May 22, 2004
To the Editor:
The "Summer Handbook" insert with the Hamilton County News this week was enticing and enjoyable, but the "Welcome to Hamilton County" section contained an error that deserves correction, because it represents a dangerous, recurring misunderstanding.
The article incorrectly stated that Hamilton County is "totally surrounded by and part of the six million-acre Adirondack Park Forest Preserve " Actually, the six million-acre Adirondack region, which was designated by the Legislature as the so-called "Adirondack Park," now contains somewhere in the neighborhood of one-half privately owned land, depending on how "privately owned" is defined.
In any case, the private land is not part of the Forest Preserve. It is important to keep before the public that the State does not own the three million-odd acres of private land in the Adirondack Park. When the Adirondack Park Agency Act was passed in its final form in 1973, one of the promises on which the acquiescence of Adirondack legislators was garnered was that a balance would be forever maintained between the local economy and culture, on the one hand, and the preservation of nature, on the other. The local side of the balance is favored by the maintenance of privately owned land. The balance of local heritage vs. the preservation of nature is becoming too tipped toward pure wilderness restoration, considering that only a few years ago, during the early 1990's, State land ownership stood at just 40 percent of the total.
On top of this accelerating trend to shift landownership toward the government, the powerful Adirondack Park Agency, with its regulatory control over both State and private land, fosters the goals of the wealthy, extreme environmental organizations that are so able to make their weight felt whenever an issue matters to them, whether it involves snowmobiling policy for the entire Adirondack region or an application for a permit for a single house 300 ft from the shore of a small artificial lake in Stony Creek, the town where I reside.
My point is that there is something of great importance to preserve in the Adirondacks: the private ownership of as much as three million acres of land. People have to recognize that this land is private in order to be willing to stand up to protect private property rights.