Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve is proposing newly acquired Forest Preserve in Newcomb and Minerva to be classified Wilderness in honor of one of the Park’s most influential conservation leaders of the 20th century.
The group wants New York State to recognize Paul Schaefer’s historic legacy of protecting the Upper Hudson River by advocating for a Paul Schaefer Wild Rivers Wilderness that is inclusive of the recently acquired Essex Chain of Lakes-Cedar River tract (13,000 acres), Hudson River Stillwater tract (5,000 acres), the Indian River tract (1,400 acres), and the OK Slip Falls tract (2,800 acres).
The Wild Rivers Wilderness proposal was first promoted in 1990 by The Adirondack Council in its 2020 Vision series of reports looking towards critical land and resource protection goals long-term and park-wide. The proposal was also included in the recommendations of the Governor’s Commission on the Adirondacks in the 21st Century under Governor Mario M. Cuomo. “Adirondack Wild is supporting the proposal in recognition of the tremendous wilderness potential and vulnerable ecological resources that exist there, and to recognize and honor the lifelong legacy of one of New York’s greatest Adirondack champions, Paul Schaefer,” a statement issued by the organization says.
“The State Land Master Plan guidelines clearly call for managing the fragile Essex Chain of Lakes for their wilderness and natural resource values,” said Adirondack Wild’s David Gibson. “Managing the Chain of Lakes, the adjoining Upper Hudson River and Cedar Rivers comprehensively under one Wilderness classification, and not as separate pieces, is not only a fundamental principle of good wilderness management, but would be a fitting legacy for a 20th century champion of Adirondack conservation.”
“The State should not be allowing new motorized access on the Chain Lakes. By creating one larger Wilderness for the lakes and the rivers, and by managing the entire area under one basic set of guidelines, there would be significant recreational and economic benefits to the central Adirondacks,” Plumley added.
In addition, Adirondack Wild is recommending that the state reclassify to Wilderness the existing 17,000-acre Hudson River Gorge Primitive Area and western sections of the Vanderwhacker Wild Forest adjoining the Hudson River tract. These additions to a Wild Rivers Wilderness are consistent with the Adirondack Council’s proposals of 1990.
In the 1960s, Paul Schaefer and his Adirondack Hudson River Association were instrumental in protecting the Upper Hudson River from four proposed dams and reservoirs that would have affected the river from Luzerne to Newcomb, and inundated and destroyed thousands of acres of what is now forest preserve.
In the 1970s, Paul Schaefer produced the award-winning documentary film Of Rivers and Men, which influenced Governors Rockefeller and Carey to support and expand the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act.
Schaefer tried to persuade the former Finch, Pruyn Paper Company to sell OK Slip Falls and other Upper Hudson holdings beginning in the 1960s, a project he pursued until his death in 1996.
The NYS DEC has recommended that the Essex Chain of Lakes be classified Wild Forest in order to encourage motorized use of the area. “Adirondack Wild believes that motorized uses on the Essex Chain of Lakes will damage its wild character, fragile ecology and fishery resource, and that wilderness management of this chain of lakes is essential to preserve them for this and future generations,” their press statement said.
The Adirondack Park Agency board will begin hearing proposals today at its offices in Ray Brook regarding the classification of the newly acquired state lands.
Photo: Confluence of the Hudson (right) and Cedar rivers on the Essex Chain of Lakes tract (photo by Carl Heilman II, courtesy of the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy); below, Paul Schaffer at his camp in Johnsburg in 1990 (photo by Paul Grondahl provided).