The 51st state?

As Adirondack residents, the fact that we can occasionally feel under-represented by our state government agencies came to light again this week. This time, the reaction was ignited by news of a proposed DEC ban on outdoor burning. As the various stories spread through the region it left many of us to wonder if the folks in Albany remembered that we were still here and might have an opinion on the subject. The decision by DEC to only hold one public input session inside the park certainly did not help the issue. Like many parts of the world with a geographic, demographic and economic divide between the populace and the government, we are faced with a situation that we just cant seem to overcome. From what I have been able to discover, the question of outdoor burning has been batted around the state legislature in various forms since it was first recommended by the Department of Health in 1968. The recent initiative by the DEC also highlighted the departments authority to write, enact, and enforce new laws outside of the traditional legislative process in Albany. According to the proposed DEC Regulation on Open Burning, section 215.1, the measure would ban Any outdoor fire or outdoor smoke producing process from which air contaminants are emitted directly into the outdoor atmosphere. Among several other provisions, the proposal would also define a campfire as any outdoor open fire less than three feet in height, length and width or diameter. While I am certainly not a fan of burn barrels and the burning of household trash, tires, etc. this measure appears to be a broad-brush approach to address some very specific problems related to the (down-state) burning of agricultural waste. While the measures intent is questionable an underlying sense that the opinions of upstate residents did not matter was compounded by the DECs limited public hearing schedule. The DEC has also voiced support for brush chipping versus the common (and free) practice of controlled burning. Its no wonder why some of us feel cutoff from Albany and as I have discovered, we are not alone. Ironically some of the people in New York City apparently feel the same way. Since the late 18th Century and all the way to January of this year, various proposals have been presented to the state legislature in support of New York Citys secession from the state. In a recent New Yorker article, proponents for secession felt the city had a unique economic, political, and demographic base that was best served by independence from Albany. I cant quite put a finger on it but language like this sounds terribly familiar. If you combine New York Citys efforts with several other secession movements, including one that seeks to divide the state from east to west just below the Catskills - Albany must feel a bit like the last kid left in the sandbox without any toys. While talks of secession are little more than idealistic daydreaming they do highlight a very real need in our society to seek a geographic sense of balance. The bottom line is our desire to feel that we belong to the area we call home, particularly when it comes down to how we are instructed to live our lives. The good news is that DEC has suddenly decided to schedule further public hearings on the ban - including a couple inside the park in August. So I guess we will have to worry about secession some other time. I have to admit that I was looking forward to proposing that our new state flag feature a picture of happy Adirondack campers roasting marshmallows and hot dogs over a four foot campfire. It just seemed fitting for some reason. Brett Hagadorn is editor of the North Creek News Enterprise, a Denton Publication. He can be reached at brett@denpubs.com

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