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e s f home link - e s f college of environmental science and forestry

Voices from the Adirondacks: New Book Examines Park Management

ESF co-authors look at the issues related to balancing public and private interests

If there is a single phrase that captures the essence of the Adirondack Park, as a park, in the past 35 years, that phrase might be "trial by fire." At one end of the spectrum are those who see the park's land-use regulations as insufficient to protect a wilderness resource of increasing global rarity. At the other end are those who see the regulations as an unwarranted intrusion into private enterprise. This polarity of opinion arises not just from differing values, but also from the experiences of the people who have grappled with the issue. The debate over top-down planning versus local decision-making has dominated the lives of park residents and non-residents for more than a generation.

Is there wisdom born of implementing far-reaching land-use regulations and the resultant contentious debate? A new book by William F. Porter, director of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry's (ESF) Adirondack Ecological Center; former ESF President Ross Whaley; and Jon Erickson, associate professor at the University of Vermont, suggests there is and seeks to capture that wisdom. The book is The Great Experiment in Conservation: Voices from the Adirondacks, published by Syracuse University Press. The book draws on civic leaders, agency practitioners and academics to explore the ecological, cultural, and economic cornerstones of park management. Book contributors explore the successes and failures of the past three decades as state agencies and local governments struggled to balance public and private interests.

The editors and three dozen other authors draw on the history of the debates about conservation in Adirondack Park to focus on the emerging lessons. They describe how the park is likely to shape, and be shaped by, new paradigms for regional land management. Contributors to the book include authors Bill McKibben and Philip Terrie; Herman Daly, the father of ecological economics; Adirondack scholars such as Craig Gilborn, former director of the Adirondack Museum, and ESF Professor Emeritus Rainer Brocke; and practitioners such as Roger Dziengeleski of Finch, Pruyn Paper Company.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Adam Hochschild, who reviewed the book for Syracuse University Press, commented, "I'd love to see this important book be required reading for every New York state legislator and opinion-maker. Alive with personal voices, it is also packed with vital information and at times justifiably angry at what we human beings have done to the Adirondacks. It reminds us of what we've lost, of what we can still save, and of what a rare treasure this extraordinary region is."