December 31, 1930 – JSA to William Howard (Supt. State Lands)

  • December 31, 1930 – JSA to William G. Howard –

My dear Mr. Howard:

Please accept my thanks for your letter of the 20th. Since the points you raise may be brought up again a number of times in the near future, you might like to know my answer to such points.

Paragraph 3 of your letter reads:

            Of course you know that I feel the title you have given the amendment is most misleading, for this is a “reforestation” amendment, because it provides for the carrying out of the enlarged reforestation program, not only through authorizing funds for that program, but also for making lands available for it.


The tile of the pamphlet… “Tree-Cutting Amendment,” was based on the privileges sought by the amendment reading – “Nothing contained in this section nor in the prohibitions of section seven of this article shall prevent the state from cutting, selling or removing the trees, timber, forest products and other materials or removing the trees, timber, forest products and other materials.”


Paragraph 4 of your letter reads:


On the first inside page, under the chart, you imply that the material contained in the pamphlet is quoted from the Senate resolution, which, of course, is not the case. I assume you did not mean to give this misleading idea.


The full text of the proposed amendment is in the pamphlet, and the part quoted is in quotation marks which should prevent any misunderstanding. The next issue will make this even more definitely as you suggest.


In the fourth paragraph on the second inside page, you imply that the power of condemnation would be carried by the amendment or legislation now in existence. This is not true for the State has no power of condemnation under the present reforestation laws.


The particular statute giving the power of condemnation is immaterial so long as the power does exist and can be exercised. Furthermore, and number of statutes could be enacted granting such power by the Legislature.


            Moreover, you state that :authority to cut or sell in about 70% of the area now affected by the Constitution would not be desirable. Do you appreciate that the proposed Constitutional amendment would retain the same absolute protection for State Forest Preserve lands that is now given by Section 7, Article 7 of the Constitution?


The indisputable fact remains that timber on wild lands bought by the state in the Forest Preserve counties under the present wording of Section 7 cannot be cut, but under the proposed change in wording the timber could be cut if bought for production purposes?


I am sure you do not want to make the statement that the acquisition by the State of lands outside the Adirondack and Catskill parks as now fixed or hereafter extended and the management of such lands acquired by the State, would create conditions more detrimental to the public interest than the unrestricted private management of these lands.


You are quite right that the pamphlet makes no comparison between the “unrestricted private management of those lands” and the proposed lumbering operations under the State, or the corruption that prevailed under similar operations by the State, which prompted the people to adopt Section 7, and prohibit such cutting and selling operations. It is thought that a review of our past history would strengthen the pamphlet, but it is my hope that we can avoid such comparison and references.


Paragraph 6 of your letter reads:

In the sixth paragraph on the second inside page, I suggest you change the 12 million acres given as the area of the Forest Preserve counties to 10 million, which is more accurate. As a matter of fact, the recently obtained figures which we have of the area show approximately 10,237,000 acres.


The individual forest preserve counties were taken from the pamphlet issued by the …Reforestation Commission, the area of each was obtained from the 1929 N.Y. State legislative manual, and checked by World Almanac. Possibly you are omitting the area under water or the Catskill counties. The main point was the small proportions belonging to the people, and the large area subject to tree-cutting unrestricted by the Constitution.


Paragraph 7 of your letter reads:


In that same paragraph you refer to the possibility of commercial cutting of lands privately owned, and again, I mention that in view of that possibility, State ownership and operation of production forests could not be expected to create a worse condition. In fact, it is fair to assume that in view of the State’s record in other lines of effort and the records made by other states in the management of State forests, that conditions in the operation of state forests would be even better than those prevailing generally on privately owned lands.


Under the present constitution, the State can acquire privately owned wild land to preserve and protect the public interest; but under the proposed amendment, such land could be taken for a tree cutting industry precluding taking of those lands for preservation purposes. See Reforestation pamphlet, page 3, paragraph 4, last line – reading, “The lands so purchased will be perpetually dedicated to forest purposes.”


At the bottom of the second inside page, you quote the resolution passed by the New York State Fish, Game and Forest League opposing any amendments to Section 7, Article 7 of the Constitution. Perhaps you do not appreciate that the proposed measure instead of amending Section 7, Article 7 of the Constitution adds a new section to it, for the very reason that the Legislature apparently felt that any lessoning of protection given by Article 7, Section 7 to the Forest Preserve lands was most undesirable.



Whatever the intentions may be, the new section specifically stipulates that, “Nothing contained in this section or in the Prohibition of section seven of this article shall prevent the state from cutting, selling or removing the trees, timber, forest products and other materials on any lands hereafter acquired with the moneys herein authorized.” In other words, the outline of the shell of Section 7 is left, but a very important part of the content is removed by the proposed amendment. It requires a most fantastic bit of mental gymnastics to follow the process of reasoning that are being offered to show that the amendment is not an amendment, though prepared and voted on as an amendment.


In your note at the bottom of the last page of the pamphlet you state that the introduction of the amendment of the resolution does not reveal the purpose of the amendment.


You misquoted the pamphlet by adding the word ”purpose.” The word “purpose” is intentionally left out of that sentence since there might be a difference of opinion as to its meaning, but there can be no difference of opinion on the plain wording of the amendment as shown in the text of the resolution seeking authority to cut and sell timber.


By your own quotation it contains provision for the management of forests, which certainly includes utilization of forest products as well as the production of such material, for forest management in the true sense cannot be accomplished without the removal of some timber during the production of a crop and the removal of the crop after it has been produced.


This sentence of your letter is astonishing since you and your predecessor a State Superintendents have managed the State forests for many years without the authority to cut or sell timber and it must be obvious that when authority to cut and sell timber is sought by proposing an amendment to the Constitution it should be made clear to the people who are asked to vote for such a proposal. Both the form and wording of the resolution gives a bad and misleading impression for so commendable an undertaking as Reforestation.

Allow me in all friendliness to suggest the desirability of focusing our time and attention on the larger and more important aspects of the situation. It is an unusual opportunity to establish the tree-cutting industry outside of the playground areas that now exist, or may be needed in the future, thus favoring both the commercial and non-commercial interests without seriously interfering with either.


Cordially yours,

  1. S. Apperson


NOTE: The foregoing quotations and the following paragraphs give the full text of Mr. Howard’s letter of December 26, 1930. Signed “Alexander MacDonald, Commissioner, by W. G. Howard, Superintendent of Lands and Forests.


“Your letter of December 22 , enclosing copy on Concurrent Resolution S-2230 is received. I appreciate the opportunity to see this pamphlet, and in accordance with you request am giving you my comments on it.”

The correct number is S-2330 Introduced by Senator Hewitt, the new number of same resolution introduced this year (1931) is #S33.