evaluation of the fire hazard, which was still included in the final report, but in the context of bland recommendations. McMartin's only mention of the fire hazard emphasized in the report is the phrase "the historical relationship between blowdown and fire" in series with other report contents she lists. There is no further elaboration except for the footnote, "I contributed much of the historical background that went into this part of the report." But the DEC report did not downplay the fire hazard; rather it minced no words in a large opening section about fuels assessment, predicted wildfire behavior, and fuel model descriptions and expected behavior, supplemented by lengthy appendices where fuel and weather conditions were entered into standard models. Part of the summary states:

"The weather variables entered into the modeling are on the dry, warm range of expected weather. While this is not an every week occurrence in the affected area, these weather thresholds are frequently met in the summer months. The output data indicate a wind driven surface fire occurring under these assumed weather and slope conditions may enter into an accelerated stage and become plume dominated. This is a wild fire behavior stage where the intensity of the main fire front creates its own micro-climate weather. It would burn at this level until fuels are consumed to the point where localized weather conditions can once again affect fire behavior.
"The fire characteristic charts reveal that given the input data for the various slope conditions and using fuel moisture of 12 percent and windspeeds of 15 miles per hour the predicted fire behavior will exceed direct mechanical suppression efforts." (Draft - NYSDEC Adirondack Windstorm Report, November 20, 1995, p. 26)

The section "Assessment of Wildfire Risk" following the section based on the fuel buildup, downplays the risk described on the immediately preceding pages, based on recent history of fires in the area and the remaining areas of undamaged forests, which the writer of this section claims will slow the progression of any fire. Then the conclusion is reached, "The risk of large, spreading wildfire is relatively remote with proper planning for fire suppression and adequate funding to provide for early detection of fire, equipment and people to fight fires."

Fortunately, very moist summers followed the blowdown for several years. McMartin ends her chapter on the blowdown with the observation, "Furthermore, there were no fires, although, as in the years after 1950, the weather in the years after 1995 did as much to prevent fires as any state actions. It rained!"

A Follow-up Look

In the final section of the book, McMartin asks, "Where are they now?" and details the current involvements of selected people and organizations that the reader has met earlier in the book. This part of the book is again packed with useful information that can be found in no other single source. The trouble is that the section may have too many inaccuracies to be reliable. In a section headed "Carol LaGrasse and a New Property Rights Foundation," the author mentions PRFA annual conference in Albany in 1998. But she inexplicably states that it was "hosted by the Pacific Legal Foundation," which is untrue. James Burling of the Pacific Legal Foundation was the keynote guest speaker that year, but this doesn't lead to the conclusion that Pacific Legal was the host. In fact, PRFA hosted all of the annual conferences. Pacific Legal was never even one of the cosponsors of any of our conferences. The book goes on to accurately list the cosponsors of the 1998 conference.

The author seems to dwell on real or imagined animosity between groups that are not part of the environmental camp. She paints me simply as objecting to the other Adirondack organizations (even though I worked with many of the groups and still do), objecting to the Alliance for America (even though I was a founder, which she does not mention, and have devoted much time and expense of travel to many Alliance meetings), and objecting to "the focus of wise-use groups on issues affecting use of public land" (even though I have been working for years with them to support many of their positions on public lands). She concludes that "[LaGrasse's] interests were solely limited to private property, so in 1993 she formed the Property Rights Foundation of America." She characterizes much of my recent writing , as "half truths," but fails to give an example of a half truth. She characterized all of my litigation in denigrating terms, dismissing it as the result of "lack of good legal advice." Not realizing that I was a plaintiff, much less the individual who conceived the 1990 lawsuit challenging the promotion of the environmental bond act, she concludes that all my litigation failed. But she does describe all of the other Adirondack litigation where I was a plaintiff, with varying degrees of accuracy. She is also troubled that I may intend to continue litigation related to the Adirondack Park Agency.

Her short biography of me in the days before moving to the Adirondacks is especially revealing with respect to her understanding of private property rights. The background material is rather fair, allowing for her personal interpretation of my motivations, with which I disagree. However, I graduated from the City College of the City University of New York, rather than New York University, as she states. The little section about me seems to lead to the sentence, "While I came to respect her intelligence and found her a surprisingly sympathetic person, her positions are nevertheless incomprehensible to me because we are so far apart on property rights."

This admission is one of the keys to understanding the pervasive fallacy inherent in the book. Without comprehending how my positions on issues result from an acceptance of the justice in protecting private property rights, she cannot accurately write about the thirty years of controversy in the Adirondacks that coincide with the formation and jurisdiction of the Adirondack Park Agency. She is sympathetic but uncomprehending. While achieving better than any other disciplined writer an account in detail about the opposition to state policies imposed on the Adirondacks, she seems to be unable to comprehend the opposition, because this opposition is based on principles she cannot understand. Opposition to the APA springs from the denial in the APA Act and by the APA in practice of three interrelated, well-recognized human rights under our system of law: private property rights, the right to representative government, and the right to equal protection of the law, which is really part and parcel with the right of due process, or the right to be governed by a firm body of written law that is the same for everyone.

Because of the respect with which she treats even her opponents in face-to-face situations, her disciplined background, and the wide regard in which she is held because of her many hiking books which are veritable bibles of access to the hills and peaks of the Adirondacks, McMartin commands the credibility that gave her access to many interviews. She has attempted what no earlier author has dared, a thorough history that in the detailed telling would somehow reveal the bridge of harmony between the two sides in the Adirondacks. She garnered a treasure trove of information that she compiled into a compendium of knowledge that will serve as a resource for years to come, if the reader is judicious enough to double-check content for inaccuracies. McMartin has created a noteworthy record of the thirty years of Adirondack antagonism as well as some of the intriguing examples of the foibles of the opposition side, sometimes with disarming accuracy.

Underlying Beliefs

McMartin is sympathetic with the local people in their experience of the elitism of environmentalists. But her preoccupation is with the love of nature. In spite of her obvious appreciation of human nature, it seems that she sees the people in the Adirondacks in the context of the great cause, preserving nature.

"Some of the players in this thirty-year saga—those who have fled from the fray—have reminded me that this is a very small world we are talking about, the home of only 130,000 people. That number is so small it is easy to see how those in power statewide could ignore such a politically marginal pool of voters. I want readers to remember that this is the largest state park in the nation, the largest wilderness conglomerate outside Alaska. Its very importance elevates concerns for the lives of its residents to the level of its natural stature. These issues and concerns have significance worldwide, for most of the world's natural parks and biosphere reserves, many of which are inhabited like the park, are similarly complex."

Her concern for people in the context of protecting nature is more a concern for human harmony than a concern for the rights of people. She thinks that it is not the basic approach of the APA Act, which is built on the assumption that fundamental rights of a marginalized population can be infringed on, but the weaknesses in the detailed writing of the law where the problems lie. She believes that the law failed to sympathetically take into account and relieve the people's angst and that it inadequately protected certain natural attributes such as roadsides and waterfronts. She states, "[L]ack of concern for the citizens of the park, together with the intrinsic flaws in the APA Act, rendered this regulatory revolution imperfect," but she never arrives at anything of substance to meet citizens' concerns, except more participation in the protection of the park. She has gone to great lengths to tell the story of the local opposition, but what does she want for them? Certainly not restoration of the basic rights taken from them which still exist elsewhere in the State of New York. No, she would like to hear them out, analyze their foibles and heal them. In a sense, because her volume has dug out some of the foibles of the Adirondack opposition, invented others, and revealed so little of the great sacrifices and brilliant organizing that many of the opposition in the Adirondacks have accomplished to try to restore their rights, she has actually produced a book that may reduce the public stature of the people of the Adirondacks.

Yet, McMartin holds a belief that is quite different from that of many of today's environmentalists. This belief seems to be the heart of her quest for harmony developed throughout this book. "The failure for thirty years (1970 to 2001) to include humans in wilderness preservation philosophy has been the source of many governmental shortcomings."

In McMartin's mind, this shortcoming results in the many examples of conflict that she thoroughly details. She summarizes in various places in her book the litigation that has challenged the establishment of the Adirondack Park Agency and the land acquisition. Beginning with the court battle over the Ton-De-Lay development proposal for the Town of Altamont, she covers some of the key court battles, ending with the failure of the lawsuit organized by the Property Rights Foundation of America to challenge the State acquisition of the Champion International lands. Pointing out that violence in the Adirondacks has been rare, she finds that the "the polarization, the actual breach between people within such a small community, has been unsettling."

To discuss topics which she categorizes as "public participation," she treats almost entirely of state government-sponsored committees and meetings, which she seems to believe present a credible process. She apparently has not watched with engagement while local people verbally slug it out at their town meetings, satisfying or relinquishing their various goals, and often compromising their differences. She misses the idealism and vibrant hope of citizens parading down the Northway and the boulevards of Albany to express their confidence in their inalienable rights. Perhaps she is comfortable when people who come in from the woods in their flannel shirts and work pants are squelched at meetings where they are too shy or respectful to speak up, as long as a state agency produces a printed outcome that enumerates and interprets the structured opportunity for "citizen participation." There is no genuine "citizen participation" where the attendees know that the meeting hosts, who are bureaucrats appointed by other bureaucrats appointed by a governor elected by the residents of a state where Adirondack residents comprise less than one percent of the population, have predetermined that the views of the local citizens are to be politely heard and disregarded, as under the system of DEC hearings for management of the sections of the State Forest Preserve in the Adirondacks.

The government-sponsored structures for participation by Adirondack residents are fated to create resentment until self-government is restored to the Adirondack region. But McMartin does not understand this. At the end of her lengthy discussion of the Open Space Plan Regional Advisory Committees, she points out an interesting frustration, which demonstrates that she has no idea of the source of legitimacy of elected local government:

"Some of the committee votes were unanimous; most of the few resolutions were passed by majority vote. Although committee members agreed to support majority resolutions, this was not binding on the organizations or towns they represented. This to me is one of the committee's weakest aspects. Members do not truly represent in the sense that they can compromise or join in a consensus agreement, and the group or town they represent often continues to oppose the compromise or just returns to its earlier stance."

The author makes it clear by illustration that she is referring to her frustration with those members of the regional advisory committees that represent local towns (the minority, as opposed to the state-appointed majority). It appears that she desires that committee members from local towns bring back an ultimatum to the locally elected officials that they support the committee's conclusions.

Planning Ahead

Lastly, the author gives her "Final Thoughts." In this chapter, she is lays it on the line to the big environmental groups.

"Mark Dowie, in Losing Ground, concludes his analysis of the environmental movement nationally by suggesting that those groups have lost their grassroots touch. That is equally true in the Adirondacks, where a few of these groups are so far from grass roots that they have become bloated, huge, and nonresponsive except to the members of their moneyed constituencies. And money plays a huge role in what they do. Each group strives to be broadly environmental, lest any other group get ahead, but outstandingly different in some respect in order to justify their ever-increasing need for funds." (p. 342)

She faults the environmental groups for lacking vision and failing to take a proactive approach to planning. The heart of the failure of the environmental groups, she concludes, is their lack of leadership in promoting public participation in planning for the future of the Adirondacks.

She would like to see an agency created to promote dialogue. Her criticisms of the DEC's and the APA's efforts to create public dialogue are not as severe as her remarks about the environmental groups. She points out that DEC has responded favorably to all sorts of special interest groups. She feels that the APA's outreach has been more successful than DEC's, but that the APA's is too swept up in technical details, and that the agency is too busy to engage in true planning.

The fairness in McMartin's interest in the people of the Adirondacks is apparent. She feels deeply a need to deal with the concern that Adirondackers had no access to governor's staff or to the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-first Century. "The environmentalists had access all along. The new groups were unable to gain acceptance partly because they were unsophisticated in the ways of politics. The parochialism among residents, which can be attributed to lack of exposure to the larger world, has made groups and individuals seem to harden positions before they understand issues. Those aspects have changed, but the level of access remains unbalanced." (p. 344)

She looks toward "translating the governance of the park into modern terms and creating a structure that adapts to future change," but sees these as "difficult steps." (p. 345)

Ultimately, her proposals are disappointing. As the Twenty-first Century Commission desired, she would like to use the Blue Line to create a separate region for DEC to oversee natural resources in the Adirondack Park. At one point, she mentions separating out the Department of Transportation and Department of Health for the Adirondacks. Near the conclusion of the book she appears to advocate a park service, where "all the agencies within the park had regional boundaries that coincided with the park boundary." These proposals failed twelve years ago because they were so objectionable to Adirondackers, who justly felt that they would be further isolated from the mainstream. Repeating this failed proposal misses the functioning commercial boundaries of the region. Those individuals and businesses in the southeast, for instance, work and travel to market areas in the southeast (such as Glens Falls and Albany) for commerce, medical attention, and the like. A proposal to centralize human functions related to government in a new office within the Adirondack Blue Line boundaries fails to recognize the natural, functioning market boundaries, which go to the northeast, southeast, west central, west, and so on, and not to Ray Brook, an out-of-the-way place where the DEC Region 5 and the APA are headquartered. One of the mistakes of the APA law was the denial of the commercial functioning of the area. An effort to further break down this functioning would further weaken the Adirondack economy and way of life.

The proposal that seems to bring together the author's thinking is that to create a new planning agency that would be a forum for all points of view. She would like this "Adirondack Planning Agency" to be "an independent, long-lasting, ongoing, regularly reinvigorated, charismatically led agency, practiced in civility, open and responsive to all points of view but not subservient to any one." She lists all of the different groups that the planning agency would listen to, and ends with "everyone." "With someone listening, there will be no need for groups to pontificate because the listeners will be most responsive to constructive ideas. The listeners will define the goals for the park, and participants will need to agree on consensus building." (p. 347)

As McMartin describes her vision, she inadvertently reveals that she is open to the possibility of utopian planning. "Giving equal footing to all voices before an unbiased planning agency, would help dispel social ills, the sense of discrimination, and class divisions, which are felt by some. That would enhance a needed sense of civility among groups." (p. 347)

McMartin fails to realize that participation in centralized planning is inherently discriminatory, and that centralized planning is inherently repressive. Natural selection would fall into place just as it does today in the course of efforts, where to the limited extent possible citizens "participate" in DEC and APA hearings but are not truly heard. The powerful entities will have the resources to articulately present their views, the weaker ones will have neither the time nor the funds, and where they do participate by sacrificing time from their jobs, community obligations, or families, they will be largely ignored. The effectiveness of citizen participation is reduced in direct proportion to their distance from the seat of government.

Furthermore, the creation of another government agency creates the potential for the corruption of that agency. Like any other agency, especially a non-elected one, the planning agency would fall into many of the usual traps to which government is vulnerable, acting responsively to friends, bribes, the powerful, the influential, the insiders, and the agency's own quest for power. A geographically distant agency that would not be directly responsible to those governed would be relatively comfortable with ignoring those who are not part of the same influential circle and with offering pro-forma opportunities for them to be heard with no intention to take their viewpoints into account to build a fair "consensus."

The mechanism for Adirondack residents and property owners to be heard is not another central planning agency, however, idealistically a believer like McMartin presents its style of governance. The structure to allow Adirondack residents and property owners to be heard is already in place, at every town level. It is town government, and for those issues related to the larger region, county government. To those issues related to State concern, such as management of the State-owned Forest Preserve, there already exists the State Legislature, which has created the DEC and APA, but given these agencies unconstitutional powers over the local property owners. The change that should be put in place is to eliminate the powers of the APA and DEC to regulate property in any way differently from land elsewhere in New York State. The debate may continue ad infinitum, however sympathetically, as McMartin attends to the disgruntled reactions of the Adirondackers, but the debate will not settle down as long as those most deeply felt rights, the right to own and use private property, and the right to be governed equally under the law, are not respected. From those fundamental starting places, a new, just government, geared to address concerns about resource protection, could be built without the raw feelings just below the surface in the Adirondacks.

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