- December 16, 1930 – JSA – The Tree Cutting Amendment – Quotations from the New York State Senate Resolution #2330 –
Constitutional authority for “cutting, selling or removing the tree, timber, forest products, and other materials” on certain lands, is the express privilege sought by one of the three proposed amendments to Article VII, Section 7 of our New York State Constitution, improperly called the Reforestation Amendment, Reforestation can be, and is being carried on in all parts of the state under the present Constitution and, therefore no amendment for reforesting the lands in question is necessary.
Our State Constitution is the people’s instrument for fixing the limits to which the Legislature may go in making laws for the administrative branch of our State Government, and our experience shows that our Legislative body will exercise the extreme privileges so granted. Such provisions, must, therefore, be analyzed on the basis of the extreme privileges that may be taken under such provisions.
The cutting and selling privileges expressed in the amendment apply to timber on ands that may “hereafter be acquired with the moneys herein authorized” and :best suited for reforestation,: not necessarily idle, denuded or arid lands without trees, but any lands inside the area designated that might be considered “best suited for reforestation,” by those who are acquiring the lands. Healthy tree growing on such lands are proof that the lands are well suited for raising trees and possibly more suitable than idle, wind-eroded or more isolated tracts that have been burned over. If there should be any hesitation to buy timbered land, the land could be bought less the timber, the trees acquired separately by the lumber companies and removed preparatory to reforestation by the State.
To argue that it is not intended to buy timbered land is obviously weak, if not irrelevant, since such intentions might apply to the present office holders and yet not represent the feelings of their successors. Furthermore, if the right to cut is only intended to apply to trees that have not yet been planted, why amend the Constitution thirty or forty years in advance of any need for such an amendment? This point is emphasized by the fact that the people can modify their Constitution at any time the conditions may warrant.
However tolerant we may be, we must admit that nineteen million dollars to spend, the power of condemnation to take anybody’s land, and the authority to cut and sell in about seventy percent of the areas now affected by the Constitution even on the shores of lakes and streams, give a rare opportunity for log-rolling in more than one sense of the word.
It seems high time that we stop temporizing with this vital social and economic problem and favor both the commercial and non-commercial interests by separating them geographically while we still have plenty of land available for all purposes. Let the State establish the tree-cutting forest on the idle lands outside the forest preserve counties, where the development of such lands will not fence in the park and preservation areas too tightly for future growth.
It seems well to keep in mind that five sixths of the twelve million areas constituting the forest preserve counties, popularly called the “State’s playground,” is still privately owned, and any commercial cutting on these private lands that may be desirable, can be done by the industries already on the inside and organized for that purpose. Until the large acreage of idle lands outside the forest preserve counties have been fully and properly reforested for production purposes, it would seem unreasonable to consider land inside the protected area, for a state tree-cutting industry.
It is significant to know that the most ambitious plan yet proposed for planting trees would require thirty to forty years to reforest fully in the idle lands now available outside of the forest preserve counties, assuming a reasonable amount of tree planting will be continued inside for preservation purposes.
Until the basic principles of zoning, which have been found so necessary to harmonize the conflicting interests which arise in our modern cities, are recognized and applied to the Adirondacks, it seems apparent that such conflicts will continue to intensify as our population increases. Let us all cooperate, but let us do so intelligently and with regard to the present and future needs of our people.
It is of interest to note that the New York State Fish, Game and Forest League recently adopted the following resolution:
“We are thoroughly opposed to any amendment of Section VII, Article VII, of the Constitution of the State of New York which protects the State lands now owned or hereafter acquired in the State’s playground, technically called “the forest preserve counties.”
A number of smaller organization is have adopted the same resolution.
By John S. Apperson