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The business of wilderness

Soaring mountain cliffs and gentle backcountry lakes are key features of the rugged Adirondack wilderness.

Soaring mountain cliffs and gentle backcountry lakes are key features of the rugged Adirondack wilderness. Photo by Joe Hackett.

Although several local politicians have argued the proposed state lands will not generate comparable economic benefits to a working forest, or recreational leases, the math simply doesn’t support such arguments.

In 1920, about 120,000 people were employed in the wood products industry in New York state. By 1970, less than 6000 were so employed.

The peak year for the Adirondack lumber industry was 1905 when about 3.5 million trees were felled and over 700 million board feet of lumber were produced. Today, the Adirondack lumber industry can’t compete with pulpwood produced on tree farms in Siberia, or hardwoods harvested in Malaysia.

Currently, machines such as ‘feller/bunchers’ and similar on-site production mills, can be operated by a small contingent of workers. They can accomplish the output of a small army of lumbermen, in less time and with far less expense.

It is difficult to compare the economic values of a working forest to the economic benefits of a protected forest. However, the most glaring comparison is evident in the scenic vistas, the abundance of fresh water, fresh air, the diverse ecosystems and the wildlife.These quality of life issues are available to both visitors and local residents.

Wood products are available in many places, across the globe. However, wilderness is not so easily procured. Modern society is just not producing wilderness anymore. It is a product that grows slowly, and spoils easily. Yet once it takes root, it is very difficult to remove it.

With over 23 percent of the US population located within a day’s travel, the Adirondack region is ideally suited to dispense the elixir of wilderness for years to come.

Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at brookside18@adelphia.net.

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