March 21, 1930 – JSA to John G. Agar

  • March 21, 1930 – JSA to John G. Agar (Ass. For the Prot. of the Adks.) –

My dear Mr. Agar:

You might like to know the results of our informal hearing or talk yesterday with Senator Hewitt and Assemblyman Hutchinson on the so-called reforestation bill.

We consolidated our views into a presentation given by our foremost surgeon, Dr. E. MacD. Stanton, copy attached. This was followed by a statement from Mr. Richmond D. Moot, incidentally son of Judge Moot. Mr. Moot is one of our prominent lawyers, and pointed out the defects of the bill. A general discussion was then entered into by a group of outdoor men here, and one of our prominent business men who is a member of a local lumber company, and is opposed to the bill. I mention these names in detail to give you an idea of the interest that is being taken here.

After I pointed out that the bill would permit the Conservation Commission to condemn and take private stands of timber and turn them over to the lumber companies, Hutchinson and Hewitt immediately disclaimed any intention of course, and said that possible small areas, such as ten acres might be cut under such an arrangement, but that it was not their intention to go any farther. I pointed out that if ten acres might be cut under the same law, since there was no limit set and since it was in the recreation areas, this would bring about a serious conflict between the public and those who wish to carry on reforestation, and all such antagonism could be avoided by carrying on the operations outside of the recreation areas and the forest preserve, as agreed on when the reforestation movement began.

Hewitt several times referred to Louis Marshall as being the one who drafted the bill before he left for Europe. This has evidently been his argument and I assured him that the bill did not look like the work of an able lawyer, especially a man with the ability of Louis Marshall, and even if he were a party to such a measure, the fact remains that we were abandoning the policy of more recreation spaces and the bill contracted the present area some 60% by removing the Constitutional protection on this amount of land. Hutchinson agreed that they understand that, but thought that this land should be utilized, and while, of course, it is not surprising to you, I was rather interested in the persistent talk which they gave on the recreation areas being idle land, showing that they have the commercial point of view, inspired and supported by strong commercial interest.

Before the meeting closed they asked us to amend the bill to protect the recreation areas, particularly Lake George, and introduce a blue line bill changing the blue line. This was rather surprising in a way, for the reason that the bill is on the third reading in the Senate, and we were assured that the bill would be voted on very quickly. They wanted us, of course, to make some similar alterations that would not defeat their purpose, and yet satisfy our desires. I suggested that it would be entirely satisfactory to us if they would cut out the amendment to the Constitution, but they made it clear that this was what they wanted most of all, and their argument that they could not get a bill passed unless it had a clause for cutting was something that we could not approach by any process of reasoning, and it was useless to attempt to do so.

The matter as it stands now, is that we have agreed to go over the situation with the Conservation Commission, and I have written a letter to Mr. Howard telling him that we would be glad to do so. We may learn from this more specifically the areas both inside and outside that they are concerned about, and such an effort will prove our willingness to cooperate in any honest effort that might be made to accomplish reforestation as claimed by the proponents.

We will of course bear in mind the danger of improving the bill in such a way as to make it more easily passible, but yet not safeguarding the state’s playground.

You might like to know that the following telegram was handed to Assemblyman Hutchinson at the close of our discussion on the bill:

Saratoga Springs, N.Y. 20 111

Hon. W. W. Wemple, Jr.

The Capitol

Albany, NY

I venture to express to you my earnest hope that Assembly bill 798 proposing an amendment to the Constitution will not be passed. I do not believe we can wisely let down the bars with reference to the preservation of our forests.

George Foster Peabody

Cordially yours,