So let me get this straight - according to the Adirondack Mountain Club, the presence of float planes on Lows Lake was ruining the "wilderness experience" of canoeists; and this is why the organization pushed a lawsuit which led to the current APA decision that will ban float-plane access to the lake in 2011.
Their argument was a bit more complex - using the State Land Master Plan as a primary reason - but this is what it boils down to.
This whole issue has me totally perplexed. There are so many bizarre elements of the environmental argument on this issue that it would require a treatise by Bertrand Russell to sufficiently go through them all. But I will make an effort to highlight some of the most interesting and paradoxical elements.
First of all, Lows Lake is in itself not a "natural" entity. It exists only because of two man-made dams which block the flow of the Bog River.
This is intriguing, because by default anyone canoeing Lows Lake is not having a "wilderness experience" by definition. They should just as well be paddling around a swimming pool.
Another bizarre element revolves around the arbitrary standards the Mountain Club uses to define acceptable technology for a "wilderness experience."
No one is going to argue that a canoe is a manufactured tool, created by humans to serve a purpose. An airplane also fits this definition.
Instead, the standards used by the environmental organizations hinges on level of complexity.
They assume that a canoe is a more "natural" tool simply because it is more antiquated technology.
So if I have this right, 17th century technology is fine, but 20th is much to modern to allow for one to actually enjoy the wilderness.
The inherent paradox of this is that the canoes being used are often composed of far more modern technology than the aircraft themselves. Tom Helm's Cessna is not made of composite, space-age materials after all.
From all that I have read and heard at public hearings and in interviews, the crux of the Mountain Club's issue was the noise. It wasn't pollution, it wasn't the transport of invasive species, it was just the noise the float planes produced while operating.
Are people really so fickle that they would let two or three minutes of engine noise ruin their day of canoeing?
A DEC survey of Lows Lake canoeists concluded that over 60 percent never even came into contact with a float plane.
The DEC realized the folly of the Mountain Club's argument. Hence they proposed a 10 year extension to float-plane access.
The parties who pushed this suit gave no regard whatsoever to the economic viability of the small Adirondack towns which are home to these float-plane businesses. Both Helms and Payne provided data to the DEC which stated that flights into Lows Lake constituted about 40 percent of their net incomes.
This will devastate their businesses and invariably hurt the revenue of the towns of Inlet and Long Lake.
All for peace and quiet?
I understand the Thoreau model. He after all was the guy who argued that others shouldn't enter the wilderness which surrounded Walden Pond so they wouldn't interrupt his "wilderness experience." It was fine for him to be there, just as long as no one else was.
It seems this mind-set has trickled down to the current movement, which views the park as their own little play-ground. God forbid if the locals actually try to turn a profit.
It is my opinion that the vast majority of Adirondackers are conservationists at their very core. They believe in sustaining the beauty and wild character of the land just as much as the Adirondack Mountain Club. What the local citizens understand and the Club doesn't is that there is a fundamental difference between conservation and preservation.
And this is what I view as the biggest paradox of them all.
Conservationism is a state of mind that is consistent with the Darwinian paradigm. Preservationism is totally inconsistent with any biological truth currently held.
Nature changes, either because of the local ecological state or the species which live within it.
Extinction happens - somewhere in the range of 99.9 percent of all the species to have walked the planet have died-off without a descendent species to continue their line.
The beauty of the system is that something else always arises to fill the void. However, a true preservationist would have saved the dinosaurs if they could, just for the sake of preserving. And with dinosaurs around, humanity wouldn't even exist.
Preservationism seeks stagnancy. It denies that humanity is also a species living and interacting with nature. And as Darwin noted so well, stagnancy is antithetical to the natural system.
Like it or not we are a selective pressure as is the beaver who dams a stream.
We create niches, we destroy niches. What makes us different is that we conceptualize what we are doing.
Preservationism equals death, plain and simple. Death for the processes of nature and death of the communities whose survival hinges on it.
I think it is time to acknowledge that Homo sapiens also has a place in nature. We are part of its "wild character" and like the canoe, the float plane is just another tool we use to experience it.
Jon Alexander is editor of the News Enterprise. He can be reached at email@example.com