Why The Adirondacks Matter

President Emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden, author, Time Magazine Hero of the Planet and world-renowned plant taxonomist Peter Raven talks about why the Adirondacks is one of the most important places on the planet.

Why The Adirondacks Matter

The Adirondack story is one of mankind discovering better ways to coexist with nature: it is a badly needed model for the whole world.
— Dr. Peter Raven, President, Missouri Botanical Gardens

A Vital Experiment

Life depends on natural systems.

Around the world those systems are threatened. They are at risk because people have not yet found a way to support thriving human economies and natural systems at the same time. The result is great current and projected human costs.

The Adirondacks, covering more than 20 percent of New York, are bigger than the American state of Massachusetts, and are half the size of Costa Rica, with 800,000 more protected acres. They are a place where actions by people have demonstrably helped nature stage a remarkable comeback over the last 120 years. It is this recovery over such a broad scale that causes many in the scientific community to call the Adirondacks the most enduring experiment where we could create a credible example for people and nature thriving in the same space.

Tom Friedman, in his book “Hot, Flat and Crowded,” describes key elements that he says are needed so the planet’s natural places will continue to function. The elements include a viable local economic base that provides meaningful work without threatening biodiversity, permanent legal protections for some lands, an educational effort so residents and non-residents, especially future generations, can personally appreciate the value of the natural world, and ongoing scientific research to advance understanding of local natural systems. All of those conditions are already being addressed across all six million acres in the Adirondacks. They can be addressed better, and promoted, and that is the present opportunity.

The once over-harvested Adirondack region is blanketed in wild forests that surround more than 100 towns and villages. Moose bugle here in sight of businesses, and it’s possible that mountain lions have, or could return. A 10,000-square-mile island in the densely populated northeastern United States, the Adirondacks exist today because scientists, citizens, and conservationists convinced their fellow voters to amend the state constitution to protect the Adirondacks. That groundbreaking stand in 1894 gives us an opportunity to leverage the six million acres of the Adirondacks to save lives around the world by consciously creating an internationally recognized example that will brighten the future of the Adirondacks and ignite similar successes here in the United States and around the globe.