The other day at a recreation planning meeting in Lake Placid, I participated in a time-honored Adirondack meeting ritual. It goes like this: someone at the table brings up the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP), the document that defines land classifications (wilderness, wild forest, etc.) and lists the guidelines for their use. Next, nearly every stakeholder at the table agrees that the SLMP is outdated and that a major review is long overdue. The ritual concludes with everyone agreeing that meaningful review of the SLMP is unlikely, and probably not worth pursuing. The conversation then moves on to other topics.
The SLMP states “Major reviews of the master plan will take place every five years by the [Adirondack Park] Agency in consultation with the Department of Environmental Conservation, as required by statute…” but the last review was in 1987. I wondered how implementation of the relatively static SLMP has evolved over the years, and how these changes have manifested themselves on maps.
I found an old APA land classification map layer from 2001 and uploaded it to our Adirondack Regional Geographic Information System (ARGIS) so that I (and anyone else) could easily compare it to the more recent 2011 map. To do this yourself, watch this brief video tutorial or follow these simple steps:
1. Visit the Adirondack Regional Geographic Information System (ARGIS).
2. Turn on the historic “2001 Land Use/Development Plan Map (APA)” at the bottom of the layer list. Check out the legend with the “Map Legend” tab.
3. Turn on the recent “2011 Land Use/Development Plan Map (APA)” under the “Administrative Boundaries” heading.
4. Right-click on the 2011 map layer in the Table of Contents, and select “Properties & Display Options.
5. Use the “Opacity” slider to turn the 2011 layer on and off, revealing the 2001 layer underneath it.
Most of the differences between the 2001 and 2011 versions are due to new acquisitions or to improved mapping accuracy – if you zoom in, you will see many small adjustments to boundaries. However, there are also areas where significant land reclassification has occurred. Here are three such areas you can easily find using the “Unit Zooms” tool, located in the upper right-hand portion of the ARGIS site
Hurricane Mt. Wilderness: until recently, this unit was classified as a Primitive Area because of the existence of the non-conforming fire tower atop Hurricane Mt. This non-conformity was “removed” from the unit by designating a tiny area around the fire tower itself as a Historic Area. (If you zoom in on Hurricane Mountain, you will see this tiny Historic Area.)
Moose River Plains Wild Forest: The Cedar River Road was reclassified as a “Intensive Use,” and a large section of Wild Forest reclassified to Wilderness.
Round Lake Wilderness: Once a patchwork of Primitive Area & Wild Forest, creation of the Round Lake Wilderness was made possible by creating “Primitive Corridors” around several non-conforming roads that thread through the unit.
These changes are the result of a Unit Management Process that is designed meet the needs of a diverse array of stakeholders while staying within the constraints of the definitions established by the SLMP. For example, the SLMP does not allow fire towers or roads in Wilderness areas, so units with these features are often classified as Primitive Areas until the non-conforming features can be removed. But features such as fire towers are very popular, and as I discussed at the top of this article, revising the SLMP to change what is allowable in Wilderness is not widely seen as a viable option. Cartography can provide one solution to this dilemma – by drawing lines around non-conforming features, one can simultaneously remove them from a unit while leaving them physically in place.
What is the trade off between using cartographic prescriptions vs. pursuing systematic changes in the SLMP? How do you think the SLMP should be changed, if at all? Are there other “out of the box” ways of thinking that would also work?
I encourage you to zoom in on your particular area of interest and see what changes have occurred in the last 11 years. I look forward to hearing your comments.