Defining Conservation

When I heard the Indian Lake Town Board had invited a representative from the Nature Conservancy to speak at their next meeting, it prompted me to reflect on some of the questions I have as well. The Conservancys recent purchase of the Holy Grail of Adirondack conservation, shocked many of us, and sparked a firestorm of controversy throughout the region. I was very fortunate as a child, and eventually a young man, to belong to one of the various recreational leases located on land owned at the time by Finch, Pruyn & Company. For anyone who has never experienced the virtual communities that exist deep in the heart of the Adirondack wilderness, its truly hard to describe. Amidst 161,000 acres of timber, rivers, and lakes 3,500 individuals lease property for the purpose of enjoying the mountains, and using the land recreationally, in a manner not found anywhere else inside the Blue Line. It was on Finch land that I learned how to drive, how to hunt and fish, how to spend time alone in the wilderness and probably most importantly, how to understand myself and my place in this world. These experiences defined me at the time, and I look back on them fondly. While I do not know what the Nature Conservancy intends to do with what has been called one of the largest conservation transactions in U.S. history, I do believe they have the best of intentions for the land. Whether I, or anyone else, agree with how these intentions are to be realized is what remains to be seen. In my view, the Adirondack Park continues to be one of the most significant environmental experiments in the history of modern civilization. Where else can you live within the boundaries of a state park with all the comforts and conveniences to be found anywhere else in the country? The relationship between the land and its inhabitants has always been a complicated one in the Adirondacks, and the current issue brings many of them into sharp focus. What will become of the hundreds of personally owned camps that dot the property? What happens after the 20-year timber agreement expires? What is the Nature Conservancy planning to do with the land, and who will the next owner be? Will the lands be opened to public access, and if so, what kind of use will be allowed? These are some of the questions that I have, and I am sure others have as well. Indian Lake is making the right move by opening a dialog that is long overdue. I hope they walk away with the answers they are looking for, and maybe in the process, we will too.

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