Adirondack 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.
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.