Monday, May 2, 2016

A subjectively objective look at the Boreas Ponds Tract

The Adirondack Council, in its campaign “Be Wild NY,” recently argued to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo: "You have an extraordinary opportunity to create a true national legacy, an Adirondack wilderness area here in New York whose scale and positive impacts will rival some of the most famous conservation landmarks in the world.” What they are referring to as the Governor’s unique opportunity is his ability to label the recently bought Boreas Ponds tract of land as Wilderness. The Boreas Ponds tract is beautiful, it’s currently remote and pristine, and its addition to the High Peaks Wilderness would act almost as the cherry on top. The group is right that Cuomo has an extraordinary opportunity at his fingertips, but do their ambitious claims about the land rivaling the “most famous conservation landmarks in the world,” hold up? And do they hold up in the light of local economic pressure that wants a designation less strict than “wilderness”?
To examine the claim that this new tract of land will cause the Adirondacks to rival the most famous conservation landmarks in the world, we have to look at those famous landmarks. Quantitatively, the Boreas Ponds purchase is 89 square kilometers. To put that in perspective, Yellowstone another park within America, is just under 9,000 square kilometers. If the quantitative argument is relative to what the Boreas Ponds tract makes the High Peaks Wilderness as a whole, it still remains under 1,000 square kilometers. So the quantitative argument cannot be made, but that doesn’t rule out a qualitative one. To argue about the intrinsic beauty of the Boreas Ponds is valid, but highly subjective, which brings in the title of this blog post. Recently however, some groups have argued from a scientific perspective that the ecosystems protected in the Boreas Ponds will be severely damaged if opened up to snowmobile access.
Whether or not the Boreas Ponds tract really will cause it to “rival” some of the most recognized protected areas in the world, its protection will go down with controversy. My own opinion is that the Boreas Ponds tract should be labeled as wilderness. I believe that Governor Cuomo’s attitude toward the park often ignores the potentially extremely valid points of groups like the Adirondack Council. At the end of the day, someone needs to be able to look past the Park’s monetary value and speak on behalf of its beauty.


Friday, April 29, 2016

The First Family of Hunting

Hunting is a way of life in the Adirondacks. Dating back to the Native Americans who used the park as a hunting ground, people have made a living of the fruits of the land. However, now that it only takes a short trip to the grocery store to get food and refrigeration keeps it safe for days, the significance of hunting as drastically changed. While hunting is still seen as an example of our struggle with nature, it has become more of a sport.
            The Salerno family exemplifies this cultural shift. The four Salereno brothers, Pat Jr., Tim, Randy, and Tony, learned how to hunt from their father, Pat Sr. Pat. Sr. spent much of his time in the Adirondacks learning the tricks of the trade. He also played baseball and according to Adirondack life he, “brought the same dedication to hunting as he did to the other great sport in his life, baseball”(Connelly, 2014). Pat Sr. once a shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers is a man of many talents. He used his hunting talents to turn a profit, doing shows, selling DVDs and even appearing on the Discovery Channel. The Salerno family is a typical Adirondack family in that not only are they able to make a living off the land in but they are able to do so in a creative and unique fashion.
            The techniques and stories told by the family also capture the spirit of the Adirondacks. The family hunts by pretending to be just another animal in the woods. They try to match the pace of the bucks that they are trying to hunt. If the deer starts run they run, if it meanders, they meander (Connelly, 2014). The family is truly trying to become a part of the woods. But, they are doing so in order to kill and remove something from the woods. This complex seems to be an intrinsic part of the contradictions with the park Yes, humans are trying to coexist with the wilderness and live within the park. At the same time we must ask ourselves what are we taking away and destroying by trying to do so.

Connelly, Joe. "Adirondack Life Blog Archive The Ghost Buck - Adirondack Life." Adirondack Life Blog Archive The Ghost Buck - Adirondack Life. Adirondack Life, 29 Oct. 2016. Web. 29 Apr. 2016. <>.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Letter to Governer Cuomo

Dear Governor Cuomo,

As a citizen of New York, I count myself lucky to live in a state with both world class city and wilderness life. I have, for my whole life, had a deep appreciation for the Adirondack Park. The more I learn about the intricacies of land within the Blue Line—the unparalleled puzzle of ownership and usage, the coexistence of wonders of natural and human origin—the more I am intent on making sure the future of the park does not undo all that we have achieved to date. We cannot watch the Adirondack Park gradually lose the wild character that defines it, but must make the most of our opportunities to expand on it. Preservation of wilderness in the Adirondacks should not only be a legacy, but should be an ongoing part of the park. The purchase of the Boreas Ponds is an exciting opportunity to fulfill our responsibility of preservation in the park.

I urge you, Governor Cuomo, to designate the Boreas Ponds as wilderness, to expand the Adirondack High Peaks Wilderness into a continuous tract of protected New York State beauty at its best. Now is a time of momentous global awareness of our responsibilities to our planet, of acknowledging that the needs of our environment are inseparable from the needs of our world. Now is not the time to make small concessions with big consequences. The Boreas Ponds area took hundreds of years to reach its current state; allowing motorized vehicles on it now would be like buying a beautiful shirt, only to toss it into a churning washing machine without concern for how much nicer it could look and how much longer it could last if it were carefully hand washed. Let's not ignore the instructions on the back of the tag. The Boreas Ponds tract deserves to be officially declared as wilderness.


Hannah Lasher

Do People Really Value Adirondack Wildness?

Since the 19th century, people have visited the Adirondacks in search for wilderness. They seek to escape from the bustle of cities, suburbs, and civilization. Paradoxically, these tourists demand both wilderness and infrastructure. For example, New York State has constructed campgrounds, cabins, dams, bridges, and roads to help the public access and enjoy the park (Jenkins 2004). Therefore, an important lingering question remains: has the Adirondack wilderness retained its authentic wildness (i.e. the extent that something is not humanized)? More importantly, do people value recreation over wildness? In my opinion, the general public does not think too deeply about questions of wildness and only a few philosophers contemplate it.
            Stocking rivers with fish is a quintessential example of wildness and human biological interventions. In 1999, approximately 1,500,000 hatchery fish were released in the Adirondacks to meet the demands of Adirondack fishermen (Jenkins 2004). Some of the fish species were native to the Adirondacks, however the rest were introduced to the region through human intervention. According to Jenkins, the state, fishermen, and many fish hunting animals such as otters, mink and herons were grateful for this stocking of the Adirondack’s rivers. The supply of this fish was beneficial to all parties. Yet Jenkins calls attention to the lack of wildness of biological intervention. He writes, “The only people it distresses are a few grumpy ecologists, who find it incongruous that the largest wilderness in the east has almost no natural fisheries.”
            In their paper “Wildness and Ecocentrism: A Defense of Valuing Nature for Its Naturalness”, philosophers Ned Hettinger and Bill Throop argue that wildness plays a central role in the nexus of human values (1999). Although Hettinger and Throop have probably never met Jenkins in real life, the ideas of Hettinger and Throop provide an explanation for Jenkins’s concerns about the lack of natural fisheries in the Adirondacks. For example, Hettinger and Throop write, “There are important reasons to distinguish human activity from the activity of wild nature. Human transformations of the land are different in evaluative relevant ways from transformations imposed by nonhuman species or processes”(1999). However, as Jenkins comments, few people reflect upon the loss of wildness in the Adirondacks, and they are not disturbed by biological intervention. Instead, most visitors are more worried about the aesthetic beauty of the park. The NY state constitution requires Adirondack lands be “forever kept as wild forest lands,” but does the “forever wild” clause really imply the preservation of Adirondack wildness?


Jenkins, Jerry, and Andy Keal. The Adirondack Atlas: A Geographic Portrait of the Adirondack Park. Syracuse, N.Y: Syracuse University Press, 2004. Print.

Hettinger, Ned and Bill Throop. “Refocusing Ecocentrism: De-emphasizing Stability and Defending Wildness,” Environmental Ethics 21, no. 1 (Spring 1999): 3-21

The Adirondack Enchanted Forest Water Safari: Musings on Tourism

In 1956 Lake George premiered its very own Enchanted Forest Water Safari amusement park. The trend for these amusement parks has been economically beneficial for the Adirondacks and other tourist destinations, but detracts from the authenticity of the culture in the area. However, business will be business; and if this tourist business isn't damaging the environment, it has potential in the Adirondack park.

Tourism brings is a remarkable amount of money to the Adirondacks. About 17% of the population is employed through the tourist business, either in the summer or winter. Mostly, however, tourism occurs in the summer months, complicating the lives of many who rely only on summer income.

What I find questionable are the patterns of tourism. The Adirondacks are appealing to tourists because of their remote, natural wonder. Yet, a large part of the tourist culture has no interaction with nature itself. Water parks and luxury hotels are incorporated throughout the park with little regard for the park's natural attractiveness.

In the end, people are going to do what they can to survive of the land. The Adirondack economy is variable and tough to conquer. If this artificial tourism gives some businesses a head up, that's completely fine. I can't complain about economic success of the people in a more-or-less sustainable way. But I can complain about the shifting mindset to a more artificial, less engaged style of vacationing.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Harmful & Edible Plants in the Adirondacks

If you’re like me, when you’re hiking somewhere with foliage, you’re either on the lookout for plants like poison ivy or poison oak, or you’re hiking behind someone who knows what they’re looking for. I admire people who can look at a plant species and immediately identify it, listing off potential benefits or reasons to avoid it. Yet even with the appreciation for this skill, our generation seems to lack botanists, or people who can identify plants. However, knowing the uses or dangers of plants is a valuable skill, and can mean the difference between life and death.
Many plants in the Adirondacks are dangerous, including poison ivy, stinging nettle, and common honeysuckle. Poison ivy is well known – perhaps because it is so wide-spread. This type of perennial grows in a variety of climates, and is most identifiable by its clusters of three notched leaves. Not as many people know that poison ivy also produces hairy, poisonous, thick vines that grow up trees (Dangerous Plants 2016). Poison ivy, like its friend stinging nettle, is should be avoided at all costs, as most people will develop a painful rash shortly after touching it. 
Identification of Poison Ivy from

Stinging nettle is another perennial that has identifiable short stinging hairs on both its stems and leaves that produce a burning and itching sensation in its victim. It is another very common plant, and it easily identifiable by its jagged-edged, notched leaves(Dangerous Plants 2016). In addition to leaves and stems, some innocent-looking berries can be very dangerous to human health upon consumption. For example, the small, red berries of the common honeysuckle are toxic to humans and can induce intense vomiting. To be safe, if you don’t know what it is, it’s best to avoid touching it or putting it in your mouth.
Information about Common Honeysuckle from
Even though there are some harmful and dangerous plants living in the wilderness, there are also some very beneficial and possibly tasty plants,such as pine and cattail Surprisingly, the common pine tree contain an edible inner bark that has valuable nutritious properties (Warren 2014). To harvest this edible layer, all you need to do is use a knife to cut under the top bark of a pine branch to reach the edible inner bark layer, which can be chewed or prepared in various ways. A former Adirondack Native American tribe survived harsh winters by consuming pine (Warren 2014). 
The edible portion of pine bark. Image from

Cattail, a common wetland plant, is also edible, assuming the water source is clean. Grasping cattail at the base, you can pull upwards to free the plant from the muddy soil (Warren 2014). Peel away the outer leaf layers until the interior color is white. Like pine, this can also be eaten raw or steamed (Warren). While I have never tried eating these plant species, it would be an interesting experience to try! However, I strongly recommend only tasting plants in the presence of a knowledgeable botanist.
In a world that is growing farther apart from nature, we need to acknowledge and use the knowledge that generations of people before us have gathered, especially relating to beneficial and harmful plants. Who knows - some day, it might come in handy!
Dangerous Plants. New York State Government. Department of Transportation. 2016.

Warren, Mark. The Lost Instinct of Knowing What to Eat: edibles in the wild. The Blue Ridge Highlander. 2014

Doctors Needed

Albeit the Adirondacks are an extremely beautiful and bucolic place that attract people from around the world to visit or even stay permanently, the park struggles to attract one group of people in particular: doctors. This has become one of the bigger social problems the park has recently encountered. Around the world there is great demand for doctors and not nearly enough supply. To make matters worse, studies have shown that the fewer the primary care physicians (PCPs) per capita, the worse the quality of healthcare (Reed). The Adirondacks are in desperate need of more primary care physicians and better health care, but what are the roots of this problem and can they be addressed?

According to North Country Public Radio, there are a host of reasons why young medical students are not attracted to a rural lifestyle. A recent article about the shortage explained that “a lack of cultural opportunities, shopping, and food diversity has been cited by doctors who take a pass on the country life” (Reed). Additionally, I imagine that few doctors just out of medical school wish to leave more densely populated areas to take up a rural lifestyle during that time in their lives. Certainly there are more, and more highly regarded, opportunities in cities and suburbs than there are in a place like the Adirondacks.

So how should this problem be addressed? How can more primary care physicians be enticed to make their living in the Adirondacks? At the moment The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) are emphasizing the role of primary care providers in an effort to improve the health care system. Additionally, there are special programs and benefits for primary care providers who agree to go to rural places, which could be enticing to some. More, however, needs to be done to solve this problem. Fortunately, as a nation and a region, we have recognized the problem before us and are brainstorming to find solutions.