The Adirondack Mountains form a 2.5 million hectare (ha) region of enormous potential for the study of ecology and sustainable development. Characterized by a combination of mountains and lakes that is unique to eastern North America, the region lies in the transition zone between the eastern deciduous and boreal forest biomes, and supports an exceptionally rich diversity of flora and fauna. Because the region differs geologically and climatically from surrounding environments, it functions as a distinct ecosystem.
Throughout this century, the Adirondacks have been a crucible of conservation in America. It was bypassed by human development throughout most of the 18th and 19th centuries, then heavily disturbed, and finally set aside as a wilderness area. Disturbance occurred between 1870-1890 when white pine and hemlock resources were exploited. Since 1890, the region has been protected from most large scale impacts by a unique blend of legislation. Efforts begun in 1885 created the Adirondack Park, 1 million ha of public preserve and 1.5 million ha of privately owned land. Today, both public and private lands within the Adirondack Park are stringently controlled by the State under an amendment to the New York constitution.
The future of this region is nevertheless being impacted by man. The Adirondack Park is located within a day's drive of approximately 30 percent of the North American human population and represents a major recreational resource. It lies east of the Great Lakes and the Ohio River Valley industrial complex and is thus subject to acidic deposition. Finally, economic forces continue to affect the park. These forces and other human demands, in the context of this wilderness environment, create one of the world's foremost experiments in natural resource conservation and sustainability.