Friday, November 13, 2009

APA Reverses Lows Lake Wilderness Vote

All three of Governor David Paterson’s representatives on the Adirondack Park Agency board have reversed votes made in September and opposed designation of the waters of Lows Lake as Wilderness, Primitive, or Canoe. By a 6-4 vote the APA had added most of the waters and bed of Lows Lake to the Five Ponds Wilderness in September. The rest of the lake was classified as Primitive, which would have prohibited motorized use. It was later learned that the tenure of one of the APA commissioners had expired and the vote needed to be retaken – that vote occurred today and ended in a 7-4 reversal of the previous decision.

The Almanack has just received the following press release from Protect The Adirondacks!, supporters of of the September vote:

At the Adirondack Park Agency meeting today in Ray Brook, the Department of Environmental Conservation and two other state agencies reversed their September votes, and voted against designation of the waters of Lows Lake as Wilderness, Primitive, or Canoe. The state’s inability to support appropriate classification of a lake 90% surrounded by the Five Ponds Wilderness Area runs counter to:

· the clearly articulated purpose of the acquisition of the lake and its shoreline in 1985

· the clear guidance of the State Land Master Plan to classify both state lands and waters

· DEC’s own well-publicized commitments made earlier this year

· public opinion expressed at numerous public hearings

· Their vote in September, when all three state agencies affirmatively voted to support a Wilderness classification of the waters and bed of the lake.

“All three of the Governor’s state representatives on the APA failed to classify the lake after voting for such a classification in September. It is mystifying,” said PROTECT executive director David Gibson. “This appears to be a deeply disappointing failure of will on the part of Governor Paterson. After voting to do the right thing in September, the Governor reversed and voted against public policy that is not only legally valid and highly important to our society, but also one that is very popular with the people of the state, and advantageous for businesses in the Adirondacks catering to wilderness guiding and boat building. We will be following up with all three agencies and with the Governor’s office.”

“At no time in the last few months did the Governor’s staff refute APA’s well-researched and presented facts supporting the classification as Wilderness or Primitive,” Gibson added. “The facts did not change. Instead, the political will to advance Wilderness in the Park failed, in spite of present and historic public support for such classifications across the state.”

“DEC had worked for six months with the Adirondack Park Agency to propose a Wilderness classification of the 2600-acre surface area of Lows Lake, along with important classification of new lands and waters nearby, all to become part of the Five Ponds Wilderness Area,”says PROTECT’s Director of Conservation Programs Dan Plumley. “Their backtracking today is break-taking and very disappointing, particularly because the Department has failed to justify it. The public expects its DEC to stand up for Wilderness, Primitive and Canoe areas, where motorized uses are not permitted, particularly on a lake surrounded by Wilderness where it has already regulated an end to public motorboat use, and pledged to end use of float planes by 2012.”

“In September DEC affirmed that the State Land Master defined Wilderness as both land and water, and that the state had an obligation to classify this particular lake,” Plumley added. Now, two months later, DEC has reversed course for reasons known only to itself. We are particularly disappointed in the DEC. The other representatives look to the DEC for guidance in these matters. There should be a significant burden of proof for DEC to reverse a vote taken in full cognizance of all the facts in September, after numerous public hearings and many staff presentations. They failed to meet that burden today.”

“We congratulate APA Chairman Curt Stiles and State Lands Committee Chair Jim Townsend and other APA members for reaffirming their September vote to classify much of Lows Lake as Wilderness,” Plumley continued. “We are just deeply troubled that the other state agencies that serve the Governor on the APA could not muster the same understanding of their responsibilities under the Master Plan.”


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