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Not that much has changed in the last century

April 20, 2011
By JOE HACKETT, News Outdoors Columnist
As I wait with increasing impatience for winter’s hardtop to lift from the local lakes and ponds, I’ve decided to drift through the dusty, musty recesses of a box of old books.

Given a choice between the books and the brook out back, I dived for the hard cover. While I was tempted to take to the stream and be buffeted by the cold breeze, it was difficult to escape the suspense of cracking the cover of an old book.

The choice for an afternoon of repose was an old dog-eared copy of the Official Report of Forest, Fish and Game Commission for New York, for the year ending September 30, 1901.

The tome promised a choice of articles on a variety of subjects relating to forests, fish and game, including a complete set of engraved plates featuring the fauna and flora of New York.

What I found most interesting, as I flipped through the large, brittle pages were the glaring similarities between the New York of 1901 and the state of the state a hundred and 10 years beyond, in 2011.

One article details, “the destructive power of immigrate insects, such as the Coarse Writing Bark Beetle that attacks native white pine,” in addition to the “Hard Pine deformed by work of the White Pine Weevil, and the plight facing balsams from equally destructive Balsam Bark Borers.”

The article essentially offers a century-old rant against insects currently labeled “invasive species,” such as the emerald ash borer and the Asian longhorned beetle.

Whether they are considered invasive or immigrants, it appears the damage was the same, and so are the frustrations voiced by those charged with protecting the forests from destruction.

In similar fashion was this quote: “The thanks of the Commission are due to Mr. Madison Grant, Secretary of the New York Zoological Society, for his article on the moose, which has an especial interest at this time on account of the effort now being made to restock the Adirondack forests with this species of big game.”

An organization based in Saranac Lake is a direct descendent of the New York Zoological Society, and they have quietly continued the society’s “especial interest to restock the Adirondack forests with moose,” while operating under the name of The Wildlife Conservation Society. Proof that  concerns for the protection of fish and wildlife, forests and streams are as topical in the current day as they were in 1901.

Echoes of the past continued to ring off the Adirondack hills, as I read a “highly instructive and valuable paper on the Economic Value of Birds to the State, kindly furnished by Mr. Frank M. Chapman, Associate Curator of the American Museum of Natural History.”

Chapman declared, “Birds are of value to the State chiefly through the services they render in eating harmful insects, their eggs and larvae and in eating the seeds of noxious weeds; devouring field mice and other small mammals which injure crops and in acting as scavengers.”

On this basis he states, “The bird is the property of the State and there can be no logical ground for dissent ... it is not only the right, but the duty of the State to give to its birds the treatment they deserve.”

The curator argues birds should be valued for more than simple utilitarian purposes.

“While the economic relations of birds might confine us to the material side of their lives, we would indeed be lacking in imaginative power, in ability to appreciate the usefulness of beauty, not to find in these preeminently graceful, musical, attractive creatures a source of pleasure to mankind deserving our serious attention from the physiologic, and hence, economic standpoint.

“So the hunter of birds with opera glass and camera finds an even deeper pleasure in his excursions into their haunts and study of their ways; a pleasure which no accounting of the value of birds to the State can ignore.”

Fast forward a century and change and it is apparent that in more than 110 years very little has changed, as “hunters of birds with opera glass and camera” in hand are set to flock to Great Camp Sagamore, for two weekends of adventures featuring “Boreal Birds of the Adirondacks” on May 25-28 and June 10-13.

The Great Adirondack Birding Festival returns to the Paul Smiths region June 4-6, offering workshops on boreal ecology, a dawn chorus walk, bird banding and evening programs. 

Spanning locations throughout the southwestern Adirondacks, the sixth annual Hamilton County Birding Festival will follow from June 18 to 20 in the towns of Inlet, Lake Pleasant, Speculator, Raquette Lake, Blue Mountain Lake and Long Lake.

Although separated by over a century, it would be difficult not to recognize the similarities raised in the Seventh Report of the Forest, Fish and Game Commission, which in 1901 claimed:

“The pursuit which takes us afield and gives us rest and exercise combined, and increases our resources by broadening our interest in nature, is not merely a pastime, but a recreation benefiting both mind and body, and better preparing us for our duties as citizens of the State.

“No one would think of asserting that the value of New York’s game could be reckoned in the terms of the bill-of-fare. To the true sportsman they are an exhaustless mine of wealth.

“A day with dog and gun, rod or rifle may bring small return from a pecuniary point of view, but who can calculate the amount of physical good and pure enjoyment it has afforded?

“Game bag and creel may, indeed, be empty, while our mind is full of stimulating experiences, all increasing our eagerness to take to the field again.”

Needless to say, the final quote could easily be attributed to anglers celebrating the new trout season, or the May 7 opener for walleye, northern pike and tiger muskie.

Or it could signal the spring turkey hunts for youth April 23 and 24, or the spring season that runs throughout May.

In comparable fashion, the old ornithologist’s declaration could be a call for outdoor adventure such as the 54th annual Hudson River Whitewater Derby, held in North Creek for the weekend of May 7-8.

Last but not least, those who prefer enjoying a virtual adventure with opera glasses should note the upcoming Northern Forest Paddlers Film Festival, scheduled for April 28 at The Lake Placid Center for the Arts in Lake Placid. 

Article Photos

Photo provided
There have been numerous unsuccessful efforts to restore moose to the Adirondacks since the 1890s. Eventually, the largest animals in North America have returned to the region on their own accord.



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