“The lands of the state, now owned or hereafteracquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands.They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or taken by any corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed….” Art. VII, SEC. 7 N.Y. State Constitution (1935)
Philip Terrie – Forever Wild As Frank Graham, Jr., has effectively shown, many people havefought a number of efforts to dilute the protections provided by ArticleVII, Section 7; as early as the 1930s, men like Paul Schaefer, John S.Apperson, and Robert Marshall were going to court, lobbying thelegislature, arousing public opinion, and doing everything they could tokeep dams, truck trails, and highways from compromising wilderness inthe Forest Preserve. We know that, in fact, it was wilderness they wantedto save, that they were thus working from assumptions entirely differentfrom those of the New York Board of Trade and Transportation and DavidMcClure, who were originally responsible for the forever-wild provision.
In other words, beginning in the 1930s a wilderness lobbyexisted whose chief mission was the defense of wilderness in the Adirondacks,and whose chief tool in that defense was the language of Article VII, Section7.The activities of this lobby have involved arguing before the legislature,convincing voters of the value of wilderness, and insuring that the protectionsof the forever-wild clause were written into subsequent constitutions. Theimportant point is that a preservation lobby existed at all. Before the 1930s itdid not – at least not in any appreciable degree. Yet the existence of thepreservationist philosophy is now taken for granted, both in the Adirondacksand nationally. Its political skills have increased, its money-raising techniqueshave become more sophisticated (though preservationists seldom have morethan a fraction of the financial resources available to developers and other anti-wilderness forces), and its ranks have grown. It has learned how to use themedia and how to get out the vote. But its mission and rationale haveremained essentially the same since the 1930s.Philip G. Terrie, Forever Wild: A Cultural History of the Wilderness in theAdirondacks, 1994
Removing Squatters… Apperson wasresponsible for saving the islands in LakeGeorge for public use. The story is incredibleand I cheerfully compliment William M. Whiteof Van Curler Avenue, Schenectady, forbringing Apperson’s efforts to the attention ofthousands who, while using the islands, neverrealize that once their access was in gravejeopardy because of greed and politics. There [were] individuals who beganoccupying the state owned islands andbuilding summer homes on them, despite thefact they possessed no valid deeds. On thecontrary, their only right, if it can be calledthat, was based on “knowing the rightpolitician.” The situation did not sit well withApperson …*who+ decided to do somethingabout getting rid of what he consideredsquatters. (Barnett Fowler, Times Union, 1983)
(Cont.) Starting off with a sympathetic state official in 1917 he visitedisland after island, delivering proper legal papers, telling the squatters,some of whom lived in rather ornate summer homes, to get off theislands or he would return the following week with friends to “take theircamp down.”…Campers who had taken over the public lands often triedto bully Apperson with the announcement they “were going to get him, “and that “they knew a top state official,” but this was merely a blast of airas far as Apperson was concerned… Upon his second visit, the Apperson war party used sledgehammers and other equipment on the island homes, a move whichusually convinced occupants their presence on the islands as “owners”was not desired – nor healthy. On many visits Apperson furnished abarge to transport demolished buildings. In one instance, a familydeparted albeit willingly, floating not only furniture, but horse and calf!Barnett Fowler, Times Union, Nov. 29, 1983
…The Lake George Narrows island beauty waspreserved by early environmental activist JohnApperson, a General Electric Engineer, whosecured legislation to evict squatters andwealthy down-state vacationers who werebuilding cottages on many islands…Frank Leonbruno, The Chronicle, February 27,1997
His life was one project after another andeach, completed, served only as a springboardinto the next: he thrived on controversy: hewas a selfless loner who with only a fewoccasional associates, conducted a constantone man warfare against what he termed“encroachment” into the Adirondackwilderness preserve by “outside” interests.Barnett Fowler, Times Union, February 10,1963
French Point, once owned by GE, is state landtoday because of him. Several miles ofshoreline on the East side of Lake George, oncepart of a huge estate, is state owned todaybecause of his repeated efforts to rouse thestate to buy those miles. In this he was ablyhelped by the late Assembly Speaker OswaldD. Heck, whose love for Lake George wasequally profound.Barnett Fowler, Times Union, February 10,1963
Tongue Mountain, once privately owned, isstate owned because of his efforts. At onetime he had a small camp on the west side ofthe mountain which he dubbed “WoodchuckTemple.” It was his retreat.Barnett Fowler, Times Union, February 10,1963
A man of positive opinions, Mr. Appersonnever was quite satisfied with the man-madelevel of Lake George – a level created by theblasting away of a natural stone dam and theconstruction of another barrier at the lake’soutlet at Ticonderoga. He fought throughcourts to have the artificial dam removed andthe natural stone dam reinstated. He neverdid win that fight but his persistence blew upthe systolic of many of his opponents.Barnett Fowler, Times Union, February 10,1963
He was an individualist. He formed and waspresident of the New York State ForestPreserve Association, which attacked everyproposal which he thought might eliminate the“forever wild” atmosphere of the Adirondacks.He was the dean of the implacableconservationist, the man who wanted thewoods as God made them. He drew about hima hard core of others with the same desiresand throughout his career, he made his powergood.Barnett Fowler, Times Union, February 10,1963
Entries in the diary of Irving Langmuir…1916 : Apperson came in evening. He wants tostart agitation to get the Federal Governmentto make the Adirondacks a national park…1923 : Mr. Coffin called me in to talk re: LakeGeorge and Mr. Apperson. Mr. W. J. Knapp hadpreviously seen Mr. Coffin and tried to get Mr.Coffin to stop Apperson. I spoke for some timeand convinced Mr. Coffin that our course (LakeGeorge & conservation) was a good thing.1928 : (Langmuir in New York City to receivethe Perkins Medal) Go to see Nathan Straussand Raymond Ingersoll to seek their supportfor Apperson’s plan to get 300 acres of Knapp’sland for Lake George Park.
1941 : (Langmuir in Washington attending meetings of the AmericanAssociation for the Advancement of Science – of which he waspresident that year – and the National Academy of Sciences) Appy callsin the evening re the purchase (by the state of NY) of Knapp’s land atLake George. I spend the evening calling Hugh Bennett. I try to getEleanor Roosevelt and VP Wallace but can’t. (Next day) Telephoningagain re Knapp Bill. I find that Eleanor R. is on the Pacific Coast. C.R.Wilson calls me and tells me that he has had a long talk with Lehman.I suggest responsibilities of the GOVERNOR and public resentment atthe lumbering of the land if it occurs on Black Mountain.1944 : Meeting of the Executive Committee, Board of Directors of theLake George Protective Association of which I am president. Now 100members. We retain counsel to prevent legislation or to prepareinjunction if bill passes to intervene on the side of the state in the suitagainst the Paper Co.
DOME ISLANDMEMORIAL SANCTUARYIN MEMORY OFJOHN S. APPERSONAND HIS ASSOCIATESHE GAVE THIS ISLAND TO THENATURE CONSERVANCY TO PRESERVEFOR THE VISUAL ENJOYMENT OF THEPUBLIC AND AS AN EXAMPLE OFUNINTERRUPTED NATURAL PROCESSESA.D. 1956
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