We can neglect them, certainly, with conservation policies that aren't up to the challenge. We also can even do that vast expanse of land -- all 6 million acres or so -- the injustice of failing to maintain a forward-thinking balance of how best to reap all the riches that the Adirondacks offer.
Or we can do what the Cuomo administration has just done -- open up even more of this land for both passive recreation and the more vigorous adventure that such an unencumbered wilderness offers, more tourism in a region that every New Yorker ought to enjoy and, yes, more economic vitality that reflects an environmental sensitivity.
The completion of the acquisition of 69,000 acres in the central Adirondacks, in an area already distinguished by its ample lakes, is literally a triumph for the history books.
It's been more than 150 years since the state has struck a deal of this magnitude. The $49.8 million purchase represents a reassuring return to using the Environmental Protection Fund for its intended purpose. In more recent years, particularly during the Paterson administration, it became an all too convenient source of money to fend off an accumulating state budget deficit. It was a legitimate cause for alarm earlier this year when a fund that used to be replenished to the tune of $250 million a year was down to just $134 million. But now?
There's good reason to celebrate a new era of stewardship for New York's greatest natural asset. Waterways -- as in 180 miles of rivers and streams, 175 lakes and ponds and 12 percent of the upper Hudson River watershed -- along with forests and, of course, mountains will be open to public use for the first time in 150 years. Humans can encounter habitats that still will be lush and protected for species ranging from moose, bobcat and black bear to brook trout, salmon and bass.
Such accessibility means more money coming into a region so dependent upon visitors from outside the Adirondack Park. Still, the Adirondacks remain open to the timber industry and the jobs that it provides to a population that needs all the work it can get. Land that had been owned by the Finch Pruyn timber company will be open, via easements, to harvesting for the next 20 years.
A further economic benefit of this deal is that the property taxes and school taxes that used to be paid by private owners will be taken care of by the state.
A region endures, then, through its physical majesty and the reverence of the people entrusted to keep it that way.
-- The Times Union of Albany