by Chris Ballantyne,
Northeast Regional Staff Director
This summer, when socialite Mary Lou Whitney makes her grand entrance during
one of her lavish costume balls in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Sierra Club
volunteers and staff, bedecked in black tie, will be outside to greet her.
They'll be holding tasteful placards urging her to protect the ecological
integrity of New York's Adirondack State Park.
Whitney inherited a 51,000-acre estate inside the park four years ago, and
now wants to develop a 15,000-acre tract of it for exclusive, luxury homes known
as "great camps." The Sierra Club, led by Board of Directors member Susan Holmes
of the New York City Group and Hudson-Mohawk Group Chair Roger Gray, is working
on two fronts to protect this parcel -- appealing to Whitney to abandon the
development and urging New York Gov. George Pataki (R) to buy the land.
"This parcel is on the eastern edge of the proposed Bob Marshall Wilderness,"
said Gray, "and a prime location for timber-wolf reintroduction. It would be a
crime to carve up this land for exclusive summer homes."
The Whitneys have historically been good caretakers of the land, Gray said,
and the Club is hoping to convince Whitney to maintain that tradition.
Her fiancé, John Hendrickson, a developer from Alaska, claims the proposed
development does demonstrate good stewardship. "This project will be so
exclusive and developed with such environmental concern," he said in a press
release in January, "I believe the Sierra Club would be proud to call one of
these camps their own."
Founded in 1892 and containing a patchwork of public and private lands, the 6
million-acre Adirondack State Park is the largest park in the Lower 48 states.
Forty percent of it is privately owned, primarily by timber companies. Although
the park is heavily wooded today, almost all of the old growth was chopped down
in the 1800s. A portion of intact old-growth white pine and hemlock forest
remains, partly on the Whitney property.
Located within the Oswegatchie Great Forest, the Whitney estate is home to
more than 40 lakes and ponds as well as the headwaters of the Beaver, Raquette
and Bog rivers. The property has been identified by the Northern Forest Alliance
as one of 10 wildlands needing special protection and is listed as a high
priority project on New York State's Open Space Conservation Plan for its
hiking, fishing, canoeing, wildlife viewing and habitat protection.
Gray said there is money available for property purchase as a result of the
state's 1996 Environmental Bond Act. The Club plans to lobby the state
legislature later this year.
To take action: Contact Gov. Pataki and urge him to begin serious negotiations
to purchase at least 15,000 acres of the Whitney property. Write: Gov. George
Pataki, Executive Chamber, State Capitol, Albany, NY 12224.
For more information: Contact Chris Ballantyne in the Sierra Club's Northeast
office at (518) 587-9166; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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