- March 31, 1931 – Paper written by Dr. R. C. Hill, President – Schenectady County Conservation Council; Chairman – Conservation Committee of Mohawk Valley Towns Association)
Conservation Week is a very appropriate time to consider the largest sum of tax payers’ money ever proposed in this state as a conservation measure. In a few months the people will be asked to vote on the so-called Hewitt Reforestation Amendment appropriating nineteen million dollars. It is rather disappointing to know that every cent of this large sum is to be spent to raise trees to be cut for the market.
It is well known that our major water sources are the mountains in the Adirondack and Catskill parks, but none of the funds in this Hewitt Amendment can be used to preserve these areas and none of the monies can be spent to protect wildlife or park interests in these important sections of our State. We can import pulp wood, but we cannot import drinking water, wild life or park lands so badly needed by our great indoor population.
A study of the State reports on tree nurseries and facilities for buying land show that the State cannot plant pulp wood for paper mills and at the same time do the big unfinished job of preserving and protecting the more important State interests. Our people will be asked to decide which of these two kinds of work they want the Conservation Commission to do, by voting for or against the Hewitt Amendment.
Reports show that is all the land owners and other various agencies I the State, including the State and the mill owners, should plant trees we could hardly expect to get four million acres needing reforestation taken care of. If the State does the planting that should logically be done by mill owners, this would not only encourage the mill owner to stop planting but also would interfere with the important reforestation by the State to preserve drinking water, wild life and park interests.
The question may well be asked, what would be the chief interest of the State Conservation Commission with a strong commercial demand for pulp wood raised on State land, conflicting with a less pressing duty in preservation and protection work.
The sportsmen do not take kindly to this mixed responsibility in administration and the use of so large a sum as nineteen million dollars for no other purpose than to produce pulpwood for paper mills. They recognize in some instances these trees will serve as cover, but as poor food for game, and to some extent will temporarily protect the less important water sheds, but they desire reforestation by the State with the tax payers money to benefit all the people rather than a particular industry.
The New York State Fish, Game and Forest League, including 160 affiliated associations, and the Mohawk Valley Towns Association. The New York City Club of Women, and a number of other organizations have given very careful study to this proposed amendment to Section 7 of Article VII, and are opposed to it. The sportsmen are sponsoring a reforestation measure that would plant the same number of trees, but would allow the administrative branch of the State decided where the trees are most needed and for what purpose the trees would be planted. In other words, the Sportsmen’s Reforestation measure introduced by Senator Baxter and Assemblyman Wemple would make it possible to reforest lands to preserve drinking water, wild life and park interests wherever they may happen to be in the State, and at the same time, would not prevent reforestation by the State for commercial production on idle farm lands outside the Forest Preserve counties nor by private interests on private lands inside the Forest Preserve counties.
The proposed Hewitt Amendment, however, does not permit the funds to be used for reforesting the principal river sources and drinking water sources, protecting wild life and park interests and there are no other funds sufficient for this purpose.
The so-called Hewitt Reforestation Amendment is often confused with the bill which extended the Adirondack Park by the so-called Blue Line. Extending the Blue Line did not add a single acre to the lands now owned by the State, but did increase the area in which none of the nineteen million dollars can be spent. It might be well to keep in mind that the State has had a Blue Line for may years, inside of which lumbering operations and other commercial activities have been carried on by private industries and the extended Blue Line does not alter this situation or insure any additional lands for State park purposes. The State now owns less than half the area inside the Blue Line or Adirondack Park. In other words, more than half of the so-called public park is privately owned.
The sportsmen especially hope the public will give serious thought to this phase of conservation during Conservation Week, and find out for themselves just what they will be asked to vote for next fall, bearing in mind that the Hewitt Amendment is not necessary for planting trees anywhere in the State and no amendment will be needed to cut trees planted at this time in the Forest Preserve Counties on State land until they reach maturity some forth years hence, at which time the people can decide best what they wish to do with their trees.
Dr. R. C. Hill
President, Schenectady County Conservation Council
President, Schenectady County Fish and Game Club
Chairman, Conservation Committee of Mohawk Valley Towns Association