In an article published in the November 1925 issue of Outdoor Life magazine, the renowned naturalist Aldo Leopold wrote, "Our remnants of wilderness will yield bigger values to the nation's character and health than they will to its pocketbook, and to destroy them will be to admit that the latter are the only values that interest us."
Leopold's article, "A Plea for Wilderness Hunting Grounds, Outdoor Life," written nearly a century ago, detailed the importance of preserving the wild character of public lands.
However, it remains as topical in the current day as it was in 1925. Despite massive state budget cuts, the curtailment of numerous programs, an exodus of DEC's most experienced staffers, and the continued downturn in the national economy; the North Country's economy has faired fairly well.
The doom and gloom scenarios that many forecasters had predicted did not strike our region as drastically as it has impacted many others.
Maybe all of our snow created a barrier that served to insulate the region from the severe economic swings that struck states such as Michigan and California.
Last winter, about this time of year, a decision was made to replace the Crown Point Bridge. Following the ensuing explosion, which destroyed the structure, came predictions that the national economy would continue on a downward spiral. In many respects, the forecasts have proven true.
New Yorkers have had to cope with the closures of numerous parks and campgrounds, as school aid decreased dramatically, and roads, bridges and other important infrastructure was allowed to deteriorate.
But despite the economic downturn and possibly, even because of it, evidence indicates that travelers continue to gravitate to natural areas where the opportunities for recreation are inexpensive, readily available and easily accessible.
From a market perspective, this is very good news for the North Country. The Adirondacks, and the dreams of wild places that the name conjures up, have helped the region survive the nation's economic turmoil to a large extent.
Researchers at the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) have recently detailed an interesting trend, where the economy is actually responsible for driving people back to nature. Compared to other recreational venues, the outdoors, the woods and waters are a real bargain.
Each year nearly 150 million Americans continue to enjoy the outdoors by hiking, rock climbing, bird-watching, mountain biking, skiing, snowshoeing, paddling, hunting and fishing.
However, wild places are also very restorative and can offer a host of benefits beyond the stated economic and recreational factors, including stress reduction, a healthy lifestyle and high quality family experiences.
According to a recent OIA press release, "We see the economy driving people back to nature. This has tremendous implications for health and wellness issues.," explained Christine Fanning, executive director, "Outdoor recreation is finally being recognized as part of the solution. Our position is that nature should be the first prescription."
OIA research has also documented a shift in the mindset of many outdoor travelers and identified the growing demand from travelers that are simply seeking peace and solitude, rather than being motivated by high adventure.
Still wild after all those years
"It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit," Robert Louis Stevenson
Amid the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we tend to overlook the benefits of recreation, and the important restorative aspects of outdoor travel.
However, the fact remains that at the very core of our culture, Americans are adventurers. So too, were many of our heroes, from Daniel Boone to Teddy Roosevelt to John Glenn. We admire them because we all retain the need for adventure in our life.
In an increasingly modern world, Adirondackers should recognize how fortunate we are to have such a special place for adventure, recreation and solitude. In an increasingly modern world, Adirondackers should recognize how fortunate we are to have such a special place for adventure, recreation and solitude.
We live in a wild place that continues to get wilder, as the rest of the world becomes more domesticated. We have experienced the return of the moose and bald eagles. Loons still dot the ponds, and peregrine falcons soar over the cliffs. Deer are plentiful, and heritage strains of brook trout remain in remote ponds. There are places where a man, or woman, can still become hopelessly lost. Such is the draw.
Certainly, there remains much to be done. However, from the viewpoint of someone that usually has his boots on the ground, an oar in the water, an eye on the sky, a flyrod in hand or pine needles underneath his mattress; there is no place I'd rather call home!
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.