The Woods Are Lovely, Dark and Deep

ENVIRONMENT

Should wilderness areas be reserved for quiet recreation like canoeing, rafting and hiking? Or should they also be open to cars, motorboats and Jet Skis? It is a debate that has long torn at the Adirondacks, and it revolves around an invisible entity: noise. (New York Times)

Use our resources to better understand protected wilderness areas, and scroll down to vote on how you’d classify the Adirondacks.

The state of New York will open more than 21,000 additional acres of Adirondack parkland in October. Photograph by Michael Melford, National Geographic

The state of New York will open more than 21,000 additional acres of Adirondack parkland in October.
Photograph by Michael Melford, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas

  • According to the NY Times article, what is the difference between a “wilderness” and a “wild forest”?
    • Wilderness areas do not allow the use of motorized vehicles, such as personal watercraft and boats. Wild forests allow motorized vehicles.
  • Read our short encyclopedic entry on “wilderness,” then read our short activity “Protected Land Areas.” Discuss the issues presented in steps two and three of the activity: What does it mean to protect land? Why do people want to protect certain land areas? Specifically, how would a wilderness area protect the Adirondacks? How would a “wild forest” increase protection?
    • wilderness: Those who encourage a “wilderness” designation support a land-management system based on conservation. (See the top of page two of the encyclopedic entry.)
      • The stretches of land in dispute contain some of the few regional lakes that are both accessible and off-limits to motorized vehicles. Keeping such vehicles off the lake will probably better protect the area’s biodiversity and wildlife habitats, allowing greater opportunity for animals to migrate and limiting the number of introduced species. “We have great mountains that are wilderness, and incredible stretches of forest that are wild,” says Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks. “But we don’t have that many big lakes where people can get a wilderness experience that is timeless.”
    • wild forest: Those who encourage a “wild forest” designation support a land-management system based on sustainability. (See the top of page two of the encyclopedic entry.)
      • More than 90,000 acres of the Adirondacks—more than four times as much land as the region in dispute—are already open to logging.
      • Allowing motorized vehicles will increase access to the park, opening the region to new visitors who may otherwise be unable to participate in nature. “Hiking in three miles carrying a canoe from an access point will not work for most seniors or most young families,” says Sue Montgomery Corey, a local town supervisor. More access would also contribute to the region’s economy. “Making those connections is essential to building economic opportunity,” Corey says.
  • The NY Times article reports the “wilderness” designation has received the most written support, while the “wild forest” option has received the most in-person vocal support. Why is there such a difference?
    • Most written support probably comes from people who visit the Adirondacks infrequently, such as during a vacation or retreat. These visitors may prefer the less-developed wilderness as an escape from their everyday lives.
    • Most vocal support comes from local residents, whose livelihood depends on tourism and other economic opportunities in the region. Residents would benefit from a consistent industry, with increased access to the forest and the ability to establish businesses (such as boat rentals) targeting visitors.

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