Saturday, July 6, 2013

More legal history of the North Woods

(again by way of Legal History Blog.) Ellen Apperson Brown's "Adirondack Legal History: The Lake George Trespass Case" (not to be confused with North Woods Law), on The Adirondack Almanack website, discusses mid-twentieth-century legal battles over water levels in New York's Lake George. It seems to have been a decades-long, four-way conflict between landowners, a power company dam operator, conservationists/recreationists, and state regulators.

I particularly like the way a quoted 1947 essay by Edmund H. Richard turns property-rights rhetoric on its head:
A citizen may not have title to his home, but he does have an undivided deed to this Adirondack land of solitude and peace and tranquility.  To him belong the sparkling lakes tucked away in the deep woods and the cold, pure rivers which thread like quicksilver through lush mountain valleys.  His determination to preserve his personal treasure for posterity has been tempered by memories of campfires, and strengthened by pack-laden tramps along wilderness trails and by mountaintop views of his chosen land.  To him the South Branch of the Moose is a River of Opportunity, for he has come to regard it as the front line of defense against the commercial invasion of his Forest Preserve.
The New York constitution's "forever wild" provision is relatively well-known, but it seems there's a lot more legal history here waiting to be researched.

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