March 17, 1930 – Richmond D. Moot to Hon. Thomas C. Brown –
Dear Senator brown:
Hewitt Amendment S-595 A798 amending the Constitution is not necessary to permit planting trees anywhere in the State or to appropriate money for reforestation of devastated areas. Such things may now be done by statute.
The obvious purpose of the amendment is to remove the constitutional prohibition against commercial lumbering on State lands hereafter acquired to protect the watershed and for recreation purposes within the forest preserve but outside the blue line. The proposed amendment would remove the constitutional protection from about one million acres comprising about twenty-five percent of the forest preserve and including many of the most important watershed and recreation areas such as hundreds of thousands of acres in the Lake George section, the Chazy Lake section, Lake Luzerne section, the Ausable Chasm section, the Hinckley Reservoir section and the Conklingville Reservoir section. Such sections as these are most used by the public as recreation areas and are most in need of constitutional protection; but as yet the State has acquired only an insignificant portion of them – about twenty percent at Lake George and not over five percent in the sections about Ausable Chasm, Chazy Lake, Lake Luzerne, Hinckley Reservoir and Conklingville Reservoir.
Scientific forestry was once tried in this State under State statutes and under State supervision, but the result produced such a scandal that the people demanded constitutional protection for the State forests against further experiments in so-called scientific forestry. Accordingly Section 7 of Article 7 of the Constitution was written by Elihu Root and adopted by the people in 1894 to protect State-owned lands in the Forest Preserve as the people’s playground and to conserve the watershed and the water supply. The Constitution provides that the lands of the State, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve, shall be forever kept s wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed. Relying on this constitutional protection the people have authorized many millions to acquire lands to be kept as wild forest lands under its protection; but much of the lands needed has not yet been acquired. It is from this land that the proposed amendment would remove the constitutional protection.
Having in mind the unhappy experience with so-called scientific forestry on State lands under State supervision, the people have thus established the policy that public money should only be spent for such lands in the forest preserve as should be forever kept as wild forest lands, whether use for public recreation, the protection of the watershed or the conservation of the water supply. The Constitution requires that all lands so purchased shall be so kept. The amendment proposes that this policy should be abandoned to permit the State to embark in the purchase of lands with public moneys, not to protect them as wild forest lands, but for the purpose of having the State enter the field of commercial lumbering in competition with private industry, or to utilize the State’s power of appropriation to bring within the reach of private interests timber lands not now on the market but which should be protected by the State.
The Conservation Commission reports that outside of the forest preserve two million acres are available for lumbering and reforestation. Without constitutional amendment another million acres is also available in private ownership within the forest preserve where lumbering and reforestation may be carried on by private interests is economically expedient.
The Constitution should not be amended to abandon the policy adopted by the people for the protection of the State forests, or to subject our public officials to such temptations.
Very truly yours,
Richmond D. Moot