At the 40th Anniversary of the State Land Master Plan (SLMP), Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve has issued a report that calls upon Governor Andrew Cuomo and state agencies “to advance and expand upon the many positive values of wild lands in our Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve.”
“The Forest Preserve was placed into state laws and its Constitution. It is where wilderness preservation began,” said Adirondack Wild’s David Gibson in a prepared statement (Gibson is a regular contributor at Adirondack Almanack). “However, government often approaches such an important landscape with a muddied sense of mission, and in an uncoordinated and shallow way. We are urging parties to venture deeper, and with greater purpose.”
“Governor Cuomo and his agencies should focus upon the paramount purposes set forth in the Master Plan for protecting our wild land heritage in the Forest Preserve,” said Adirondack Wild’s Dan Plumley. “That requires leadership which places the protection of natural systems above strictly recreational interests.”
The SLMP addressed these issues when it was created in 1972: “If there is a unifying theme to the master plan, it is that the protection and preservation of the natural resources of the state lands within the Park must be paramount. Human use and enjoyment of those lands should be permitted and encouraged, so long as the resources in their physical and biological context as well as their social or psychological aspects are not degraded.” The forward-thinking plan has since provided the legal baseline for protection of the Adirondacks that serves as a worldwide conservation model today.
“Not only did the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve inspire the drafting of the National Wilderness Preservation Act, but this great landscape also inspires people around the globe and serves as a crucial, working global model for parks and protected areas from the United States to Russia, Tibet and China to Europe, Central and South American nations, and beyond,” Plumley added.
Adirondack Wild’s report (available online) makes a number of recommendations, including:
- APA and DEC should amend the SLMP to incorporate the Park’s large conservation easements, and require management plans which take into account ecological integrity as well as recreational goals. All SLMP amendments require public hearings;
- APA and DEC should amend the SLMP to unite the myriad units of Forest Preserve, consolidate unit boundaries on a regional basis, and systematically apply the most critical management tools to a larger consolidated region consistent with principles of ecological integrity and connectivity.
- Agencies should be required to re-examine and align State Environmental Quality Review Act and other regulations to assure that the mandate of Article 14, Section 1 of the NYS Constitution is carried out by every state agency;
- The APA with private sector partners should immediately undertake a long-term trend analysis of ecological changes taking place in the Park, and measure indices of ecological health;
- All agencies should systematically manage State Lands and State-held conservation easements for their ecological integrity, to advance biological diversity, and mitigate the effects of climate change;
- APA and DEC should strictly control motorized uses on the Forest Preserve, undertake carrying capacity studies, and subject the Snowmobile Trail guidelines and All-Terrain Vehicle Policy to public hearings;
- The agencies should call for a quantifiable economic study and evaluation of the economic contributions made by all Adirondack and Catskill wild lands.
Governor Cuomo should take advantage of the opportunity to reach for the higher standard implied by Article 14 that would attract new regional and international ecological research, the report says. “Advancing this wild land model would be a result worthy of our state’s history as wilderness pioneers, and of the 40th anniversary of the State Land Master Plan,” the paper concludes.
Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve is a not-for-profit membership organization organized in the summer of 2010 to advance New York’s “Forever Wild” legacy and Forest Preserve policies in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, and promote public and private land stewardship consistent with wild land values through education, advocacy and research.
Illustration: The original 1972 SLMP map [larger pdf version].