Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Green Groups Call On APA To Reject Boreas Proposals

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAdirondack Forest Preserve advocacy groups are calling on the Adirondack Park Agency’s board to reject at this week’s meeting all three staff proposals for classifying the 20,758-acre Boreas Ponds Tract.

The major objection is that under all three proposals, a 6.8-mile logging road that leads to Boreas Ponds would be designated Wild Forest, which could allow people to drive all the way to the ponds.

Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), said it’s even possible that motorboats could be allowed on the water. Under the APA’s first alternative, the ponds would be classified Wild Forest, which could allow motorboats. The other two alternatives are silent on the ponds’ classification.

Woodworth said the APA board should direct the staff to come up with new proposals, a step that would delay public hearings on the Boreas classification. “It’s more important to get this classification right than do it fast,” he said.

ADK is part of BeWildNY, a coalition of environmental groups that is calling on the state to classify Boreas Ponds as Wilderness, which would prohibit the use of motors and mountain bikes.

Protect the Adirondacks, the Adirondack Council, Adirondack Wild, and Adirondack Wilderness Advocates also are calling on the APA board, which meets Thursday, to reject all three proposals.

“The state’s classification option is akin to taking a Van Gogh painting and hanging it on a telephone post,” said Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect. “These three options are mystifyingly reckless. We simply do not understand why the Cuomo administration decided to play so fast and loose with one of the most beautiful and precious spots in New York.”

Protect and BeWildNY favor classification plans that would allow the public to drive up the logging road only as far as LaBier Flow, an impoundment of the Boreas River. From there, hikers would have to walk about a mile to reach Boreas Ponds. The Adirondack chapter of the Nature Conservancy, which sold Boreas Ponds to the state in April, backs a similar plan.

Adirondack Wilderness Advocates wants the entire road closed. In a news release, the group blasted the APA staff for failing to consider options that would preclude motorized access to the ponds. Brendan Wiltse, one of AWA’s founders, called the APA proposals “grossly inadequate.”

In a new development, Adirondack Wild joined AWA’s call for closing the entire road “to allow the area to gain its full Wilderness potential.”

Although motorized use is permissible under a Wild Forest classification, the state Department of Environmental Conservation could still close any part the road to vehicles. Nevertheless, environmentalists favor a Wilderness classification to preclude the possibility of opening the road in the future.

“The Adirondack Council is calling on the APA to reject these faux, pseudo-Wilderness proposals in favor of meaningful Wilderness protection for the Boreas Ponds, including the watershed above the ponds, the ponds, a minimum one mile buffer below that restricts motorized recreation and parking to at least a mile from the Ponds, and that protects the Boreas River down to the Blue Ridge Road,” Willie Janeway, the council’s executive director, said in an email to the Almanack.

APA spokesman Keith McKeever refused to discuss the staff’s rationale for classifying the road Wild Forest in all three proposals. However, DEC  evidently wants permission to drive on the road to maintain a dam at the foot of Boreas Ponds. Also, local towns have easements to use the road to access gravel pits.

Woodworth and Dave Gibson, a partner in Adirondack Wild, contend that the dam and the easements do not require the state to classify the road Wild Forest.

Nature Conservancy spokeswoman Connie Prickett said of the easements: “the gravel rights were conveyed expressly subject to state laws and regulations, which includes land classification, and they do not in any manner predetermine how lands within the Boreas Ponds tract should or will be classified.”

Asked if the towns could open the road to allow the disabled or anyone else, such as guides, to drive all the way to Boreas Ponds, Prickett replied: “As set forth in the easement, no, the easement does not convey rights to towns to open any roads. Use of the roads can only be granted by DEC permit at its sole discretion and any such permit could only be issued subject to state laws and regulations, including land classification.”

The easement agreement, dated February 26, says the towns of North Hudson and Newcomb may exercise certain rights, such as maintaining roads, only through an annual permit issued by the department. Click the link below to read the easement.

town-easement

Local towns favor a Wild Forest classification for Boreas Ponds, arguing that logging roads in the vicinity should be open to snowmobiles and mountain bikes. The towns also say electric motorboats should be allowed on the water. Although the towns favor establishing a parking area at LaBier Flow, they also argue that the disabled; guides and their clients; and anyone with a special permit should be allowed to drive all the way to the ponds.

With spectacular views of the High Peaks, Boreas Ponds is one of the natural jewels on lands formerly owned by the Finch, Pruyn & Company timberlands. The Nature Conservancy bought all of the Finch lands in 2007. Over several years, the state purchased 65,000 acres from the conservancy for the forever-wild Forest Preserve.

Photo of Boreas Ponds by Phil Brown.


Phil Brown

Since 1999, Phil Brown has been Editor of the nonprofit Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack.

Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing.

He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.

Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.




77 Responses

  1. ScottyB says:

    No surprise here. Personally, I like all 3 APA alternatives better than any proposed by the so-called green groups. But I’ll wait on all that until comment periods are open.

  2. Paul says:

    “Woodworth and Dave Gibson, a partner in Adirondack Wild, contend that the dam and the easements do not require the state to classify the road Wild Forest.”

    How does the town drive to the gravel pits to get stone if the road is classified as Wilderness? Not sure I follow?

    What is the story about the “recreational easement” that the town has? Anybody figure that out yet. I assume it’s on the deed.

  3. I believe I read in this morning’s flurry of press releases that there is now more than one group recommending the full closure of Gulf Brook Road…

  4. Paul says:

    If I have deeded rights to do X on your property you cannot do something to prevent me from doing it. That is real estate law 101. For example if I have a right of way for access, you don’t have to build the road for me and maintain it but you can’t stop me from doing it myself as long as I am reasonable.

    • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

      TNC says the easement was granted subject to state laws and regulations and does not predetermine classification. No doubt we’ll hear more about this at the APA meeting.

      • Paul says:

        For sure. I have never heard of the state stopping a legal ROW by doing something like that. I guess they could classify the land as Wilderness and then allow the folks with deeded rights to do what they are allowed to do in the deed. So in this case (maybe) the town could keep the road open to public travel. Not sure what the point of a Wilderness classification would be under those circumstances. Maybe that is why all 3 alternatives focus on keeping the road. Has anyone doing this reporting just gotten a copy of the deed to see what it is going on. These are public records.

        • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

          The gravel pits are for maintaining the road. If the road is closed, the pits are not needed.

          • Paul says:

            Thanks. So not for any other town road maintenance?

            I guess that just leaves the question of the “recreational easement” and what sort of access that allows. I don’t think you could legally shut that down. Should be clear in the deed.

            • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

              “The town shall not transport any gravel from the Property for use on any other Town Road or parcel located off the Property for any purpose.”

            • M.P. Heller says:

              The easement is clear that gravel from the pits cannot be taken for use on other projects. It’s solely for the maintenance of roads and trails on the Boreas Tract.

              It’s going to be hard to close the road when rights have been granted for use and maintenance. I think that had this information been more publicly discussed earlier on in the process that alot of the bickering and posturing about classification could have been avoided.

      • Chris says:

        Has Finch Pruyn maintained their easements for the Boreas Pond Road for hauling timber out of their existing property? The deed has quite a few easements for Finch Pruyn including other roads in this tract. If this is the case, would the roads need to be legally open?

        I view it similar to the South Side Trail which I believe is classified as Primitive. I have seen personal ATV’s traveling to the private lands (surrounded by public land) and they may have a legal right of way to their land. I haven’t been there post Irene so I don’t know if they are still being used.

  5. Paul says:

    Does a breach of this dam pose any threat to communities or landowners downstream?

    • Boreas says:

      Paul,

      I am no engineer, but I think the topography is flat enough that it wouldn’t be very violent. Looking at a map, I don’t see anything major in the water’s way for many miles. Another thing to keep in mind is that this isn’t a deep pond and therefore doesn’t hold a lot of water like a deep lake with a high dam. Since the river is “channelized” like a river through villages and towns, the flow would likely overflow the bank into the surrounding forest, absorbing most of the impact.

  6. Dan Crane Dan Crane says:

    Close all the roads & rip them up, demolish the dam, and let nature do the rest.

    • Paul says:

      Dan, you gotta check out the deed. It sounds like that might not be legal.

    • Pete Nelson Pete Nelson says:

      Dan, did you join Adirondack Wilderness Advocates yet?

      Love,

      Pete

    • ml says:

      I’m with you, Dan. Opening it up maintains the not-wilderness wedge between the High Peaks and Elk Lake. Anything less than Wilderness is an invitation to snowmobiles, bikes, motorboats and ATVs. The “access” folks in any disguise are still compromisers who would sell it out.

      Also, while I’m in the mood to meddle, I wish writers and discussants would refer to “the disabled” as “people with disabilities”. We’re people, people!

  7. Charlie S says:

    “Protect and BeWildNY favor classification plans that would allow the public to drive up the logging road only as far as LaBier Flow..”

    This is way too close to the ponds! There should be more effort in reaching them not just a 12 minute walk!! We should be accommodating the adventurous not the slothful.

    • Bruce says:

      Charlie S,

      In at least one instance in an earlier discussion, it was suggested a trail is needed for hikers so they won’t have to walk so far on the road. Someone else suggested a couple of lean-tos would be nice as well Both suggestions were by Wilderness advocates..

      What are the adventurous to do if these things happen? I say if total Wilderness is the final outcome (doubtful at this point) then the roads obviate the need for new trails.

      • Charlie S says:

        The road is a trail (more or less) Bruce.I did not know there were thoughts on building a new trail. A three mile walk into the woods (to Boreas Ponds) is not much of a walk but enough so that it can be said there was a little effort involved. A one mile walk is not much of a walk. I’ve seen what can happen the easier the access into wild areas. My concern is people who show a lack of respect for what I consider sacred.

        • Bruce says:

          Charlie S,

          The remarks made about a short cut trail or lean-tos were buried within comments where they weren’t too noticeable in the earlier discussions on Boreas Ponds. We all know the people who made those remarks so they shall remain nameless. Others have suggested a desire for trails to other places, such as Wolf Pond, or going into the HPW from Boreas. I’m ambivalent about that, but short cuts from the roads to the ponds are not needed.

    • kathy says:

      Define slothful…does that include anyone who is not able to walk a certain amount of distance due to age or disability…..? Or is this to be considered the rightful domain of the “adventurous”? Your comment reeks of insult.

      • Boreas says:

        kathy,

        How do you perceive “adventurous”? Many disabled people are both motivated and adventurous.

        • kathy says:

          I was replying to the comment of Charlie S. who said leave it to the “adventurous,not the slothful “. Asking him for his definition.

          • Charlie S says:

            Slothful….lazy,disinclined to action or labor.
            Insult? Yes (maybe) if I was importing what you seem to think I was. I was not you’re twisting my meaning.
            I’m all for access for those who are incapacitated due to physical impairments kathy. Truly I believe the more effort involved in getting from point A to point B in the wilderness the more appreciative foot travelers are. The easier the access the more likely corruption will be introduced by those who are devoid of spirit.

            • kathy says:

              Thank you Charlie S.for your definition. It was unclear as originally you had given only only 2 categories, “adventurous” vs “slothful”. I agree with this above reply as to protecting the area from too easy access for those looking for convenient party spots.

    • R.Ladu says:

      I don’t think folks who enjoy the wilderness but may have difficulty hiking long distances or carrying a canoe many miles (those with disabilities, elders, disabled vets etc.) can be classified as “slothful”. We are taxpayers too, accommodating only the “adventurous ” such as yourself sounds as elitist as it was meant to.

  8. Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

    I have added a link to the easement agreement with the towns.

    Also added a fresh quote from WIllie Janeway of the Adirondack Council.

    • Paul says:

      Thanks. Well I think that explains why the APA is bent on keeping the road. They have to.

      “roads which may be open for public motorized use”. In fact it looks like it covers all the roads within the tract.

      • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

        Paul, you left out the qualifier (my emphasis): “roads which may be open for public motorized use, IF ANY” …

    • adkDreamer says:

      Phil – Thanks for the link! Should be pretty clear to all concerned that the easement states specifically:

      3.c.iii

      “Ownership of the fee title to the bed of the roads shall remain with the Grantor and its successors in interest the parties agree that this easement shall not create a public highway…”

      Done. It’s so over. No public access via the roads.

      • M.P. Heller says:

        Wouldn’t it be nice if that’s what that language meant? It’s not what it means though. Public access and public highway are two completely separate topics. The public can be granted access without the road being designated a public highway.

  9. Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

    Added another quote from TNC spokeswoman Connie Prickett. She says the towns cannot open the roads for public access without DEC permission.

    • adkDreamer says:

      Phil – I’m pretty sure Connie did not say say that – per your article quote. Cite: Town Easement: Consideration 3.c.iii (quoted above)

      • Phil Brown says:

        I get your point that the easement does not create a public highway. However, DEC could open the road to vehicles if the APA classifies it as Wild Forest.

        • Paul says:

          If this is the case what is the point of the easement? I think the proper interpretation is that the town (as you said) “may” open the roads using the right they have been granted under the easement. They don’t have to but – they may. Yes, they need some sort of TRP each year from the DEC but they can’t unreasonable withhold that. It is probably to make sure they are following DEC rules for maintenance etc. It will be interesting to see what they say on Thursday. The fact that they didn’t even float a proposal w/o that road open makes me think that this interpretation is probably correct.

          The towns didn’t get this easement so that the state could decide the fate of motorized access. They got it so they could decide. In exchange they probably told the TNC that they would approve the transfer to NYS of everything else.

          • Phil Brown says:

            One purpose is to give the towns the right to mine gravel on the Forest Preserve for work on the road. Another is to give the towns the right to drive on the road, even if parts of the road are closed to the public, to access the pits and the dams.

            • Paul says:

              Thanks. I should have looked more carefully at the TNC spokespersons comments above. The state can do all these things via classification I still see no reason for this easement if all this is correct.

              • Phil Brown Phil Brown says:

                Ordinarily, towns cannot mine gravel on the Forest Preserve. Nor can they operate vehicles on a road that is closed to the public. As mentioned earlier, the easement would allow them to do both. So I don’t understand why you claim there is no reason for the easement.

                • Paul says:

                  Phil, True on the mining thing. I was thinking that for that they could just get gravel somewhere else. This would make it more convenient. But the easement (if it is what we think it is) is not necessary for the state to keep the road open for state use. If it is classified as Wild Forest it could either be open for public use or could be used by the DEC under a TRP for maintenance. For emergencies it isn’t required at all. The state takes motorized vehicles into even wilderness areas for that purpose (ATVs, snowmobiles, helicopters, you name it)

            • M.P. Heller says:

              There would be no purpose to maintain the road with the gravel pits if the road was not to be left open to use. If the purpose of the roads were to facilitate maintenance of the dam (s) by the state, North Hudson would not be the entity doing that maintenance. Rather, I think it’s quite clear that the purpose of North Hudson being granted these rights is to enable the reasonable maintenance of the roads for the recreational purposes spoken of in other parts of the easement.

              Clearly this will end up in the courts, but I think that whoever brings the action will end up taking Real Estate 101 via the judge.

              • Paul says:

                True. It is clearly stated in the “whereas” – access by the public to remote areas of the property. Don’t need a road if they are just going to be hiking in. This doesn’t need to end up in court. First it looks likely that the road will be open as part of the classification. Second it depends on what the town actually figured they were getting. If it is public motorized access. Why in the world didn’t they just say that it was a deeded ROW for motorized access. Given the easement and the rights that the town does have I think a wilderness classification that would shut it all down (although not impossible) is highly unlikely. The ASLMP has to take into consideration the characteristics of the property and this easement is one important one.

                • M.P. Heller says:

                  I agree that it’s doesn’t need to end up in court, but based on recent events with other properties (Essex) I’m fairly certain that ultimately it will.

  10. Tyler Socash says:

    I’m very proud of these organizations who stood up for stronger wilderness proposals. Wilderness has nonhuman importance, which should be factored in with a tract this ecologically significant. In my visit to the Boreas Ponds Tract earlier this month (which only required a 45-minute stroll on a gentle road from the interim parking area 3.1 miles north of Blue Ridge Road), I was absolutely amazed with the silent splendor of the region. Motorized access removes this silence, a rare treasure in an increasingly mechanized society. The moose, common mergansers, and loons would agree: this should be a wild place forever.

  11. M.P. Heller says:

    So the green groups are asking APA to throw away the work that APA staff already performed. I’m sure that they will get right on that……..

    We know that the folks working over at APA and DEC who are tasked with these projects have a certain level of education in certain diciplines in order to qualify for the positions they hold. To see exactly what these minimum educational requirements are you can look up various job descptions for different APA and DEC positions.

    What do we know about the educational background of the various vocal individuals in the green groups who are advocating scrapping the work of the APA staff?

    I see Janeway and Gibson have relevant educational background, but what about Protect and ADK who don’t even list the qualifications of their staff or board?

    What about AWA? What qualifications do their leaders have that we should be seriously considering their ideas? Their “About Us” page qualifies them as “a trio of outdoor enthusiasts”. Wonderful. I’m enthusiastic about hiking gear, but I don’t pretend to know more about it than the manufacturers, nor do I tell them how to do their jobs. I’m not qualified to do that.

    • Boreas says:

      MP,

      Don’t blow a fuse. The groups are only asking the APA to reject the proposals – as is their right. The APA will do whatever it wants, regardless of their educations.

      • M.P. Heller says:

        Not gonna blow a fuse B. Just trying to point out that often times those with the loudest opinions on these matters an nothing more than lay people. Of course they can have their say, but I think it’s important that we remember the context. Their opinions shouldn’t matter any more than yours or mine regardless of how much they carry on and use their organizations names in an attempt to add credibility to their arguments.

        • Todd Eastman says:

          Yer just plain silly!

          Demanding qualifications of Orgs boards?

          Please produce your bonifides…

          • M.P. Heller says:

            I’m not on the staff or board of a green group Todd. My ideas and opinions are those of a lay person, and should carry the weight of a lay person. If I were to form a nonprofit to advance my views, (which is easy enough to do), my views would still be those of a lay person. I think that distinction is lost on some folks who believe that since opinions are eminating from “green groups” that somehow those opinions are somehow automatically expert. This is not true in all cases and we should be reaching for the highest standards possible when taking into consideration what opinions are coming from truly qualified groups and individuals and which ones are just personal agenda hiding behind the mask of a nonprofit.

            • Todd Eastman says:

              Welcome to the real world big boy…

              … get off the keyboard and get to work if you want your opinion to have a place at the table…

              … or support your favorite group or groups.

  12. Mike Tomaszewski says:

    I’m just curious…
    Was(is) there a similar easement granted by TNC for the “float plane clients only” campsites on the Essex Chain Lakes and Pine Lake??
    That would certainly explain the exclusion of the general public from public lands.

    • Truth says:

      Yes, in Essex Chain TNC granted the towns rights to access gravel pits and issue permits to floatplane operators on First and Pine Lakes. The decision to retain a campsite for floatplane users only on Pine Lake was a management decison by DEC, not a deeded right.

  13. Justin Farrell says:

    I must say that I find it a bit odd that a so called environmental group that’s mostly geared towards “Wilderness” will all of a sudden change its mind from a 1 mike walk to a 7 mile walk since this news was released, and it makes me question thier overall goals.
    I’ve said it many times that I support a full Wilderness classification for the entire tract, but I would not be against the compromise of allowing the current interim parking area to be the permanent parking area for the general public, which is located about midway along Gulf Brook Road & similar to APA’s proposal #3.
    When I was there this past weekend there were LOTS of visitors during the nice weather, including a gentleman with a motorized wheelchair. Keep the gate where it currently is & everybody wins IMHO. Let’s not kill this place with over-use.

    • Boreasfisher says:

      Maybe with the suggested alternatives on the table, and the revelation of previous undisclosed easements, the original compromise now seems to have gone too far to accommodate the economic interests of certain parties, so far that it threatens the ecological integrity of the ponds.
      It does not surprise me to find advocacy groups are looking for a compromise that allows some access for recreation but also provides reasonable ecological protections.

  14. Truth says:

    While Connie Pricket’s statement may be intended to keep TNC in good standing throughout this process, the reality is that APA can’t use land classifications to overrule deeded rights. There are primitive corridors all throughout the Park that exist because the APA recognizes deeds that grant inholders the right to drive across wilderness areas.

    • Phil Brown says:

      In this case, though, it appears that the deeded rights are subject to state laws and regulations, which presumably includes land classifications, and subject to the “sole discretion” of DEC.

      • Paul says:

        Phil, that just doesn’t seem to make sense. Again, what is the point of the easement if the state calls all the shots? They have to follow state laws using the road but that doesn’t allow the state to close it. But I will admit this is a pretty confusing easement the way it is written. I know several people who have easements for access that crosses state land. When you want to do work on these roads you need to get a TRP from the DEC (which they give you when you show them a document like this easement). Here I think they are just saying that they want a TRP in force every year that the road is in use probably since it will be more extensively maintained that something like a private access road. Frequent raking filling etc.

    • M.P. Heller says:

      Truth is correct here. (Wow that’s an ironic statement.) APA cannot strip previously granted rights through land classification. An after the fact law or regulation that impacted those granted rights in the easement would not be enforceable under the law, and there is heaps of case law that supports. Somebody made the comment that this was Real Estate 101 awhile back, and it is. You have to be careful when you acquire encumbered property because you may not be able to do exactly what you want with it due to the preexisting rights of lein or easement holders.

      The moral of the story? Caveat Emptor.

      • Paul says:

        MP, I made that comment and after reading the actual easement it looks like maybe it is more of a graduate level course!

        • M.P. Heller says:

          Lol. Maybe some of the nuances are advanced in nature, but the basic premise is still rather basic.

          It still bothers me that this information about the easement has been available for 8 months but has only been a part of the larger discussion for a few days. I think a lot of time and energy has been wasted by the various interested parties as a result.

  15. Dave Gibson says:

    Thanks to Phil Brown for adding the link to the easement, and the Conservancy’s Connie Prickett for taking the time in this forum to aid public understanding of what it means, which also might help APA’s understanding. I don’t think APA’s Draft EIS (page 28) accurately captures what rights are conveyed and under what circumstance they can be exercised. I could be wrong about that, too. I do respect the APA’s staff professionalism and abilities to follow the letter and spirit of the State Land Master Plan’s classification guidelines – if those capacities are allowed full expression, if APA Members ask critical questions, and if all alternatives are properly analyzed.

  16. Paul says:

    What rights does the town think that the easement grants?

  17. Dave Gibson says:

    Paul, that’s a good question which I cannot answer. But having read it over several times, I think the easement to the towns grants certain rights which are conditioned on law and regulation – which includes the State Land classification under the State Land Master Plan (which has the force of law). I think these conditioned rights under the easement are not the same as deeded rights of access, which do not appear to exist in this case. I echo what others have said, I look forward to full discussion of this at the APA meeting.

    • Paul says:

      Thanks. Yes I think I agree having looked at it several times myself. Seems quite bizarre having seen some other easement agreements.

  18. Paul says:

    I note that the easement say this:

    “whereas.. which arise from access by the public to remote areas of the property for recreational purposes”.

    Seems there is more here than just the idea of state/town administrative uses?

    Very curious to see what the town was thinking they were getting. It is possible that they wanted this only in case they needed to maintain the roads if the state were to classify it as something that would be open for public use. It looks like they probably will. There is nothing on the table that has it otherwise.

    • M.P. Heller says:

      I feel like the point of the provisions about road maintenance is that it puts the responsibility on North Hudson to perform such tasks because of the recreational access language that precedes it. Basically I am seeing it as a quid pro quo. If we grant you recreational access, you are going to be responsible for maintaining that access, not kick the bill to the state or anyone else. That means town employees on the town payroll, not DEC employees or anyone else. I also suppose that they could contract that work out to the county or another municipality, but the responsibility would still be on North Hudson to foot that bill too.

      Hopefully tomorrow we can get some decent clarification on all these questions.

  19. JohnL says:

    No Mas!!! My hair is hurting. This has degenerated into repetitions of the same 4 themes by the same 8 people. Doesn’t anyone have something else to do?? Let’s have another subject PLEASE.

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