I have no doubt that when the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) announced its intent to begin an amendment process for the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP), more than one preservation-minded advocate held their breath for a moment. The master plan, after all, is the document that has guided the management of the Forest Preserve for the past forty-two years. It has capped the amount of roads and snowmobile trails to essentially 1972 levels, kept snowmobile trails reasonably narrow and trail-like, and kept both roads and snowmobile trails out of the designated Wilderness areas. For a preservationist who seeks to foster the wild forest character of our state lands, these are accomplishments worth celebrating.
On the other hand, people seeking enhanced access to the Forest Preserve for a greater number of people will list these same SLMP accomplishments as a set of roadblocks that should be reconsidered.
The current amendment process is being conducted because in 2013, as part of the classification package that designated the Essex Chain Lakes Primitive Area, the APA promised it would revisit the SLMP to see if there was a way to open these lands to mountain bike use. The area was classified Primitive to balance competing political influences: on one side, a desire to keep the lakes as motorless as possible — floatplanes notwithstanding — while on the other hand allowing motor vehicle access on some of the surrounding roads. In an odd twist, some traditionally preservation-minded voices were more than okay with this, calling the classification scheme “wilderness with access” — turning the old “Access versus Wildness” argument on its head. » Continue Reading.