- April 3, 1922 – Minority Report on the Motion of Warwick S. Carpenter, by John S. Apperson
The undersigned constituting a minority of the Committee on Conservation of the Adirondack Mountain Club is unable to concur in the majority report on the motion of Mr. Warwick S. Carpenter, the majority reporting adversely on the proposal to throw the weight of the Club’s influence on the side of definitely stopping further devastation on the high, forested mountain lopes of the Adirondacks. Mr. Carpenter’s motion, which is clear and explicit, follows:
I move that the Adirondack Mountain Club adopt as its immediate conservation program the protection of the high, steep, forested slopes of the Adirondacks from further devastation, and the consolidation of both land and water in the region between Ampersand Mountain and McComb and Dix Mountains, in so far as this can be done with money now available or hereafter to be obtained, areas already being seriously cut being excepted from acquisition until such time as their special fire menace has passed, and that the Club’s officers use every proper means to secure the consummation of these objects by the constituted authorities.
The majority report of the Conservation Committee gives two reasons for its adverse report on Mr. Carpenter’s motion. It says in the first place that “no purchases are to be made in other portions of the Adirondack preserve or in the Catskills until all of the lands desired in the mountain regain have been acquired.” It then says that “to the majority, such an exclusive policy of acquisition, as is proposed in Mr. Carpenter’s motion, seems unwise.”
The minority of the Committee is unable to find any warrant in the clear and explicit wording of the resolution for such an inference as the majority have drawn. In fact, the resolution is so drawn that it is positive in character rather than negative, sets a definite objective as its goal, and does not concern itself either affirmatively or negatively with other desirable phrases of conservation.
The reading of such an inference into the motion merely sets up a strong man, in order that he may be knocked down.
It was announced at the very beginning of the work of increasing the size of the State forest preserve that the first importance for acquisition and protection is the land of the high, steep, forested mountain slopes where the soil washed off after lumbering and fire. Other areas not on steep slopes but, nevertheless, desirable from the standpoint of forest protection and recreation were to be acquired but their importance was stated to be secondary to that of the high, steep slopes. The Land Purchase Funds in the beginning were adequate to protect the high steep slopes and, at the same time, to acquire a considerable area of desirable land in other places.
Many of the most important and beautiful of the high slopes are still unacquired, are being destructively lumbered, and are certain to be utterly ruined unless the State officials take immediate action. Mr. Carpenter’s resolution advocates that the Adirondack Mountain Club use every proper means to bring about the protection of these slopes by the constituted State authorities, in so far as this can be done with money now available or hereafter to be obtained. It does not advocate that money , which should properly be applied to other purposes, be diverted to this one but rather that money available for this purpose be expended for the purpose for which it was provided.
In advocating this course in his motion, Mr. Carpenter is following exactly the policy laid down by Conservation Commissioner, George D. Pratt, and well expressed by Mr. Pratt at a meeting of the New York State Forestry Association at the Lake Placid Club in September, 1917. Commissioner Pratt at that time stated “In expending the seven and one-half million dollars, the Conservation Commission is proceeding upon the theory that the land of first importance for state acquisition is the land of the high mountain tops and steep slopes. Much of it is covered with a dense stand of virgin Spruce, so that when cutting is done upon it, practically a clean sweep is necessarily made. It is the firm conviction of the Commission that lumbering of any sort upon these steep slopes, where reforesting cannot be done, is fraught with too many possibilities for disaster and that it should be forever prohibited.”
This policy has been repeatedly reaffirmed by Mr. Pratt and generally approved. At a meeting in Boston in [?] held for the purpose of inaugurating a campaign of forest acquisition for Massachusetts, Commissioner Pratt announced New York State policy in the following words:
The wisest and most effective expenditures of the large sum of money authorized by the bond issue in New York, for additions to the Forest Preserve, is not so simple a problem of buying and selling as might at first be imagined. In the preservation of stream flow, the forests upon the steep mountain-sides are of first importance. If these slopes have been denuded by the axe, and afterwards, perhaps, also swept by fires, erosion from rainfall will carry away the soil, and it will be forever impossible, to renew a forest growth. The Commission must accordingly determine the sections that are of this character, upon which no further lumbering of any sort should be done and which should be immediately purchased by the State.
The New York section of the Society of American Foresters, which is the professional foresters’ society and the most expert opinion of the State on forest matters, has for a year been engaged in the preparation of a set of principles for forest management for the forests of New York State.. These principles state that “the Steep, upper slopes should be held as protection and recreation forests.”
There is apparently no difference of opinion regarding the vital necessity of protecting the steep upper slopes. Conservationists, professional foresters, and even the organization of commercial lumbermen are all agreed that the high mountains should ne held as protection areas. The report of the majority of the Committee does not even differ on this question of vital need which, as the Conservation Commissioner has said, is of immediate importance.
The minority member of your committee has made a long and detailed, personal examination of the territory covered by the motion and, also, of forest lands in other parts of the Adirondacks. In the high, mountain region, vital areas are still unprotected while in that same region and other parts of the mountains, large areas of lumber burned and utterly despoiled land have been acquired at State expense. The very tract which was photographed and used in the campaign to secure the bond, as an example of the devastation which was to be stopped in those mountains, has been purchased at a cost of half a million dollars and, at the same time, lumbering has been allowed to continue on it under a timber reservation. The same destruction has been extended to other areas since the bond issue was obtained and it will be still further extended, unless State acquisition of these tracts is immediately completed.
As an example of how continued delay is allowed to defeat the purpose of Conservation, even while reassuring statements are lulling pubic apprehension, the cost of lot 44, Township12, old military tract may be cited. This lot lies northward of Preston Ponds on the western slope of MacNaughton Mountain and is east of the tract mentioned above for which the State has paid half a million dollars without stopping the lumber[ing]. In the summer of 1916, a valuation survey of this lot was made for the Conservation Commission by Professor Ralph Hosmer of the Department of Forestry of Cornell University. On December 23, 1919, Professor Hosmer, in his detailed report, said:
“Logging is not in progress on Lot 44. It is expected that the present winter will conclude operations on this area. With this cutting the virgin type will naturally be eliminated.”
On July 1, 1919, more than six months after the date of Professor Hosmer’s report, the Conservation Commission recommended to the Land Board as follow:
“This lot lies on the steep slopes of Wall Face Mountain and extends down to Preston Pond. It is the heart of the mountain region. There are upwards of 218 acres of extra dense spruce forest high on the mountain. Its removal will destroy the forest, leave a serious fire menace and also endanger adjacent State forest lands. It should be acquired by the State in order to maintain this forest forever.”
More than seven months later, on April 2, 1920, the Conservation Commission requested the Commissioners of the Land Office “to authorize the Attorney General to make appropriate examination of the title to this land, in order to assist us later in the preparation of a proper description.” This request was acted upon on April 7, 1920, and the acquisition was further held up pending the Attorney General’s investigation.
Meanwhile, however, lumbering has been resumed on the tract with the result foretold by Professor Hosmer in 1918.
While delays of this and other kinds have prevented the acquisition of desirable and heavy timbered areas on the steep slopes, it does not appear that either in the Conservation Commission, the Land Office or the Attorney General’s Office have serious obstacles prevented the acquisition of lumbered and denuded land, which could be of no further use either to the lumber companies owning them or to the people of the State for generations to come.
The minority of your committee is in favor of throwing the influence of the Adirondack Mountain Club in all proper ways against such perversions of approved, public, forest policy.
The second main reason advanced by the majority of the Committee against Mr. Carpenter’s motion is that the State authorities should be given an entirely free hand in their conduct of land acquisition. The majority report says “The men best qualified to judge regarding these matters are the exerts on the ground, the Conservation commissioner, the Land Board, the Superintendent of State Forests, all of whom pass on each project. These men are familiar with the problem of the whole Forest preserve and have before them the facts regarding all the tracts that may and should be acquired. It is believed that they should continue to have the broadest authority in the exercise of their judgment in selecting lands for purchase.”
The minority of your Committee is unable to accept this view. We are not living in an age when it is believed that the king can do no wrong. Our entire system of government is founded upon the theory that the citizens of the State shall inform themselves accurately regarding the conduct of pubic affairs and if they do not approve of them, will take proper action to change their course. We are living not in an era of the divine rights of kings, but rather in one of the referendum and recall.
Signed by: [Names missing]