The January/February 2009 issue of the Adirondack Explorer magazine has a full page advertisement announcing, "Let's hear it for Quiet Waters! Now's your chance to be heard."
The advertisement is actually an Adirondack Explorer Action Alert imploring readers to register their support for "making waters peaceful." The Action Alert provides details on over a dozen ponds and some 36 miles of rivers which the organization has proposed for designation as motorless 'Quiet Waters.'
The advertisement concludes with a banner stating, "Mail your views to Curt Stiles, Chairman, Adirondack Park Agency...or email email@example.com and we'll pass it along."
The Quiet Waters Campaign has been championed by Dick Beamish of Saranac Lake through Getting the Word Out, Inc., a nonprofit, 501c, environmental advocacy group which publishes the Adirondack Explorer magazine.
The effort to establish more quiet waters( motorless) in the park has also been embraced by a number of advocacy groups, including the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Adirondack Council, the Sierra Club and the Resident's Committee to Protect the Adirondacks.
When I spoke with DEC Commissioner Grannis last year about the formation of a joint DEC/APA interagency "Quiet Waters Working Group," he explained, "I know Dick, he has been at this for quite a while. He's been to my office repeatedly and he's very passionate about this. I believe there's a place for quiet waters."
Initial concerns with the interagency working group were raised simply with their choice of a name, the "Quiet Waters Working Group for the Adirondack Park."
The working group, which is comprised of staff from DEC and APA, has held only two meetings to date.
APA Chairman, Curt Stiles explained that, "I'm not particularly fond of the (choice of ) name, but it is something that Commissioner Grannis and I had agreed to look at."
He continued, "We've set up a working group of APA and DEC staffers to conduct an analysis of waters that may be considered. We can recommend what the DEC has the power to regulate. However, it is important that we get the public involved in the decision making process."
Tom Martin, a Regional Forester with the DEC assured me that, "We don't have any hidden agenda. It's not a stacked deck and at some point there will be opportunities for the public to be involved."
He continued, "So far, we've been busy collecting data to determine the current state of affairs and collecting data. We plan to actively solicit input from local officials, community groups, outfitters, sportsmen, and other stakeholders before any decisions are made."
In a press release announcing the working group's efforts, Commissioner Grannis explained "There are too few places in the Adirondacks where paddlers can experience the tranquility of a motorless water body. With the increasing popularity of paddling, DEC wants to explore the possibility of expanding 'quiet waters' opportunities. This is part of our effort to increase opportunities for all recreational users of the Adirondacks."
Will these efforts also consider the rights of current landowners on such proposed quiet waters as Floodwood Pond?
Tom Martin's response: "I can't think of anyplace where the department has promulgated new rules regarding the use of motorboats where landowners weren't allowed to continue their use."
A key issue in the entire equation is the impact of public opinion. And this is the point where sportsmen and women are woefully inadequate. The sporting community, as a whole, are poorly represented in such matters. It is not due to a lack of passion, but rather a lack of organization and involvement.
While there are many devoted individuals advocating for sportsman's issues, they pale in comparison to the efforts employed by the environmental lobby. The key word being "employed."
Nearly all of the sportsman's advocates I know are volunteers; they attend meetings, conduct business and make phone calls by passion not profession. They take time off from work or are away from their families to travel and conduct business. It is clearly their dedication that drives them.
On the converse, most of the environmental advocates are employees. They are individuals who perform these same functions by profession, but also with conviction and passion.
When a cause requires a groundswell of support from sportsmen, letters are sent and phone calls made. Usually this is accomplished among a group of friends or loosely connected acquaintances, often by the old, phone tree method. As a group, sportsmen are poorly organized. This may be due to the fact that they'd rather be in the woods or on the waters than attending meetings or writing letters. But when the enviro groups send a message, it goes out to tens of thousands of dues paying members. An action alert sent via email can bring about a huge response in a matter of hours.
The situation is a competition between amateurs and professionals. And while each contingent is devoted to their message; there is little comparison as to the results.
Mr. Beamish's Quiet Waters group boasts over 10,000 petitioners, yet he admits that fewer than 15 percent are park residents, seasonal or otherwise.
I wonder how many locals have taken the time to voice their opinions. At last count, the APA had 50 public comments supporting the Quiet Waters initiative, with only two against.
Concerned sportsmen and women should take the time to offer their opinions to both the DEC and the APA before it's too late. If this battle is lost, and the floatplane issue offers a prime example, a precedent will be established.
If sportsmen and women are truly concerned with their traditions, they must collectively make an effort to represent their concerns. They must have a unified voice and make that voice heard. Otherwise, there will be little to do but to sit back and grumble, "If only."
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org