I’m a disabled person who has always had a difficult time accessing wilderness, but did it anyway to the best of my ability (mostly by canoe). These days I am mostly bedridden and cannot even use a wheelchair, so my days of backpacking and canoeing are over. Though this makes me sad, it surely does not make me want to drive or fly in there. Actually, nothing would disturb me more, because I value wilderness.
The famous “Forever Wild” clause of Article 14 of the New York State Constitution created the world’s oldest, and only constitutionally-protected forest preserve. In addition, it is notable that in Section 4: “â€¦the legislature, in implementing this policy, shall include adequate provision for the abatement of air and water pollution and of excessive and unnecessary noiseâ€¦”
And in the Wilderness Act of 1964, which, inspired by Article 14, also has served as a model for the rest of the world:
“Sec. 2. (a) In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition, it is hereby declared to be the policy of the Congress to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wildernessâ€¦and these shall be administered for the use and enjoyment of the American people in such manner as will leave them unimpaired for future use as wilderness, and so as to provide for the protection of these areas, the preservation of their wilderness characterâ€¦”
DEFINITION OF WILDERNESS
“(c) A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remainâ€¦retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which (1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable; (2) has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreationâ€¦there shall be no temporary road, no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such area.”
So both Article 14 of the NYS Constitution, and the National Wilderness Act specifically proscribe unnecessary noise and motors, in order to provide “outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation.”
Surveys have consistently shown that Americans support wilderness. Wilderness, by definition, is inaccessible. The remoteness and inaccessibility of wilderness are what provide the solitude that is missing everywhere else. Of course there are also many intrinsic values of Nature that are best preserved in wilderness, such as wildlife habitat. Some people however, do not appreciate solitude, or the intrinsic values of Nature. They do not like inaccessibility. Wilderness, for them, is a problem in itself. Allowing floatplanes in wilderness, for example, would make the last few remote lakes more accessible, and the fact that the area would no longer be a wilderness is not a problem for them. Hence, the solution to the “wilderness problem” is the elimination of wilderness, of solitude, and of all the intrinsic values of the highest-quality Nature preserves. Like politicians, these folks have a “solution” looking for a “straw man” problem. The Adirondacks are still the most accessible park in the U.S., with more miles of roads, trails and more campgrounds accessible to the handicapped than any other park. The elimination of wilderness by permitting motors would be a “solution” to a “problem” that doesn’t exist.
I am happy to side with the majority on this. If I had my way, Lows Lake would always be there as a wilderness area. And I suspect that most handicapped people feel the same way. They would not like to serve as an excuse for the destruction of our precious wilderness areas in their name. For my part, I realize that in my insignificance I am not in any way a measure of the eternal value of wilderness to all future generations, so the fact that I will never again canoe into Lows Lake is completely irrelevant.
– Dan Ling
Dan Ling is a retired earth science teacher from Middle Grove who took his students on field trips for many years, always preparing them with the area’s geology as well as other interesting features of the land. His students have come back through the years to thank him for introducing them to the natural world. Dan now composes music often using nature as his inspiration.