An Experiment Involving People
In last weekend's Adirondack Daily Enterprise (12/18), NCPR columnist Brian Mann made several important observations about the neglected and fragile economy inside the Blue Line. In his piece entitled A vision of an Adirondack Wilderness, with people, he highlights an obvious but often overlooked point that many environmental groups forget or choose to ignore about our Park: it is an experiment that involves people. The central premise around the creation of the Adirondack Park was that people and nature could co-exist and prosper within the boundary penned in blue. Fast forward and most would agree that nature has faired well but those of us who live and work up here are struggling. Communities around the Park are failing and it's time to wrestle control away from paid lobbyists, also known as professional environmentalists, who stifle economic development in the guise of protecting us from ourselves.
I will admit up front that I fully support the proposed Adirondack Club and Resort (ACR) in Tupper Lake. I will not restate the many reasons why I believe that the ACR is the right project for our town. But this project has been through an overly drawn out process. As I studied the ACR issues from the very beginning, I became disillusioned about the motives of the environmental groups as they said one thing in public but did another in private. What further troubles me is that these groups have been given special party status against the ACR in legal proceedings. Why do they get special treatment in their attempt to halt the project? Is it because they live and work in Tupper Lake? No. Is it because they pay taxes or raise families here? No. Is it because they are well funded (by contributors who do not realize that they are contributing to repress the North Country economy)? Possibly. Do they really care more about the environment than we do? They think so. Are they more capable of deciding what's best for our future? Ditto. Tupper Lakers remember when we were promised that a prison was going to be built in town. That meant needed jobs. Environmentalists said that a prison would not fit our character and that we should try to attract a resort instead. A decade later we have a resort knocking at the door but these same environmental groups now say that it's too big, it's "too" this or "too" that. Even as the ACR proceeds to the final step of an adjudicatory hearing, environmental groups continue to bring up new issues and objections to the seven year old project with the intent to delay and derail. One such group states that they favor the ACR - but just after their terms are met. Sanctimonious is the word that comes to mind.
It's time for more "home rule". It's time to say enough is enough. We have been short changed and we know by whom. It's by the same players, some with different names- the Adirondack Council, "Wild" this, and "Friends of" that. It's time for real local decision making and for more in-Park influence than out of Park when it comes to our economic future. Brian noted that "this delicate and complicated balance between human and the wild is written into the DNA of the Park" Unfortunately, written into the DNA of the professional environmentalist is a desire to control our Park as if it were Yellowstone, devoid of all humans except for day visitors. There lies the central problem- our Park is not Yellowstone. We need economic development to survive and maybe even prosper. We may disturb green space but we can do that with minimal impact on the environment all while being overseen by our local leaders. The professionals at the APA are more than capable enough to do that without outside influence. Do we really need these outside groups to tell us how special the Adirondacks are and how important it is to preserve the waterways and land that we all enjoy?
Progress is often defined by compromise and a willingness to work with many different factions. What Brian implies in his column is that our Park's future needs the type of leader with preservationist roots, and with an appreciation for Adirondack history, but capable of much more complex reasoning and broader thinking than "one issue" green groups seem capable of. When half of the Park's mission is to nurture human communities, who has allowed environmental groups so much influence over our economic development?
Thank you Brian for keeping this discussion alive. We need your voice. We agree with your framework for the future- that the next focus of planning should be on the human communities inside the Park. Readers may visit our website below to view the details of a writing contest that our organization is sponsoring to draw more attention to this issue. The intent of the contest is to have the law students from around the country review the influences placed on applicants and the regulatory agencies within the Adirondack Park by environmental advocacy groups. We will be sharing results of the writing contest next spring.
Mark Moeller and Beth Johnson, Spokespersons
Tupper Lake Business Community, Inc.