After two weeks of steady criticism for its inaccurate, poorly researched and inflammatory editorial attacking Protect the Adirondacks where it called for silencing and blacklisting of our advocacy work, Denton Publications published an apology and announced that it is planning major reforms for how it publishes editorials. PROTECT welcomes these reforms and applauds Denton Publications for agreeing to change the tone of public debate. While there are many areas of disagreement in public debate over the future of the Adirondack Park, the debate must be respectful of a wide variety of opinions, voices and actions.

Here’s an excerpt from the Denton Publications’ statement:

“Therefore, effective immediately, our editorial board will be reconfigured. Editorials appearing next to my column will be signed by those members of the staff who draft and support the position taken in the opinion piece. Those editorial staff members who are uncomfortable with the position will be free to remove their names. I will read and sign on to each editorial, so that when anyone wants to take exception to what we’ve written they know who to address. No one should hide from their beliefs and in turn no one should be attacked or persecuted when they are brave enough to step forward and take a position.

The other key point that must be clarified is that, while we reserve the right to edit, we will never censor nor blacklist anyone with a role or position in the community that seeks a venue to express their concerns provided they do so in a respectful and accurate manner. We can see how this point could have been misinterpreted in this editorial. That was not the intent but we understand how it could have been taken that way.

Regardless of how you feel about our opinions, we must be respectful of those we disagree with and those who have a different line of thought than ours. Vilifying those with whom you disagree is not the way a democracy should operate and not how any of us should conduct ourselves. With that in mind, I extend my deepest regrets to the members of Protect the Adirondacks, their executive director Peter Bauer and to all of you who feel the way in which our position was framed was inappropriate.”

At the same time that Denton Publications announced these reforms, its published a full rebuttal from PROTECT about the many failings of the editorial. Here’s are excerpts:

“In the last year, PROTECT played a key leadership role in passing new statewide aquatic invasive species control legislation. We broke stories about violations of laws and regulations on the Forest Preserve and successfully called upon the APA to begin State Land Master Plan reform efforts in transparent public forums. We worked with other groups to force the state to rescind a troubling and illegal plan for the new Essex Chain Lakes area. We helped stop expansion of environmentally damaging ATV use on public and private lands in New York. We also work in partnership with over 75 lakes associations and Paul Smith’s College to manage the largest water quality monitoring program in the Park. This program provided scientific evidence of extensive road-salt pollution in Adirondack waters and has catalyzed Park-wide action.

The most troubling aspect of Denton Publications’ editorial is your naked call to censorship and suppression of voices that you disagree with. Denton Publications’ effort to silence or abolish a voice in public life you don’t like is a dangerous step indeed. What’s next? Your editorial calling for censorship and abolishment of PROTECT’s right to public speech undermines free thought, free expression, and any hope for a diverse, pluralistic, and open American civil society.

Just so you know, Protect the Adirondacks is here to stay. This is America after all, and everybody gets a voice.”

PROTECT is pleased that Denton Publications walked back it vicious attacks on us, but as this was happening we were informed that the Essex County Board of Supervisors had jumped on the bandwagon and endorsed an editorial calling for silencing and blacklisting that Denton Publications had walked away from. The Essex County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution in support of the call to silence, censor and blacklist PROTECT. This was a stunning action by government leaders who we trust to protect and uphold free speech and free expression.

Here’s what two Essex County leaders said. Newcomb Supervisor George Canon said of the renounced Denton Publications editorial “They nailed it right on the head.” Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said “The editorial was well said and it was true.”

When contacted for comment PROTECT executive Director Peter Bauer said:

“It’s a sad state of affairs that the political leaders of Essex County have embraced positions to deny free speech, free action, and free expression,” Bauer said. “I think when they reflect on their actions, the Essex County Board of Supervisors will see that they’ve lined up on the wrong side of this issue. Thankfully, Essex County remains part of the United States, where free speech and free expression are the law of the land and the freedom of action of environmental organizations like Protect the Adirondacks is vigorously defended.”

“The Denton Publications’ editorial called for the silencing of the free thought and free expression of Protect the Adirondacks, a voice it disagreed with,” Bauer said. “This editorial has been denounced by other media outlets who have rejected it.”

Bauer also said the county board should look in the mirror on this matter.

“PROTECT is being criticized for an unsuccessful lawsuit against the Adirondack Park Agency, but the Essex County Board of Supervisors have short memories,” he said. “Just a few years back they unsuccessfully sued the APA and then tried to appeal and lost again. The courts are open and available to all Americans not just the Essex County Board of Supervisors.”

PROTECT is pleased that no other media outlet in the Adirondacks joined in with Denton Publication’s call for silencing and blacklisting. We’re pleased that the Adirondack Almanack and North Country Public Radio both denounced the editorial. We’re pleased that Denton Publications recognized its errors and has taken steps to reform the way it publishes editorials. We can only hope that the Essex County Board of Supervisors see the error of their ways and act to rescind their support for censorship and silencing of Protect the Adirondacks.