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Conservation Policy in Time and Space: Lessons from Divergent Approaches to Salvage Logging on Public Lands

George Robinson, University at Albany, State University of New York
Jeffrey Zappieri, NYS Department of State, Division of Coastal Resources

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Abstract

A 50-yr precedent was reversed in 1995 when, following a powerful windstorm, salvage logging was disallowed in the protected Adirondack Park State Forest Preserve of New York, United States. Damage from a similar windstorm in 1950 had provoked massive salvage operations, approved by the New York State legislature on the grounds of fire prevention and resource conservation. Following the 1995 storm, state conservation officers and consulting ecologists were prepared with up-to-date assessment tools and a theoretical framework that treated large disturbances as normal ecosystem processes; the executive branch acted in accord with their recommendations to forgo salvage. Prior to these events in New York State, federal forest preserves in western states had recently been opened to salvage sales, following a widespread series of fires and insect outbreaks. In this latter case, under the rubric of "forest health," legislative amendments were added to unrelated bills and passed without open debate. This lack of public exposure may have denied opportunities for an ecological basis to a key policy decision that carries substantial ecological implications. On the one hand, Adirondack Park salvage policies have evolved to address large-scale forest disturbances as natural events rather than catastrophes that demand intervention. On the other hand, federal salvage policies have arisen in a different political and economic background, and have so far largely escaped scientific scrutiny.

Key words

Adirondack Park, forest disturbance, forest health legislation, public land use, salvage logging, science and public policy, wildfire, windstorm.
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087