Adirondacks Celebrating 50th Anniversary of Wilderness Act
This year, as the nation commemorates the 50th anniversary of the The National Wilderness Preservation Act of 1964, groups in the Adirondacks are taking advantage of the occasion to remind people that the Adirondack Park was its inspiration.
“We have the unique privilege of being able to make the link between the nation’s wilderness areas and the Adirondacks of New York State, where wilderness preservation began,” said David Gibson, a leader ofAdirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve.
On May 7, Gibson’s organization joined with the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute in Albany to host a ceremony inaugurating the anniversary celebrations that will be held throughout the year at college campuses, museums and civic halls from Syracuse to the Hudson Valley, the Adirondacks and the North Country included.
Also participating in the event were the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation and the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
“These anniversaries give all New Yorkers the chance to rekindle the spirit and meaning of New York’s forever wild constitutional protection and of the significance of wild places in our lives today and to foster new leadership for how we are to sustain wild nature today and tomorrow,” said Adirondack Wild partner Dan Plumley.
According to David Gibson, the Wilderness Act’s chief author, Howard Zahniser, took his inspiration from New York’s “forever wild” constitutional protection of the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve. That constitutional protection also has its 120th anniversary this year (1894-2014).
“Zahniser wrote that New York State set the example for the national Wilderness movement,” said Gibson, noting that 2014 is also the 120th anniversary of the founding of the Adirondack Forest Preserve.
According to Gibson, Zahnheiser became interested in challenges to the integrity of the Adirondack Forest Preserve in the 1940s, which is when he became acquainted with Paul Schaefer. He later purchased a cabin near Schaefer’s own in Warren County.
The keynote speaker at the Rockefeller Institute on May 7 was DEC Executive Deputy Commissioner Marc Gerstman, who celebrated a New York conservation heritage that has protected three million acres of Forest Preserve lands and placed 750,000 acres of private land in conservation easements.
On that same day, the New York State Legislature released a joint resolution commemorating both the 50th anniversary of the National Wilderness Preservation Act of 1964 and the 120th anniversary of New York’s “forever wild” constitutional protection for the Forest Preserve.
The May 7 ceremony was also the premiere of the video Forever Wild, which was produced by outdoor photographer and author Carl Heilman and Adirondack singer-songwriter Dan Berggren on behalf of Adirondack Wild and other sponsors. It will be available later this year and will be presented at Wilderness 50th activities and venues in 2014 and in the years to come.
According to Dave Gibson, celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act are not merely commemorations of an event of historical importance.
“Howard Zahniser often said that once the Wilderness Act was passed, the greatest challenge would be to keep wilderness wild. That remains one of our biggest challenges in the Adirondacks and across the country,” said Gibson.