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Dead trees could save Adirondackers from freezing this winter

August 21, 2008
Lake Placid News
What an eyesore, what a waste, and what can be done about it? It being the countless number of trees that have blown down over recent years and lie rotting within the 6 million acres of the Adirondack Park.

There are plenty of Adirondackers who are working poor, or elderly on fixed incomes, or disabled, or otherwise barely making enough money to pay rent and put food on their tables. And now this winter, the cost of heating a home is practically doubling. It’s difficult to guess how people are going to make it; there will no doubt be many who are freezing because they can’t pay their full bills or are in debt.

You have surely seen the excess of fallen trees along the roadways, mostly blown down from storms. Why not let residents cut them up and haul them home to burn in their woodstoves or fireplaces to keep their families from freezing?

The reason why not is this clause within Article XIV, Section 1, of the Constitution of New York State as a mandate to enhance the Forest Preserve.

“The Lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, 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 be taken by an corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.”

The state needs to change the way it interprets these last words, “removed or destroyed” (“sold” can be agreed upon) to accommodate some kind of public use of dead and down wood. Campers, for example, are allowed to burn (“destroy”?) it, and they need it less than the struggling homeowner who would “remove” dead and down tree limbs from the roadside to “destroy” in his or her woodstove.

During these hard times, people need to take action to put this dead tree clutter to good use instead of rotting or enhancing some future forest fire. True, having people grab wood at random might lead some to sell it or cut live trees, but those people would be punished if caught, and if a few got away with it, is that worse than having people be frozen out of their homes?

Maybe the Department of Environmental Conservation could solve the problem by hauling downed wood to its headquarters and distributing it to the public from there, perhaps selling it (at much less than market value) to cover the staff’s labor, seeing as the state is in cost-cutting mode right now.

Take action by sharing your concern with your state representatives.



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