Environmental History: Researching the Environment:

New York State's two great natural areas: the Adirondack Park and the Catskill Park and the State-owned forest preserves within their boundaries

Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves

  • Created in 1885, they were was the first major milestone in a long and contentious struggle over the fate of New York State's forests.
  • Initially totaling 715,268 acres, the forest preserves consist of State-owned land that "shall be forever kept as wild forest lands" as mandated by an 1894 amendment to the State's constitution.
  • Presently, the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves embrace more than 3,087,000 acres and constitute the largest complex of wild public lands in the eastern United States.
  • Over the years, the use and management of these preserves have shaped the history of vast tracts of New York State lands, public and private, throughout the State. They have also set precedents for the policies adopted by other states and at the federal level.

Adirondack and Catskill Parks

  • Established respectively in 1892 and 1904, they presently total roughly 6,700,000 acres.
  • The Adirondack Park is the largest parkland in the contiguous United States, encompassing an area more than two and a half times larger than Yellowstone National Park.
  • The parks are unique in that they have evolved into a blending of public and private lands.
    • State-owned forest preserve lands form the heart of the Adirondack and Catskill Parks
    • Much of the land within each park is owned by individuals, corporations, or local governments.
    • The uses of the privately held land within each park are limited
    • Park inhabitants live in a landscape in which historic character and natural environment are legally protected.
     

Over the years, the Adirondack and Catskill Parks have experienced, and continue to experience, a variety of threats to their integrity as protected areas.

  • New York City's use of water drawn from the Catskill watershed
  • Logging
  • Tourism

Balancing the needs of the State's urban areas with preserving the agricultural economy and rural ways of life within the parks has engaged government at all levels as well as hundreds of citizen groups and non-profit organizations.