Paul Schaefer was as important and impressive as the Adirondack Park that he loved, championed and did so much to preserve. Two environmental groups want the state to name a beautiful wild area it just acquired after him, an honor that would be more than justified.
Schaefer’s home was in Schenectady, but his heart was in the Adirondacks, where he spent most of his time, hiking, climbing, exploring and hunting. He also photographed, wrote and spoke about them. And when Schaefer — tall, rugged, knowledgeable but down-to-earth — spoke, people tended to listen.
That went not only for environmentalists and visitors to the park, but residents, many of whom were not normally inclined toward preservation. It also went for the state Legislature, which followed his advice and refused to allow a series of dams proposed by Niagara Mohawk and the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1960s that would have tamed the upper Hudson at some of its wildest parts.
These areas aren’t just pretty, they are the basis of a thriving whitewater rafting industry that has become such a big part of the region’s economy.
The state is now considering how to classify its new lands. Thanks largely to Schaefer, the choice isn’t between destruction and protection, but between two restrictive designations: wild forest, which allows for primitive roads and structures, and wilderness, which allows no permanent signs of man.
We think we know what kind of classification Schaefer, author of a book called “Defending the Wilderness,” would have preferred.