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Wilderness saved Protection for Zoar Valley is an overdue benefit for region

Call it an up-from-the-tree-roots movement.

People organized and spoke out at public hearings. Groups such as the Zoar Valley Nature Society and Adirondack Mountain Club spread the word. The staff of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation made the recommendation. The Legislature passed bills by Sen. Catherine Young and Assemblyman William L. Parment. Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer signed the measure into law.

And now only the ultimate authority, a vote of the whole people of New York, could remove the 1,492 acres of the Zoar Valley Unique Area from its new legal designation: "Forever wild."

The larger Zoar Valley Multiple Use Area covers some 2,923 acres along the Cattaraugus Creek at the border of Erie and Cattaraugus counties. It is home to many species of plants and animals, many of them endangered, threatened or designated by the state of being of "special concern." It is also noteworthy just for its special beauty.

So it was correct, if three decades belated, for the most sensitive parts of the area to receive a special designation that will ban all but the smallest and lightest footprints. No logging, drilling or other development. Ever.

For a state with a public image, from Buffalo to Manhattan, that is steel and concrete rather than flora and fauna, preserved parkland and super-preserved natural areas are a must, for the economy and for the spirit.

It is also good to note that the plans for Zoar Valley don't just include a "keep out" sign. People will come to see it, of course, and will occasionally need help from various public safety organizations. The state will provide the money for an additional park ranger, accommodations for the handicapped are planned and appropriate organizations are planning on how to work together to protect nearby private property and to coordinate rescue operations.

Wild doesn't mean ignored. It means cared for, with nature's goals made our own. That, rightly, is what will now happen in Zoar Valley.

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