Saturday, September 20, 2008

Forever Wild!

Over the summer in the Adirondacks, as I paddled north on the Raquette River from Long Lake under blue skies, there was only one source of concern: the private property signs on the west bank of the river. The east bank was state land, but every time I glanced at the forests to the west I wondered if the owner would someday sell out and turn it all into condos. Yesterday, good news arrived.

The owner, John S. McCormick of Vermont, has sold the property to the Nature Conservancy, which will protect the land and eventually add it to the Adirondack Forest Preserve. In the long run, that means 14,600 more acres of park land. It also means that the stretch of the Raquette between Long Lake and Tupper Lake, will remain as pristine as it is today.

Yet the newly purchased tract, as the Times points out, is more than a great stretch of forest and water.
The land bought on Thursday includes Follensby Pond, the site of a famous 1858 gathering known as the Philosophers’ Camp, where Emerson and other Boston-area intellectuals spent a month fishing, hunting, painting and writing. Among those joining Emerson were the painter William James Stillman, the poet James Russell Lowell and the scientist Louis Agassiz.

The Times quotes Bill McKibben, a great journalist who writes on nature and the environment, describing the Philosophers' Camp as early moment in the development of the idea that there was something sublime about nature,” said Bill McKibben, a scholar in residence at Middlebury College in Vermont. “Nature was starting to play a less utilitarian function and a more aesthetic and intellectual one.

Mr. McKibben, who recently edited a large anthology of environmental essays, “American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau,” said the early work of people like Thoreau was one of the reasons why the State of New York began protecting the Adirondacks 100 years ago

Thank you, Mr. McCormick, for this wise sale. And thanks to the Nature Conservancy, for buying the land. I can't wait to return to the Raquette River, knowing that both banks will be wild for generations yet to come.

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