Jack Wright ’19, last year’s winner of the Adirondack Council’s Wilderness Writing Contest, collected on his prize of an airplane flight over the Adirondacks on April 23. He was chosen based on a letter he wrote to Gov. Andrew Cuomo expressing reasons why the state should expand the High Peaks Wilderness area.
Hannah Lasher ’19 won second place.
The students’ letters were part of an assignment in Visiting Assistant Professor of Geosciences Carolyn Dash’s writing intensive environmental science course Forever Wild: The Natural and Cultural Histories of the Adirondack Park and were later submitted to the contest.
Wright, who is from Hartford, Conn., is an environmental studies and public policy double major and had never visited the Adirondack region before taking the Forever Wild Seminar last spring. “Luckily, we took a class field-trip to the Adirondacks to experience what we had been studying all semester,” he said.
“Seeing the Adirondacks from the air was a truly fantastic, humbling experience,” Wright said after his flight. “Even as we flew around the Boreas Ponds, many of the peaks towered over us.”
Wright said the flight was about an hour long and he was accompanied by Adirondack Council Executive Director William Janeway, who along with the pilot, pointed out different peaks, ponds, and landmarks along the way.
“It seems ridiculous to say, but what shocked me was how connected and continuous the Adirondack Park is. All of the maps I've studied show rigid divisions in plots of land depending on the level of protection, use, and whether they are publicly or privately owned,” said Wright. “In the air, it's one huge system, stretching across millions of acres. It makes all of our imposed divisions seem so irrelevant.”
A coalition of conservation organizations is calling on state officials to classify as wilderness several parcels of recently purchased state forest preserve lands that had been off-limits to the public for more than 150 years. The contest was part of the Adirondack Council’s #BeWildNY Campaign, associated with this coalition.
In his letter to the governor Wright wrote, “Our anthropocentric views and actions have undoubtedly led us to our current climate crisis, which already poses grave consequences for generations to come. Designating the Boreas Ponds as Wilderness will reject this anthropocentric mindset in favor of ecological preservation.”
“It is truly inspiring to see the next generation of conservationists step up and make themselves heard on behalf of wilderness,” said Adirondack Council Executive Janeway. “It’s good to know there are young people willing to take the time to understand the issue and make an impact on the outcome.”
To be eligible, writers were required to be enrolled in a two- or four-year college. Entries were judged by their writing quality, the effectiveness of their arguments in favor of wilderness, and their level of creativity.
The Adirondack Council is a privately funded not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park. The Council envisions a Park comprised of core wilderness areas, surrounded by farms and working forests, as well as vibrant, local communities.