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Union commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act


President Stephen C. Ainlay welcomes guests to Union's reception at the Kelly Adirondack Center.
President Stephen C. Ainlay welcomes guests to Union's reception at the Kelly Adirondack Center.

The Kelly Adirondack Center’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act on Thursday, May 8, was more than a commemoration of the milestone legislation that protected more than 9 million acres of Federal wilderness.

It was a progress report on programs at the Kelly Adirondack Center.

Eddie Summers, director of the Kelly Adirondack Center, announced a partnership with the Adirondack Research Consortium, SUNY– College of Environmental Science and Forestry and Paul Smith’s College to produce a new publication, Adirondack Journal of Environmental Studies. 

He also announced that three students – two from Union, one from Skidmore – have been named summer research fellows at the Center.

Plans are under way to partner with the Environmental Clearinghouse of Schenectady (ECOS) to revive the Mohawk River Day program, which provides educational programs to local schools.

Summers announced that he and Gretchel Hathaway, chief diversity officer, will offer a sophomore research seminar through the Center. The seminar will teach research methods through resources at the Center and in the Adirondacks.

The Center is developing an external advisory committee and will continue, in partnership with PROTECT, the stewardship of the Center’s Adirondack Research Library.

Finally, the Center is preparing a report of the State of the Adirondack Park, which will examine the social and economic demographics and migration over the past 30 years.

Keynote speakers were Edward Zahniser, a partner in Adirondack Wild, and Chad Dawson, a professor emeritus at ESF. Zahniser spoke of his father, Howard, who, with close friend and mentor Paul Schaefer, was a strong advocate for the passage of the Wilderness Act. Dawson, who has a long record as an advocate for the Adirondack Forest Preserve, related the strong influence of Bob Marshall, founder of the Wilderness Society and a pioneer of the wilderness preservation movement.

President Stephen C. Ainlay thanked the volunteers of the Center. “Many of you have toiled to make this a reality,” he said. “While we are delighted to be stewards of this place, we know that it belongs to you.” Ainlay also thanked Trustee John E. Kelly III ’76, who with his wife, Helen-Jo, has supported the Center.

Kelly praised Ainlay’s vision for the Center, and thanked Summers for advancing the mission. “The connection of Union College and the Adirondacks goes back decades and is an important part of our history,” he said. “ I’m pleased to meet many of the students and faculty who will be using the Center.”

Recalling the passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964, Kelly cited President Lyndon B. Johnson: "If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it."