Here’s why NCPR won’t help “abolish” Protect the Adirondacks

Peter Bauer, Protect the Adirondacks

Peter Bauer, Protect the Adirondacks

UPDATE:   Protect the Adirondacks has responded to the Denton Publications editorial.  Read their view of the issue by clicking here.

Last week, a prominent Adirondack newspaper chain called Denton Publications, based in Elizabethtown, fired a full-throated, double-barrel, no-holds-barred salvo at one of the Park’s most influential environmental groups, a small but ferocious organization called Protect the Adirondacks.

Protect, which emerged a few years ago after a period of mergers and down-sizings in the Park’s green movement, has filed some of the most controversial litigation in recent times, including a suit designed to overturn state-issued permits for the Adirondack Club and Resort in Tupper Lake.

Protect’s executive director, Peter Bauer, has been a particular lightning rod for decades, in part because he takes unpopular and sometimes uncompromising stands on issues and in part because he can be confrontational in his personal style.   His manner has, at times, alienated even some of his fellow environmentalists.

Denton’s editorial board pieced together that history and reached a startling conclusion.  In its lead editorial, the paper insists that Protect — a private organization, operated and supported for the most part by Park residents and second-homeowners — should be “abolished.”

“Cut off the head of this long-tentacled monster”

According to the newspaper, local residents, media outlets, and government leaders should collaborate to “cut the head off this long-tentacled monster known as Protect the Adirondacks,” in part by attempting to curb the group’s fundraising.

Denton’s writers also argue that journalists who cover the Adirondacks (like myself) should simply ignore Protect.  “Why even allow them a voice at the table when discussing these projects?  What credentials does Peter Bauer have to make him worthy of contacting for input?”  The editorial suggests that Denton’s own reporters will no longer cover Protect or its activities, thereby denying Bauer his “bully pulpit.”

Those views provoked an equally fierce response from the Adirondack Almanack, penned by that on-line journal’s editor John Warren, who describes Denton’s editorial as “perhaps the most vicious, poorly researched, and cowardly personal attack published in the Adirondacks in the last 20 years.”

As NCPR’s Adirondack bureau chief, I have no interest in a media flame war.  But as Denton and the Adirondack Almanack both call out our reporting, the one implicitly and the other by name, I will chime in with some thoughts about our newsroom’s editorial approach to covering Protect and the wider debate over the Big Tupper project.

Lawsuits are a tool used by all sides in Park debates

First, as I wrote back in 2012 after Protect filed its lawsuit against the Adirondack Park Agency, the case clearly included specific factual claims and allegations that warranted review by the courts.  That’s not to say I believed that Protect was right or would prevail.  But after reporting in-depth and with great care on the substance of the charges, they were certainly credible and serious, and not frivolous as some have argued.  You can read that essay here.

Obviously, that legal process and the associated delays were frustrating, even infuriating, to many people.  But it’s important to point out that litigation and legal action of this kind are a common fact of life in the Park and it’s a game that everybody plays.  In recent years we’ve seen court cases filed (or in one case, an Attorney General’s probe launched) based on the accusations of Adirondack property rights activists, farmers, environmental activists, local counties, the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, and on and on.

The developer of the Big Tupper resort, Michael Foxman, himself launched a lawsuit in 2010 against a neighbor in Tupper Lake, demanding access to and use of a chunk of land owned by the Adirondack Nature Conservancy.  Rather than negotiating directly with the Conservancy, one of the Park’s largest and most respected private landowners, Foxman used a rarely-seen court maneuver to force access to their property.

Naturally, Mr. Foxman views his lawsuit (affecting someone else’s property and rights) as credible and warranted and reasonable.  And he has long argued that Protect’s lawsuit affecting his own project was none of those things.   This is understandable.   In their editorial, Denton Publications has, in effect, chosen to adopt the developer’s view.  The newspaper went so far as to suggest that the developer’s opinions, cited repeatedly, are the only ones that warrant an audience.

But that approach, prejudging the merits of court cases and deciding in advance which litigants deserve coverage (and which don’t), just won’t fly in our newsroom.  We covered Mr. Foxman’s lawsuit factually and fairly and we did the same with Protect’s litigation.  That’s what our audiences want and deserve.

Denton is angry at Protect for making the same claims that its own editorial board made

Denton’s editorial suggests that Protect represents a different, more extreme case.   Their history and their arguments are so outside the mainstream, the newspaper argues, that any reasonable observer (or news organization) should recognize them as non-credible and unworthy of coverage.

But Denton itself published a lead editorial five years ago leveling accusations remarkably similar to the ones charged by Protect.  The newspaper argued that the APA should be abolished for “arbitrary enforcement, hypocritical acts and subjective interpretation of the APA Act.”  That language could be lifted almost word-for-word from Protect’s lawsuit.

The only difference is that Protect offered specific, detailed legal and factual arguments, while Denton’s broadside against the Park Agency offered none of those things.

Yet here again, it appears that the paper’s editorial board concluded that their own charges against the APA were credible and reasonable and worthy of an audience, while charges leveled by Protect are inherently unworthy and shouldn’t be heard by the courts or the public.

Again, it goes without saying that NCPR won’t adopt Denton’s somewhat mercurial editorial approach.  We have never called for the APA to be abolished, nor will we now make it our policy to ignore or attack the APA’s critics.

So how does NCPR cover these issues?

The editorial approach in our newsroom — boring as this may sound — is simply to report accurately what people are saying and doing and, when possible, to uncover the facts surrounding those activities.  To that end, we will continue to interview Peter Bauer, asking him tough, skeptical questions.

Yes, Bauer is sometimes abrasive and combative.  As the court’s ACR decision suggests, he is also sometimes flatly wrong.  But he is also one of the most deeply knowledgeable and thoughtful environmental activists working in the Park today.  In fifteen years, I have never found him to be dishonest or deceptive.

Protect’s board, furthermore, is made up of business-leaders, writers, activists, outdoors-people, and naturalists, many of them with long histories of accomplishment and contribution within the Blue Line. Our reporting shows that — in simple factual terms — they are simply not the arrogant snobs “in their shiny BMW X5s, noses skyward” caricatured so harshly in Denton’s essay.

Nor, in 15 years reporting on the Park, digging deep into the motivations of the region’s various environmental activists, have I found a single shred of evidence to support Denton’s claim that some environmentalists want to drive local residents from inside the Blue Line.

This is a charge that has been leveled for decades in the North Country.  I’ve investigated its merits.  It would be a huge story if it were true.  A green group attempting to depopulate an entire region of New York state?  It’s a remarkable claim.  But as a journalist I can find no factual basis that lends it even the hint of credibility.

It’s true, of course, that Protect’s views and actions sometimes anger members of our audience.  But the role of a journalist is not to coddle or soothe.  And our mission is certainly not to silence those who might cause upset.  Our mission is to inform and to offer a fair, factual and civil venue for discussion and debate.

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36 Comments on “Here’s why NCPR won’t help “abolish” Protect the Adirondacks”

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  1. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Jeezum Crow! Talk about attacks on the First Amendment, and from a news organization.

    I fully support Protect the Adirondacks! to exist and work as a fully legal organization in a free society. But I wish everyone would conspire to take their stupid exclamation point away – as Brian Mann has done. Good job BM, that exclamation point drives me nuts.

  2. Pete Klein says:

    Denton is a rather odd paper. When I pick up my copy at the Post Office on Fridays, mostly to read their goofy so called editorials, I’m always struck by how many of this Free paper never make it out of the Post Office and are tossed into a bin for recycling.

  3. Will Doolittle says:

    KHL is absolutely! right!

  4. Twirling Gherkin says:

    Look at the picture.
    Peter Bauer is obviously Draco Malfoy.
    Protect doesn’t use an exclamation point, it’s a wizard’s mark indicating a wand in mid-spell.
    Wake up sheeple.

  5. Mervel says:

    Well you can’t “abolish” them; you can as the article suggests try to disrupt their fundraising. They exist as many not for profits who do, solely at the pleasure and support of those private individuals who willingly give them money to operate. I think the article probably will increase their fundraising however. I have made some minor donations to them, simply because they are active they don’t just sit back, even when I disagree with their points, I like the fact that they are putting themselves out there for what they believe.

    I am not totally up to speed on all of the petty jealousies and infighting within the environmental movement within the park or the history of all of these different groups, they do seem to come and go. However I will say that Protect does seem to get a lot of coverage from NCPR, now that may just be because Bauer knows what he is doing as far as garnering attention and also maybe just because he is putting his group in the middle of controversial issues which naturally garner media attention.

  6. I don’t agree with everything Protect does but my Lord, what a cowardly editorial. And a truly bizarre thing for a purported news outlet to be crusading on: less journalism.

    Though after they plagiarized a guest essay from my blog without permission or even attribution, I lost respect for them (they added attribution subsequently but only after being called out on it).

  7. Curt Austin says:

    This is just an example of the unfortunate departure from reality that many of Alexander’s ilk have taken. To them, it’s us or them, good or evil, black or white. They do not see gray. They do not see the perspective of others; they would lose their membership in this club if they tried. Their self-evident truths come from a very small place.

    I do not see much gray in their behavior: They do not believe in democracy; in America, that is evil.

    Protect has some problems of this nature themselves, and I’ve personally experienced a bit of evilness from them. I’m content to see their stunning record of non-success continue.

  8. Mark says:

    Cuet said it well. Protect has a stunning record of failure. It is remarkable how many naive donors the organization suckers in annually. They’ve had tight finances previously and, eventually, they will fade away on their own. While I support their right to exist as an organization, I also support legislative reform that will make it more difficult for them to file the kind of nonsense law suits that have cost local towns, developers and the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. If they had to pay the same legal costs (rather than free legal services), they might think more carefully before filing. They began with some well intentioned programs for forest management and sustainable growth, but they have deviated so far that they are now just anti sustainable economy.

  9. Peter says:

    After reading the editorial, I wonder how much revenue PROTECT!!!!!! receives from lawsuit reimbursements and settlements. Anyone know?

    My bet is their donors get first dibs on investing in CRTs with their larger non-profit friends by supporting their projects.

  10. Mervel says:

    I don’t think they get any Peter.

    According to their 2013 990 filing (public information available on guidestar-all transparent NFP fill 990’s to the feds), they only had $268,000 in total revenue in 2013, they are very small organization. Bauer made $82,000 as ED that year (once again public info available on the 990), which is a relatively fair salary given they are essentially a one person shop with some support staff, although a little high for such a small revenue, but still that level does not bother me.

    So I think they are on a shoe string and individual donations are very important to them.

  11. Mervel says:

    But who else out there is going to stand up to developers? I don’t see any other group willing to do it and that function is a needed function, even if on the individual cases we may disagree. I have lived in states where groups like this don’t exist, and the results are not good.

  12. Two Cents says:

    malfoy? I thought it was nick lowe…

    it’s America. buy a “newspaper” and use free speech to disparage what you don’t like.
    or start a “environmental activism” group and get 80,000 a year to help finance that second home in the park.
    but whatever it takes, make sure you abuse the system, (keeping within the acceptable established parameters, of course) to your own advantage.

    or you could get a real job……

  13. Peter says:

    Looks like I hit a hot wire ! Hah !

  14. Pirate Edward Low says:


    1) Is Denton Pub wrong to use their freedom of speech to call out or ask for the abolish an entity…? I thought that is how one used their freedom of information.

    2) are Denton Pub editorials slanted? sure. Bias? Perhaps People like to say NPR and NCPR are bias and slanted… in fact some might cite various alliances that the Author of this piece and NCPR have might cause bias (would NCPR question an editorial of the paper Chris Knight works for, if it mentioned NCPR? probably not… but there is the same perceptions of bias there.

    3) people say to me that Rush Limbaugh doesn’t believe what he says, he only does it for the controversy. Does Denton Pub believe everything it prints? Is Peter Bauer for every thing he fights in court? (He is paid to do what he does). Who knows, but that doesn’t guarantee a bias.

    There are a lot of questions I wonder about that NCPR doesn’t ask.. there are a lot of bias I wonder about… like if Brian Mann works for a news publication that leans to the left, does that mean he has the same views of that paper, or can’t be objective when covering the editor of that paper?

    I really don’t think so, but those thoughts are often tossed about.

    Much in the same way I don’t think Peter Bauer is a character out of Hogwarts

  15. The Original Larry says:

    It’s an editorial, folks, and as such represents the opinion of the publication’s ownership or senior management. The key word here is opinion and it shouldn’t be debated as if it were news. Debating the issues is one thing else all together.

  16. Pirate Edward Low says:

    I am looking at the up and down votes

    So I can predict the following opinion will get lots of down votes.

    Folks understand, you can disagree with NCPR, just like Brian can disagree with DenPubs, and it doesn’t make you good or bad… I would hope more people have the mental resources to not see things as black and white
    or read and blue

    but many shades of purple.

  17. Hidebound says:

    A little background goes long way. Denton Publications’s
    Daniel Alexander stated,

    “We look at ourselves as a resource people can use and look to in the community,” he said. “This award is not for any one thing. It is more for what we have done leading to growth and economic expansion in the area.”

    Alexander is a member of several community groups, including the North Country Chamber of Commerce, the Foundation of CVPH, the Essex County Industrial Development Corp. and the Essex County Business Council. He is regional chairman of the North Country Workforce Investment Board.

    It’s the old economic development vs. environmental sustainability. To say that Protect the Adirondacks needs to be abolished is a rather ham handed way to attempt to eliminate opposition and stifle opinion.

  18. Tim says:

    And let’s not ignore the letter to the editor written by Bill Coats in the same issue: I am flabbergasted DentonPubs published such an outright racist, inflammatory, and shameful letter. Bill Coats is production manager for DenPubs.
    Last year they published an editorial condoning drunk driving:
    I’ve come to the point where I think it’s almost pointless to take them to task anymore.

  19. The Original Larry says:

    Looks like the thought police are at it again! Tim, I read both articles you linked to and I can’t agree with you about either one. There’s nothing racist about quoting crime statistics and pleading for restraint in sentencing doesn’t make one in favor of drunk driving. The real problem here is deviation from liberal orthodoxy. Why must that deviation always be met with ridicule and invective instead of productive debate?

  20. Larry: A purported journalistic outlet overtly calls on media outlets to conspire to deny otherwise newsworthy reporting from a prominent regional organization simply because it doesn’t agree with their politics and its critics are the thought police? How does this mesh with the “productive debate” you call for?

  21. Tim says:

    Original Larry–Bill Coats, author of the recent racist letter to the editor in DenPubs, draws his information from The New Century Foundation and its publication, American Renaissance. Both were founded by arch racist, Jared Taylor, a self admitted white separatist who views whites as genetically superior in intelligence to blacks.
    As for the editorial about drunk driving, here is my response:

  22. Tim: when black men get arrested (or worse) for the same things (or lesser ones) that whites only get a warning for – think Eric Garner vs Cliven Bundy – of course the statistics are going to look worse for them.

  23. Mervel says:

    Two cents, I don’t see how PROTECT is abusing the system? I think if they were getting government funding (like many not for profits in NYS), then yes I could agree. But they are doing what they were set up to do and using donors freely given money. Then again I am not on the inside and have never met the man or worked with him in anyway.

    Not sure about Bauer and the second home thing? His Protect job is a full time job, maybe he has money from some other sources? But that would be his call and his business, I don’t think their finances or his salary look strange or out of order.

  24. Mervel says:

    On the other side if that paper (which I have never heard of) wants to slam PROTECT in an editorial I think that is fine. You can’t do what this group does and not expect a lot of criticism.

  25. Mervel: there’s a huge difference between a newspaper editorial criticizing what an organization, person or government does and campaigning for media outlets to blacklist that entity. That seems antithetical to modern notions of serious journalism, which even dinky little weeklies like Denton purport to follow.

    I have little use for anything Fred Monroe says but I’d never call on him to be blacklisted by the media.

  26. Heavy says:

    I just dont understand why there is a picture of Bea Arthur linked to this story? what am i missing?

  27. Peter Bauer says:

    I texted my daughter yesterday about the Draco Malfoy line, but the Bea Arthur line above made me laugh out loud. That’s funny!

  28. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I’m glad I’m not the last person on earth to be hip to the Harry Potter thing. Maybe second to last.

  29. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Can you teach me to text?

  30. The Original Larry says:

    It’s the thought police for sure when people criticize others for having and voicing opinions, whether editorial or personal. The real point is that many people don’t agree with those opinions but can’t distinguish between the actual opinions and the right to voice them. How can you criticize a newspaper for printing a letter to the editor or an editorial?

  31. mervel says:

    Well Brian, maybe it is just out of frustration, that Bauer running a very small little organization, is getting so much press. I mean he does get a lot of press for the size of his outfit. Consider; Protect has a budget of 280k, and the backers of the Tupper Lake Development have a budget of millions, so it must be frustrating that Protect keeps getting covered.

    I love it.

  32. mervel says:

    The counter argument of course is the Protect is doing a lot of damage to potential future development in the Adirondacks, particularly at a time when people are trying to get along better than in the past, when the economic condition of people who live here full time actually is getting some attention. So it’s a good debate and a legitimate one all around. It’s always hard for those of us who love the wild part of the Park, who want it never to change and actually to grow more wild, but who have a job, who are fine, to balance our love of that against the real needs of real families who need good jobs with benefits.

  33. ADKerDon says:

    Bravo to Denton Pubs. for showing the world just what a corrupt, Adirondacker hating organization Protect the Adirondacks is. This organization and all its leaders have for years been pushing genocide, murder, and extinction of the Adirondack people. They have destroyed all jobs, businesses, and livelihood here. They have destroyed all wildlife habitat, contributing to the murder and extinction of over 20 strains of our native brook trout. Only the scum of humanity is stupid enough to continue to support this worthless group.

  34. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Thanks for the laugh ADKerDon, it’s good to start the new year with some humor.

  35. Two Cents says:

    my comments were of the obligatory and customary sarcasm.
    I don’t think either subjects are out of order. they are playing the game. I don’t really care for either angle.
    I think everyone is suspect.
    for me, real jobs make hands blister and brows sweat, they produce something touchable and concrete.
    these two guys are no different to me than lobbyists.
    I would like to think the great outdoors doesn’t need defending. that everyone clearly sees how important of an issue the care of our planet is, so malfoy’s protect! is just an annoying reminder to me of human stupidity. don’t know about his second house, that was a jab because I know most here hate that some people have a second home in the park, then try to control law so that the park stays as they like it, but it’s America and that’s allowed.
    the newsman dude sounds like a good fascist in the making, but it is his paper no? and–it’s America and that’s allowed too. I dislike the thought that there is some little creatin (spelling?) like that using the same good air that truly good people need, but live and let live. hopefully a fair distance away from either of these two numbnuts– if that’s at all possible anymore.
    I though that’s what living in the untamed wilds of ny Adirondacks was about. space. these guys display painfully how small everything really is.
    i’ll try to be more serious in the future, but really, it’s too much brainpower to muster sometimes.

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