OSI in the Adirondacks, continued

Photo Credit: Jerry Monkman


Places We Work » New York » Adirondacks

Mt Adams

Capital District
Hudson River Valley

The Adirondacks are home to the largest complex of wildlands in the eastern United States and are the birthplace of the modern American land conservation movement.

To look upon the Adirondacks is to gaze upon history: human, biological and geological. Forests of maple, black cherry, beech, hemlock, red pine and spruce blanket a mountain range of metamorphic rock that was pressure-cooked deep in the earth more than a billion years ago and rose up in an endless cycle of uplifting and erosion. This solid core and the surrounding sedimentary rock rise up into what is known as the 46 High Peaks that reach up to 5000 feet. The headwaters of five major water systems — the Hudson, Black, St. Lawrence, and Mohawk Rivers and the New York portion of the Lake Champlain basin — are all born here among the ridges.

The native Algonquin and Iroquois tribes mostly stayed out of the higher regions of what they referred to as Couxsachrage, or the “dismal wilderness,” and it wasn’t until 1837 that the region was formally called the Adirondacks.

By the 1870s, development pressures increased as a seemingly infinite source of timber was logged to fuel the growing industries of lumber, iron mining, and leather production. But as early as the 1850s, visionary men such as Verplank Colvin, Charles Sprague Sargent and Franklin B. Hough advocated for preservation. In 1892, the New York state legislature acted to protect much of the historic Adirondacks region, permanently drawing the “blue line” boundaries of the Adirondack Park, the first countryside park in the world. Of the Park’s six million acres, covering an area equal to the state of Vermont, 2.6 million are state-owned and decreed, like the Catskill Park further south, as “forever wild,” protecting them in perpetuity.

The area attracts 10 million visitors annually and is home to 130,000 permanent residents and just over 200,000 seasonal residents. Visitors can explore 2,000 miles of hiking trails, linger beside any one of 2,800 lakes and ponds, or dip their toes into brooks and streams that run 30,000 winding miles. Fifty-four species of mammals make their home here - black bears, white-tailed deer, coyotes, bobcats, and pine martens - as well as 200 species of birds, both resident and migratory, that breed within the region. Adirondack Park staff are working to re-introduce native fauna within the Park, including beaver, fisher, American marten, moose, lynx, and osprey.


  • While logging was once the great threat to the Adirondacks, the collapse of the northeastern timber industry has meant that timber companies are now liquidating large tracts of land.
  • The shift in ownership could lead to further fragmentation of intact forestlands as subdivisions encroach, along with the roads, commercial infrastructure and high-impact recreation activities such as golf courses that accompany such development.

OSI At Work
Working with New York State, foundations, non-profit organizations, and private partners, OSI has been protecting the Adirondack landscape since 1992.
We have:

  • Permanently protected 18,000 acres
  • Acquired the 10,000-acre Tahawus Tract, home to Henderson Lake, birthplace of the Hudson River, which will become a part of the state’s Forest Preserves
  • Preserved the site of Adirondac, the historic village where Theodore Roosevelt, after hearing that President McKinley was dying, boarded a train in 1901 for his “midnight ride to the presidency.”




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