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Local conservation history in archives

Johnsburg Historical Society

Here is the photo of Evelyn Greene interviewing Ed Zahniser at his Bakers Mills cabin on Aug. 15, 2012.

Here is the photo of Evelyn Greene interviewing Ed Zahniser at his Bakers Mills cabin on Aug. 15, 2012. Photo by David Braley

Alice Zahniser signed the bill in place of her husband.

Interviewer Evelyn Greene and interviewee Edward Zahniser reminisced about the happy times they shared at the Zahniser cabin through many childhood summers. After the first visit to the Schaefers in 1946, the Zahnisers purchased 21 acres and a house at the top of Edwards Hill from Harold and Pansy Allen. The Allens wanted to move down the hill to flatter pastureland. With four children, husband away at work, no running water and no electricity, Alice Zahniser spent every summer at the idyllic retreat. Carolyn Schaefer and her four children, including Evelyn, would stay also in their nearby cabin. Water was supplied by the spring, meals were cooked over the fire, refrigeration was a bucket in the spring, and there was an outhouse. Electricity was added in 1964 and later a telephone.

Alice Zahniser continued to spend summers there with visiting children and grandchildren for 60 years.

Sharing his father’s love of the land, Ed Zahniser has worked for the National Park Service since 1977 as writer and editor. He has produced all visitor information brochures for each of the 58 national parks, has been involved with the rest of the 397 protected areas of the national park system, and has written books on Yosemite, Sequoia, Great Smoky Mountains, Big Bend and others. He continues to write for the NPS to this day.

When asked about his major environmental concerns for the Adirondacks now, Zahniser noted two. One was the impact of snowmobiles on forest preserve and their contribution to noise pollution and wildlife stress. The other is the future of fire prevention in an area where more and more homes are being built in the forest. He cited the situation of the terrible recent wildfires in Colorado, a result of the interface between human habitat and the forest.

A recently written biography by Mark Harvey, Wilderness Forever: Howard Zahniser and the Path to the Wilderness Act, is available at Town of Johnsburg Library. Another publication of interest to naturalists and to caretakers of the land is Where Wilderness Preservation Began, edited by Ed Zahniser.

The two friends Howard Zahniser and Paul Schaefer have been described as having “a kind of wilderness dementia.” The Town of Johnsburg has benefited from their obsession.

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