If you ever get a chance, do try to spend a view days paddling some of the thousands of lakes and streams and ponds in the Adirondacks. New York State and private landowners in and around the park have done, in my view, a very nice job balancing the myriad public and private interests of recreators in the area. And indeed, it is my contention that the Adirondack Park in NY, which is larger than Yellowstone and Yosemite combined, is one of the 2oth century’s environmental success stories.
You won’t see “E”nvironmental writers, students and activists talking about it however.
Here is a recent example of the sorts of ways that this success has been enabled. Rather than entirely depending on the political process to get things done, environmental advocacy groups, recreation groups, conservation groups and private interests have frequently put their money where their mouths are and taken up the role of conservation themselves. Private landowners on a famous canoe carry to Raquette Lake around the Marion River rapids were planning on selling property for development purposes (why is another story). Rather than use the town zoning thugs or some obscure environmental law to prevent the sale and development, concerned groups who claimed the land was more valuable in recreation use took it upon themselves to purchase the land and keep it in its natural state:
The Open Space Institute has acquired the historic Marion River canoe carry and 295 surrounding acres in Hamilton County. There has been concern about preserving access to the canoe carry in recent years, after the owner announced plans to build several homes along Utowana Lake. The acquisition will ensure the carry remains open to the public.
“The potential for development made the Marion River Carry a higher, more immediate priority for conservation,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of the private non-profi t land preservation organization.
The OSI is paying $2 million for the land …
A couple of observations. Some of the great recreational places in the Adirondacks were made possible by the “Robber Barons” of the late 19th and early 20th century. Second, that many, many, many private landowners “inside the blue line” (that’s NYS-speak for being within the borders of the Park Preserve) allow public recreation on their private property. Third, though there is a free-rider problem here (I am right now benefiting from this purchase of land, and will someday take my kayak around that carry and surely will not pay for any of it), you can see that the canonical economic approach to this situation is not correct. Even though there are “public good” aspects of this land acquisition (more on this in a future post) to “solve” the problem only requires that some of the most ardent advocates and supporters take it upon themselves to provide it. So although you and I are free-riding right now, there is no underprovision of this good even if it is “public” in nature.
Well done OSI. For those of you who wish to send a note of appreciation, or to support these environmentalists, the piece mentions that:
The Open Space Institute is fundraising for the $2 million cost of the Marion River Carry property. Anyone interested in contributing can contact Tally Blumberg at (212) 290-8200 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.