Denton Publications, in Elizabethtown, recently published a scathing and irresponsible editorial attacking Protect the Adirondacks and calling for us to be censored and suppressed. It was a truly stunning recommendation by a newspaper, which we would expect to protect and uphold freedom of speech.

Here’s the Denton Publications’ editorial.

The criticism of Denton Publications has been swift. Here’s a snippet of a denunciation of the Denton piece by John Warren of the Adirondack Almanack in a post titled “Local Paper Dehumanizes Its Enemies, Calls for Blacklisting”:

“It is perhaps the most vicious, poorly researched, and cowardly personal attack published in the Adirondacks in the last 20 years.”

Brian Mann of North Country Public Radio critiqued the Denton editorial in a piece entitled “Here’s why NCPR won’t help ‘abolish Protect the Adirondacks”:

“Denton is angry at Protect for making the same claims that its own editorial board made.

Denton’s editorial suggests that Protect represents a different, more extreme case. Their history and their arguments are so outside the mainstream, the newspaper argues, that any reasonable observer (or news organization) should recognize them as non-credible and unworthy of coverage.

But Denton itself published a lead editorial five years ago leveling accusations remarkably similar to the ones charged by Protect. The newspaper argued that the APA should be abolished for “arbitrary enforcement, hypocritical acts and subjective interpretation of the APA Act.” That language could be lifted almost word-for-word from Protect’s lawsuit.

The only difference is that Protect offered specific, detailed legal and factual arguments, while Denton’s broadside against the Park Agency offered none of those things.

Yet here again, it appears that the paper’s editorial board concluded that their own charges against the APA were credible and reasonable and worthy of an audience, while charges leveled by Protect are inherently unworthy and shouldn’t be heard by the courts or the public.

Again, it goes without saying that NCPR won’t adopt Denton’s somewhat mercurial editorial approach. We have never called for the APA to be abolished, nor will we now make it our policy to ignore or attack the APA’s critics.”

Even Will Doolittle, columnist at the Glens Falls Post Star, and steadfast critic of PROTECT, found the Denton Publications editorial off the mark:

“I also think the editorial went too much too far. Having written pieces myself that weren’t too different in tone from it, the editorial gave me pause to reflect on the dangers of getting carried away with your own rhetoric. The editorial was unfair to Peter Bauer (I should know; I’ve been unfair to him in commentary myself), and it distorts the record and the goals of Protect. There is reason to be encouraged by the way environmental groups have been working with local governments recently. We can’t move forward by clinging to extreme positions.”

Below, is a rebuttal from Chuck Clusen, Chair of the Board of Directors of Protect the Adirondacks, submitted to Denton Publications.

Dear Denton Publications:

Your editorial, “Abolish Protect the Adirondacks” (December 24, 2014), is poorly researched, inaccurate, and inflammatory—nothing more than an effort to silence those voices with which you disagree. Basic factual mistakes include names of Board members (it’s Bob Glennon, not John Glennon) and where our headquarters is located (it’s Lake George, not Niskayuna). All of this information is easily accessible on our website.

Among other things, you would have found that PROTECT has more local residents on its Board of Directors than any other Adirondack environmental group, and likely more than most other major Adirondack non-profits: two-thirds of our Board live in the Adirondacks year-round; one-third make their livings here; and five operate their own businesses here. In these areas, PROTECT’s Board has higher representation than other groups.

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.

PROTECT’s successes were enabled by the hard work of our executive director, whom you attacked baselessly. Peter Bauer has a long resume, working in the Adirondacks as a journalist, serving on a state commission, and leading various Adirondack Park environmental non-profits for 25 years. He has served on numerous state and private task forces and advisory bodies dealing with Adirondack Park issues, published investigative reports, authored chapters in books, written widely for numerous publications, testified before various state legislative committees, and has won many environmental victories. He also serves on the Zoning Board of Appeals for the Town of Lake George.

The editors at Denton Publications are clearly agitated by PROTECT’s efforts and lawsuit to oppose what we see as a ruinous approval by the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) for the 6,000-acre Adirondack Club & Resort project. We focused mostly on the impact of this approval on lands classified as Resource Management under the APA Act. We feared this project would set a negative precedent for poorly designed large-scale subdivisions. Our fears have, unfortunately, been realized, as we’re now seeing a new 1,100-acre subdivision on Resource Management lands in the southern Adirondacks, designed the same way, with far flung lots and house sites connected by roads and powerlines. We believed in the merits of this case and are disappointed that this bad precedent for the development of Resource Management lands will stand. We have no objection whatever to a bustling Adirondack economy; we simply want the state to follow its own laws and regulations.

While you take PROTECT to task for allegedly wasting public resources through our challenge to the APA’s approval of the Adirondack Club & Resort, you were strangely quiet with respect to unsuccessful lawsuits and appeals by local governments in the Adirondacks, brought and defended on both sides with public monies, over new APA shoreline regulations. According to you, it’s okay for some to litigate, but not for us.

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.