Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Are New State Land Classifications A Done Deal?

Essex ChainIt sure seems like a done deal.

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) has promulgated seven “alternatives” for public hearing for the official classification of new and existing Forest Preserve lands on the Hudson River and around the Essex Chain Lakes. But these public hearings seem like pure theater because one of the alternatives is the preferred option of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and it sure seems like a sure thing that the APA will end up approving the DEC’s plan.

The DEC’s preferred option is alternative 4b [pdf] in the APA classification package, centered on a “Wild Forest Special Management Area” around the Essex Chain Lakes. The other six alternatives, which include two Wilderness options, one Primitive option, two Canoe options and one other Wild Forest option for the Essex Chain Lakes, are mere props to the DEC’s preferred alternative. These six alternatives were created by the APA staff through the usual process, but in reality they all revolve around the DEC preferred option like planets around the sun. (In the interest of full disclosure Protect the Adirondacks supports alternative 1a.)

DEC has been out for a year meeting with stakeholders and cutting deals during the state’s purchase of the former Finch Paper lands and in advance of formal Forest Preserve classification hearings. Never before has the DEC engaged in this kind of advance political work. While some would say this outreach is a good thing and shows savvy political sensitivities, it also has the appearance of creating foregone conclusions for official classification and for ignoring public comment.

The DEC preferred option, and the decision by the APA to include it in its classification hearing package, has created an unusual process. For the past 40 years the APA held classification hearings after the state purchased lands for the Forest Preserve. The DEC’s recommendations were well known during the process. After the lands were classified, DEC would then set off to draft a Unit Management Plan (UMP) where public recreational use and natural resource management issues were planned. (Well, not exactly. Some newly purchased lands, such as the William C. Whitney Wilderness Area, around Little Tupper Lake, purchased in 1997, doesn’t yet have a UMP; nor does the Round Lake Wilderness, which isn’t even listed on the DEC UMP website.) The APA reviews all draft UMPs for compliance with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.

What’s unusual now with the first round of the new state lands classification hearings of the former Finch lands is that the DEC has merged classification and UMP planning into one process by insisting that the “Wild Forest Special Management Area” be featured as alternative 4b in the land classification public hearing.

That the DEC would propose this as its preferred option shows that it’s pretty far along in both its planning and deal making. That the APA would depart from 40 years of practice and allow this speaks volumes about the APA’s loss of independent oversight authority and checks-and-balances responsibilities over the Forest Preserve. That the APA would even allow this alternative in its public hearing package says pretty loudly that this is a done deal.

Here’s how a Special Management Area works. The Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan authorizes enactment of these areas “where certain parcels of land often require special management to reflect unusual resource or public use factors.” It’s important to note that the Master Plan says that “in no instance” should a Special Management Area be “less restrictive” than the classification. They have generally been used to set management guidelines for an area stricter than those provided by the Forest Preserve classification, be it Wilderness or Wild Forest or any other. They have been used in a number of UMPs to organize public use and protect natural resources.

From 1972–2013, Special Management Areas have been utilized in the UMP process, but always following the official classification process. A Special Management Area is a subset of a larger Forest Preserve unit. UMP development includes things like biological inventories and various other natural resources analyses that inform a decision about whether a Special Management Area is needed and is a good idea. These inventories and assessment are important because good natural resource data drives good management. None of this has yet occurred for the lands in question.

I’m not sure if this public hearing is tragedy or farce in its theatrics. But I do know that the DEC’s decision to game the hearings, and the APA’s decision to give away its independent review authority, reveals that these cards are marked.

The only thing transparent about these public hearings is the end result.

We should all be rejoicing about this historic expansion of the Forest Preserve, but instead we’re left to chew on a stacked deck. The lands in question are truly extraordinary. We’re protecting 22 miles of the Hudson River in the public forever wild Forest Preserve. The public now gets to go to amazing places like OK Slips Falls and camp at beautiful spots, such as  where the Cedar River enters the Hudson River. The Essex Chain Lakes is a recreational and wild gem akin to Lake Lila, Little Tupper Lake-Rock Lake, Henderson Lake, Round Lake or Lows Lake.

But the process has been gamed. Important decisions have already been made. Public servants have giddily become political servants.

When Rob Davies, the Director of the Division of Lands and Forest at the DEC, was questioned at a recent Forest Preserve Advisory Committee meeting by members who objected to this process, he counseled “then don’t participate in the hearings.” The DEC Deputy Commissioner of Natural Resources also in attendance said nothing to Davies’ sage advice. Other DEC Forest Preserve staff tried to foist the blame on the APA by saying “it’s the APA’s hearing.”

Readers should know one thing. The APA has no political juice in Albany. None. Nada. Zippo. It never has and never will. There are more political appointees embedded throughout the DEC than there are total APA employees. DEC has lobbyists in the Legislature, the Governor recruited its top leaders personally, and its thick with staff in top positions throughout the Albany headquarters and the regional offices that were handpicked by a variety of powerful Legislators. DEC is wired to the Albany fuse box of power, whereas the APA wanders about with flashlights through forests and swamps, muck and bugs in the Dismal Wilderness 100 miles north of Albany. The only thing that the APA has ever had, and ever will have, is the APA Act and other laws, when it actually musters the courage and independence to go out and administer them.

Here’s how it works now. The DEC is not an independent actor these days either. The DEC does whatever the Governor tells it to do. Nobody at DEC is empowered to make an independent decision. Every action large and small is run through the Governor’s Office. DEC does what the Governor tells it to do.

When the DEC is told to bulldoze the APA, it bulldozes the APA, irrespective of the niceties of law, regulation or policy. When the APA is told to get bulldozed, it gets bulldozed, irrespective of the niceties of law, regulation or policy.

For its part the APA is generally pleased to get bulldozed, no matter how low the blade is set, if being bulldozed is the price of admission to be part of the team. Look at who’s running the APA. There are three state agency designees among the 11 APA Commissioners that vote on major decisions and set policy. They include a former career lobbyist for International Paper Company and a former career lobbyist for the Farm Bureau. Another is a career politician. These are political veterans.

Among the eight appointed Commissioners, five are “in-Park” Commissioners who must be residents of a county within the Blue Line. This includes the current Chair, who was appointed by the Governor, and serves at his pleasure. The other four commissioners from counties within the Adirondack Park are the Betty Little block; all handpicked and approved by the Senator. They all also happen to be darlings of local government groups long antagonistic of the APA.

The three commissioners from outside the Park could exercise independence of thought and action, but just one chooses to do so. Dick Booth is the only commissioner who shows any kind of independent thought, action or judgment, a trait that will likely to get him replaced by Governor Cuomo and Senator Little.

So, you’ve got the Governor’s block of four votes and Betty Little’s block of four votes. That’s 8/11 — a pretty clear majority running the APA.

If the APA staff shows a flutter of independent thought, the senior APA staff will quickly intervene.

The DEC “Wild Forest Special Management Area” in alternative 4b around the Essex Chain Lakes was developed to regulate a variety of public uses. DEC wants seasonal floatplane access in spring and fall and other measures for motor vehicle and mountain bike uses.

DEC has used its political muscle for years to run roughshod over the APA. This is not new. But, the decision by the APA to take a Special Management Area to a Forest Preserve classification public hearing shows that the DEC’s subjugation of the APA has reached an all time high.

The days of an APA that functioned as an independent regulatory agency upholding its laws are long gone.

My only hope is that the APA and DEC have gone too far in marking the cards and the public will howl. Such political decisions have a way of falling apart because they often create a big mess. DEC dictating decisions to the APA is why the two agencies broke the law when they classified Lows Lake; a judge reversed that decision. DEC dictating to the APA is how the APA approved an official “Management Guidance” that states controversial new snowmobile trail construction and management comply with the State Land Master Plan when they clearly do not. This has resulted in a court challenge. DEC dictating to the APA created messes with opening, then closing, dozens of Forest Preserve roads to ATVs, with the Bear Pond Road debacle, among other issues over the years.

The “forever wild” Forest Preserve is the finest state public lands system in the United States. It deserves management equal to its extraordinary natural resources and scenic beauty. The current Forest Preserve classification public hearings underway show the immense gap between the Forest Preserve’s beauty and the state’s management by the DEC and APA.

Photo of the Essex Chain Lakes by Carl Heilman II.

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Peter Bauer is the Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks. He has been working in various capacities on Adirondack Park environmental issues since the mid-1980s, including stints as the Executive Director of the Residents' Committee to Protect the Adirondacks and FUND for Lake George as well as on the staff of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century. He was the co-founder of the Adirondack Lake Assessment Program (ALAP) in 1998, which has collected long-term water quality data on more than 75 Adirondack lakes and ponds. He has testified before the State Legislature, successfully advocated to pass legislation and budget items, authored numerous articles, op-eds, and reports such as "20% in 2023: An Assessment of the New York State 30 by 30 Act" (2023), "The Adirondack Park and Rural America: Economic and Population Trends 1970-2010" (2019), "The Myth of Quiet, Motor-free Waters in the Adirondack Park" (2013), and "Rutted and Ruined: ATV Damage on the Adirondack Forest Preserve" (2003) and "Growth in the Adirondack Park: Analysis of Rates and Patterns of Development" (2001). He also worked at Adirondack Life Magazine. He served as Chair of the Town of Lake George Zoning Board of Appeals and has served on numerous advisory boards for management of the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve. Peter lives in Blue Mountain Lake with his wife, has two grown children out in the world, and enjoys a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities throughout the Adirondacks, and is a member of the Blue Mountain Lake volunteer fire department.Follow Protect the Adirondacks on Facebook and Threads.

76 Responses

  1. M.P. Heller says:

    The grass is always greener over the septic tank Peter.

    Many groups pushed and pushed for this purchase, and now the same folks are up in arms about what is being proposed for it now that the deal has been inked.

    Ultimately, if the current proposal goes through,its a no brainer to see that the lands would have been better protected by leaving them under the care of the Gooleys and the other long time stewards of that land.

    Its a good lesson for everybody in being careful what you ask for.

    Sometimes forcing something ends up backfiring, and the original intent is so lost by the time an outcome is reached that its impossible to make a connection between what you started and what you ended up with. Its begining to look a lot like this is one of those cases.

    • Alan Senbaugh says:

      Hardly a “backfire.”

      • M.P. Heller says:

        Tell me that when you can drive into the Essex Chain and check out the spiny water fleas and eurasian milfoil in a few years. Its going to be Wild Forest, its going to have invasives as a result, and it wouldn’t have happened under the custody of the people who have been stewarding that land for the last 100 years.

        I call that a backfire. You can call it whatever you like that makes you feel better.

  2. Truther says:

    The Gooley Club did not own this land, Finch (having recently been purchased by a new corporation) owned it. If the Gooley Club was interested in owning it, they could have easily purchased it. That’s where their so-called “history of protection” ended – in its sale to a corporation.

    The Nature Conservancy has done a much better job of protecting this land, AND providing access AND logging jobs.

    • M.P. Heller says:

      Never said they owned it. Said they were the stewards of it. Sometimes its hard to tell if folks have a reading comprehension problem or they are intentionally changing and misquoting others words in order to promote their own personal point of view or agenda.

      • Truther says:

        We get it – you would rather that you still got to use it just for yourself and your friends. Anyone else using it is a crisis for you and your special stewarding skills.

        You and your buddies SHOULD HAVE BOUGHT IT. Luckily for the rest of us, you didn’t and now we all get to enjoy it.

        I hope I find your favorite fishing spot. I’m going to rename it Hypocrite Bay and put a map up around town so all my neighbors can find it.

        • M.P. Heller says:

          I am now and was never a member, nor ever contemplated becoming one. So lets get the record straight before you go besmirching my reputation without having any good cause to do so other than to boost your own ego.

          Keep misquoting and twisting folks words. You’ll be like a little Peter Bauer.

  3. Pete Klein says:

    Maybe it is time to end the dog and pony show of classifying state lands and just and call all state owned lands now and in the future as The Adirondack Wild Forest.
    The Adirondacks has become the longest running soap opera.
    While I totally endorse the Forest Preserve, I see little to no difference on the ground between Wild Forest and Wilderness. I know. I know. There is that thing called motorized access but even as things now stand in “Wild Forest,” there is very little of it.
    And for those who care about words and definitions, a motor is electrical while an engine is an internal combustion unit.
    The deer don’t know the difference between Wild Forest and Wilderness. Neither does the lost hiker know the difference.

    • Alan Senbaugh says:

      There is a big difference. You need to get out more.

    • Matt says:

      It’s a valid point to be made.

      Most of the Wilderness Areas in Adirondacks really are just Wild Forest areas, with Primitive Corridors and Primitive Areas cut deep into them.

      The reality is the primitive corridors are not going away nor are the inholdings, so the wilderness designation is mostly a thing of imagination of the the map makers. The state isn’t going to condemn all the inholdings, so they can get rid of of the primitive areas.

      • Alan Senbaugh says:

        Valid points about inholdings but your facts are painted with a broad brush. In some of the wilderness areas a person can feel very much as if they are in wilderness.

        • Pete Klein says:

          They can also feel they are in a wilderness in most of the wild forest too.
          The only thing accomplished with the wilderness classification is to keep seaplanes off some lakes and rule out any snowmobile access.
          As far as seaplanes or any other airplane is concerned, no law prevents them from flying over wilderness.

          • Alan Senbaugh says:

            I think the group size restrictions in wilderness are the most important factors.

  4. Walker says:

    “Motor is a device that creates motion. It usually refers to an engine of some kind.” (Wikipedia)

    That’s why they call them “motorcycles” instead of “enginecycles”.

    Sounds like you don’t get out enough, Pete. There are plenty of places where you can’t ignore the presence of motors (gasoline powered motors). Try any large lake, for instance. Or in the winter, anywhere withing half a mile of a popular snowmobile trail.

    Even when you aren’t actually seeing, hearing and smelling those motors, you’ll find that Wild Forest areas frequently have more litter than Wilderness areas.

    And sure, deer are everywhere, even suburban New Jersey. But otters? Not so much.

  5. Doug says:

    What a slam on everyone that might not choose Protect’s version of how to manage the Park. Peter, you come off as the only one who knows what is best for the Adirondacks, despite both agencies having staffs of educated and trained career resource managers. Who, by the way are not politically appointed.
    I’m sure the people of Tupper Lake would disagree that you are the enlightened one.

    • Alan Senbaugh says:

      I think the point is that the agencies are no longer able or willing to do what is best because of interference from the governors office even if the agencies have “staffs of educated and trained career resource managers.”

  6. dave says:

    I’m still struggling to find a clear explanation of the various proposals for this land.

    Can someone point me to a post or article that clearly lays out each option, with a summary of the important points for each?

    Something like this…

    Option 1: Name of Option 1
    Summary of Option 1

    Option 2: Name of Option 2
    Summary of Option 2

    I know this must exist somewhere, but without seeing it… it is very hard for me to draw any conclusions or offer my support for one over the other.

  7. smallwood says:

    “Well, not exactly. Some newly purchased lands, such as the William C. Whitney Wilderness Area, around Little Tupper Lake, purchased in 1997, doesn’t yet have a UMP”

    Really, than what’s this?

    Peter, publishing statements like this is what cuts your own credibility.

    Yes DEC has to contend with political appointees and winds out of Albany (DEC budget comes from Governors pen after all), but that does not automatically mean “all the deals are done” before the public gets a chance to comment.
    Why not site DECs proposal for the removal Hurricane and St Regis fire tower as an example of public comments changing the set course?

    • Peter Bauer says:


      Please read that to which you link.

      You link to an interim “Stewardship Plan” whatever that is. It was never approved by the APA and, unfortunately, there has never been a formal UMP in the last 15 years for the Whitney area.

      The “Stewardship Plan” states it was prepared as “a custodial plan that would identify immediate needs and propose contingency plans to address anticipated public use, to be completed by May 1, 1998.”

      The “Stewardship Plan” was meant simply to be an interim measure to manage public use in the short-term prior to formal classification and UMP planning.

      At the time of the Whitney purchase we supported the interim stewardship plan, but we never envisioned that this high visibility Forest Preserve unit would see such a delay in UMP planning.

      • smallwood says:

        You’re right, it’s not a true APA approved UMP but it’s essentially being used as a UMP. (if it walks and quacks like a duck must be a goose since it’s not certified)

        Isn’t it still used in “interim”? (or was there a sunset date on the stewardship plan)

        How long is it taking for other UMP and RMP development, take the UMP for Saranac Lakes WF for example.. (which is a far more heavily used parcel)

        Back to the Essex chain, land classification not withstanding (seems to me) DEC is attempting to have a management plan in place before the crowds of people show up this fall. The way DEC has gone about it is unorthodox to put it mildly but what do you propose?
        Keeping the Essex chain closed to public until a full UMP is approved? or just let the crowds in and see what happens?

  8. Richard says:

    “DEC has been out for a year meeting with stakeholders…”

    Well, kudos then. Instead of waiting for people (often impassioned and with an agenda) to come to them, they went out and tried to be inclusive maybe?
    Inclusive in a way the public hearings often are not? Proactive??

    Good. I like it.

  9. Matt says:

    Unfortunately, we live in something called a democracy. We leave the decision on our public lands to the public to decide, through their elected leaders.

    Indeed, if you look at the history of the Adirondack Park Agency and the Department of Environmental Conservation, both agencies were created by politicians to make decisions that best represent the will of people.

    The DEC plan tries to balance the public’s desire for new recreational lands, while also protecting sensitive ecosystems. A big portion of previously logged lands are now wilderness, under the DEC proposal, and the rest of lands, while allowing some roads to remain, are forever wild forest, and not a single piece of timber can ever be cut again. New roads can’t be built either, because that would require the removal of timber. There will be less roads and less motorized access to these parcels then ever before.

    The DEC proposal is far more restrictive then ANY existing use of the lands.

  10. duane says:

    Let’s boil this all down. If the decision goes your way it’s democracy at it’s best. If the decision goes against you it must be political hackery driven and micro-managed by the govenor. Cast aspersions of collusions without offering concrete proof. Claim black and white in land use laws where discression and flexibility is implied and was intended. Sounds like whine country to me.

    • Alan Senbaugh says:

      As humans we can feel that way if things go against us but I do think this governor has interered greatly with the APA and DEC. I am not sure why we even have the APA any more.

  11. John Henry says:

    I like this plan as it opens it to the public and older less mobile people or physically disabled.

    Or Peter do you and your group feel the ADK park is not for anyone but the elitist hikers?

    This area can be a unique area and offer a place for those who do are not able to use the park now to fish or camp as they are disabled or elderly.

    • John Warren says:

      People with disabilities and the elderly already can and do access the Adirondack Park facilities and wild lands.

      Adirondacks are more open and accessible than ever before. The state’s facilities are open to everyone, regardless of race, class, or gender and more than 65 DEC facilities now feature access for people with disabilities.

      The more recent transition to universal access facilities is spawning a new adaptive recreation industry in the Park. Adirondack Adaptive Adventures offers guide services to those with disabilities and the number of adaptive sporting events and camps is growing.

      DEC recently updated its Adirondack map to include universally accessible facilities, and maintains a online list of facilities. The state also allows the use of cars, trucks and all-terrain vehicles by permit on routes already designated for ADA access, and issues permits on a case-by-case basis on routes that are not currently open.

      Questions about access for people with disabilities should be directed to Larry Nashett (DEC Region 5 in Ray Brook) and Blanche Town (DEC Region 6 in Potsdam).

      • M.P. Heller says:

        John, lets not hide behind the red herring of the fact that because there are a couple/few places for the disabled we have done all we can do, or have an obligation to do, to accomodate those with mobility issues. Thats crap. With all the acres out there to say we don’t need more areas for the disabled to be able to get to is a slap in their faces and an real illustration of the elitism that the person who you responded to was talking about. All you did was reinforce his point with your response and now the whole world can see where you stand on the issue because you posted it on the internet.

        You are supposed to be smarter than that. And nicer…..

        Though I am glad you recognize title 7 rights at least. Lyndon Johnson would be proud of you.

        Please list the facilities which the DEC has for mobility restricted individuals in the High Peaks Region, and then in Adirondack Wild Forests in general. The readers deserve to know which 65 locations you are talking about.

        • John Warren says:

          The red herring here is this statement, which I was responding to with the facts people who make this false argument refuse to acknowledge, as you’ve so clearly shown here:

          “[These lands] offer a place for those who do are [sic] not able to use the park now to fish or camp as they are disabled or elderly”

          It is patently false that the elderly and disabled are unable to use the park. You can easily find the map, ADA roads, and the list of facilities I referred to online.

          Of course you don’t even need to do that, you could use common sense and avoid such sweeping generalizations about the abilities of people with disabilities. Being old or disabled doesn’t keep you from doing anything, being out of shape does. People rock climb into their 90s, many people without legs (to provide one example) do far more than I, you or most people do.

          Whatever your disability, there is always a way to enjoy wild places – unless of course, they are all paved over to provide access to people who simply want to drive to every spot in the park.

          • M.P. Heller says:

            I know what you were responding to John, and I appreciate your reply.

            What I was trying to elucidate from you was that while DEC has done a commendable job providing access to the disabled, more could always be done.

            I agree fully that folks are staying active later in life and climbing into their 80’s and I suppose in some cases, their 90’s. Those are able bodied folks though. What can we do to help those without that type of mobility though? For instance amputees, or those suffering from paralysis, and is the Finch Lands acquisition an oppertunity to increase access for these folks?

            • John Henry says:

              JW the same argument you make is working against you. Why do we need more restricted lands? there are far more ADK area’ that cannot be used by any sort person with a disability than can.

              This like saying there 65 bathrooms that they can use and we will not plan for anymore they can use as we spend STATE dollars to do so. In fact we will purposely plan to exclude them.

              Like I said the use I believe in goes on NOW and has for 100 years or more. It was private use yes and only now it will open to anyone with some minor restrictions. This is not virgin forever wild. You all seem to gloss over that, your taking away access that all the public is paying now for for your own elitist view point.

              • John Warren says:

                I didn’t argue that we need more restrictive lands. That’s what you think I believe, just like you think that I’m an elitist. You’ve got a point of view you want to convey. Good for you, I’ve provided you with an opportunity to do that here at the Almanack, but don’t pretend to know me, what I believe, or my experience with disability.

                The facts are these, no matter how you spin them: It is patently false that the elderly and disabled are unable to use the park. There is no evidence, except the claims by motorized access advocates such as yourself, that the majority of elderly and disabled people believe these lands should be open to motor vehicles (indeed statewide they probably do not). Every single spot in the park is already within 5.3 miles of a road. Anyone who cares can easily find the map, ADA roads, and the list of facilities all over the park that are opened to the elderly and disabled who want to access wild lands and DEC facilities on wheels, horses, or motor vehicles. (That you claim it’s just facilities demonstrates clearly you don’t know what you’re talking about and are simply using the issue of universal access for your own ends.)

                Again, being old or disabled doesn’t keep you from enjoying wild places unless they are all paved-over to provide access to people who simply want to drive to every spot in the park. Being old or disabled does not make you automatically a motorized access advocate; it does not mean you automatically want to drive to every spot in the Adirondack Park.

                You would be smart to argue your own points, and not claim to know what other people want.

  12. Peter Bauer says:

    Dear All,

    Thanks for the good comments. A few thoughts starting from the top:

    MP Heller: For a variety of reasons I think the Wilderness proposal that PROTECT and ADK and others have endorsed, 1A in the APA options, works best for natural resources management to protect the forests and protect the fisheries and lakes from invasives. This option also provides a broad array of recreational opportunities. We will certainly work to encourage our members to comment for 1A.

    Matt: The APA Wilderness Alternative 1A does not have Wild Forest corridors. Only one Primitive corridor from Rte 28 to OK Slip Pond for the summer camp there. Agreed, we’re better off without such corridors, some of which PROTECT has endorsed.

    Doug: I claim no corner on enlightenment, but I believe that the Wilderness Alternative 1A is the best fit for these lands. We have relatively few places like Lake Lila or Little Tupper Lake or the St. Regis Canoe Area or the Henderson Lake or Lows Lake. Most big waters in the Adirondacks are overrun by motors. The Essex Chain Lakes could be a new Lake Lila-type wild and quiet area. We don’t have enough of those.

    Dave: Here are the seven maps and basic information:

    Richard: I have no problem with the DEC going out and meeting with all kinds of stakeholders. The issue here is that the DEC has clearly cut deals and then in order to deliver on these deals, in essence, invented a new kind of Forest Preserve classification-UMP hybrid process, departing from what for 40 years had worked pretty well.

    Duane: Ditto the above to Dave. As I see it, for all the reasons stated, the process has clearly been gamed in this set of hearings. I’ve given my analysis for why it was changed. You say I got it wrong. Please tell me when the APA and DEC have administered a similar Forest Preserve classification-UMP hybrid process in the past 40 years? If you can’t show where they’ve done this before, then kindly explain why they’re doing it now?

    John Henry: Please note that the PROTECT-ADK vision sees special CP-3 disabled use motorized access to a special campsite on the Essex Chain Lakes. Moreover, there is a diversity of opinion among the elderly and disabled around wilderness. We also see floatplane use on First and Pine lakes. We see road access to Deer Pond in the north and part way up the Chain Lakes Road in the south as well as on the OK Slip Pond road.

    • M.P. Heller says:

      Thanks for the reply Peter, as always I welcome the discussion.

      To my point though, I wasn’t addressing if you liked 1a, or I liked 36d, or anyone elseliked any other combo of letters and numbers. I was speaking purely to the point that all indications point to the approval of the DEC proposal, and what that means for the future of these lands. I wasn’t prognosticating about what might be if it happened some other way.

      Would you care to opine on what you think will happen if the DEC plan is approved, and what the challenges for the parcel will be if that happens? I would like to hear something from you on that angle, because if it becomes a reality PROTECT will have a role in helping to support that ultimate decision, and I am curious as to how you feel about that possibility and what PROTECT has in mind should that happen.

  13. Paul says:

    This all could have been avoided if they had decided how to classify the land, and THEN bought it.

  14. Reason Should Prevail says:

    From a letter written by Protect the Adks to Gov. Cuomo and DEC Commissioner Martens, dated November 5, 2012:

    “This acquisition by the state marks an important major addition to the public Forest Preserve for overall open space protection, wildlife habitat, forest connectivity, and new outdoor recreational opportunities. This deal is an important investment in the local economy of the Adirondack Park as well as the environment.

    It is our understanding that the DEC and APA are moving ahead with planning for the classification of these future Forest Preserve lands. Many stakeholders have been engaged in this process, including PROTECT. We are grateful for the opportunity to gather information about these lands and to hear the ideas of the professional staff at the DEC and APA. PROTECT has been been asked for feedback on our position for the classification of these lands once the acquisitions are completed over the next five years. PROTECT supports the following positions regarding the classification, management, and public recreational use on the 69,000 acres of former Finch lands under agreement to be sold to the State of New York by the Nature Conservancy.”

    Read the whole letter here –

    So basically, PROTECT participated in this process that they describe this way:

    “DEC has been out for a year meeting with stakeholders and cutting deals during the state’s purchase of the former Finch Paper lands and in advance of formal Forest Preserve classification hearings.”

    ….but is now upset because DEC’s “preferred alternative” is not consistent with their vision for the lands in question. Peter goes on to say:

    “Never before has the DEC engaged in this kind of advance political work. While some would say this outreach is a good thing and shows savvy political sensitivities, it also has the appearance of creating foregone conclusions for official classification and for ignoring public comment.”

    Would PROTECT be so quick to criticize this process if DEC supported their proposal for the Essex Chain? I’m guessing NO.

    Also very funny to hear a career lobbyist use another’s persons career as a lobbyist to discredit their reputation.

  15. Tony Godwin says:

    I’m not impressed with Peter’s allegations of collusion and political manipulation between the DEC, the APA, and various elected officials. The DEC’s preferred alternative is just that, their “preferred alternative” but still subject to change. Nevertheless, the alternative that proposes a Wild Forest classification, but with special restrictions on the water bodies, appears to me to be the right mix of public access and resource preservation.

    As I have said in an earlier post, I don’t think the environmental groups should be “greedy” in trying to classify every acre of new acquisition as “Wilderness”.

    • David DuBois says:

      With all due respect, environmental groups are not being greedy by asking for this parcel to be classified as wilderness. This purchase was part of a much larger deal between the State and The Nature Conservancy and it extends well beyond the 45,000 acres in question here. In many ways motorized recreation already got fair share of the deal, through conservation easements and parcels elsewhere in the park.

      I’m sure everyone wants their favorite activity to be reflected in the classification, but it is important to keep in mind just what the bigger picture is. in this case the bigger picture is the 150,000 land deal, Not just the 69,000 the state has (will) purchased and especially not the 22,500 acre Essex Parcel.

      This area contains stretches of 5 protected rivers as well as pristine scenery. If this is not reason enough to protect this land I don’t know what is.

    • M.P. Heller says:

      I RARELY agree fully with Tony about much. I think he is a great guy, but I am seldom in total agreement with him.

      On this I feel differently. I think he nailed it on his first try better than anyone else here so far.

      Good on you Tony. Top marks my friend.

  16. duane says:

    DEC did indeed use a different procedure in formulating their recommendations for the classifications of the Finch lands. They actually sought input from the towns who would be most effected from the classifications. It’s something called small “d” or grass roots democracy. As one who participated in this effort I can tell you a main concern was the fulfillment of the claim that this State purchase would also be a positive addition to the economy of our local communities. Coming from a community that does not rate extremely high on the mean income chart for the State, it should come as no surprise that the majority favored more public access. This included keeping many or most of the roads open for motorized access for everyone, including right up to the Essex Chain Lakes, more camping sites and greater float plane access. The DEC had to take into account these desires against the interests of those who are pushing for a variety of more restrictive classifications like wilderness.

    While it is true DEC’s process this time was different it was also more inclusive and transparent. The resulting recommendations include visions from many spectrum’s of interests. As State taxpayer’s money is involved I find this more inclusive public process hard to fault. The APA’s decision to hold public hearings on the different visions should also be welcomed in a democracy.

    I think the crux of the current conflict between environmental groups and the State and DEC is short term outlook and long term outlook. For the most part environmental groups look at each purchase with the specific attributes (biological and ecological, connectivity, carrying capacity, members recreational desires etc.) while DEC has to not only take all those into account they must also deal with the current political and legislative realities. Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) monies buy State acquisitions (fee purchase or conservation easement) in the Adirondacks. EPF legislation requires local government approval for those purchases in the Adirondack Park. The protection of large forest product industry landholdings like Champion, Domtar, IP and now the Finch Lands have been accomplished. Deservedly so, the State’s citizens owe the towns of the Adirondacks many thanks for allowing those protections of the forest products industry, open space and for the increase in public recreation opportunities. But as all the largest potential land deals are done, only smaller ones are left for potential future protection. I think the DEC and the State realize the need to work in constructive, inclusive and above all honest dialog with local governments and it’s citizens to shape future open space protection projects as their approval will be needed. As such, I believe Adirondackers will continue to support open space protection as long as they believe a good faith effort is made to address their concerns. Adirondacker’s shouldn’t expect to get everything we desire as most of the taxpayer’s money funding open space protection comes from outside the Park as does the majority of its users. And a strong Democracy requires compromise. But as the resulting consequence’s of open space protection effect our communities the most a fair hearing on the shaping of open space planning and public land use should not be considered a burden or trivial.

  17. Paul says:

    The reason the DEC is far behind in the UMP process is that they have too much land to manage based on their budget. Peter, purchasing more land and putting it in the UMP que is not a solution to the problem. This will continue to get worse if we keep this up.

  18. Dan Crane says:

    Wouldn’t a less arbitrary way to deal with this issue be to set a goal of having an equal amount of Wild Forest/Wilderness within the Adirondacks?

    According to the APA’s website ( of August 2011), 22.08% of the Adirondacks is designated Wild Forest, while only 19.43% is Wilderness. Even if Primitive Area and Canoe Area are included with Wilderness, it is still only 20.51%, a whole 1.5% less than Wild Forest.

    This doesn’t mean that these new tracts must be entirely designated Wilderness, but perhaps the majority of them should be, so as to further level the playing field.

    Doesn’t that just seem the fair thing to do?

    • Paul says:

      Dan why should there be an equal amount of these two land classifications? Using that same logic it is “unfair” that we have so little intensive use land in the Adirondacks. Personally I don’t think I want to see large amounts of intensive use areas (0.39%) but perhaps it is only fair to those folks that like roadside camping etc?

      • Paul says:

        Sorry that 0.39% is in the wrong spot in my comment. According to the APA that is the percentage of intensive use state land in the Park as of 2011. I assume the same numbers you are looking at.

      • Dan Crane says:


        I’m sorry, but the conversation within the comments here (and the main article) has been conveyed as a “Wild Forest v. Wilderness” argument. THAT is why I did not include intensive use areas.

        Is there a large contingent of people proposing the Finch lands be designated intensive use? Is there such a group within the Adirondacks? I don’t see that there is, but maybe I am missing something.

        • Paul says:

          No. I don’t think there is. I was just responding to your assertion that it was somehow “fair” that each type of designation have equal representation in the park. Given that assertion it would be “unfair” to have things as lopsided as they are regarding areas that can have more intensive use. And if you are a supporter of that type of use (again I am not) you can argue that it tends to have a strong economic impact on the park. For example state boat launches and road side camping areas are a huge draw to the area and create quite a bit of economic activity, something that the local tows are hoping will come from these new purchases.

          • Dan Crane says:

            Since there are no management options calling for the classification of the Finch properties as Intensive Use, your point is moot at best.

            • Paul says:

              But Dan you said that we should look at the percentages park wide for the different classifications?

              But leaving that, what is the split on Wilderness vs Wild Forest for what Peter is calling the DEC’s preferred option for this transaction?

              Also keep in mind the activities that can be done on Wilderness land can also be done on Wild Forest land, the reverse is not true.

              • Dan Crane says:

                Why must everything be an extreme with you? I only said that Wild Forest and Wilderness should be equal. I never said anything about ALL the classifications.

                And I don’t really buy your assertion that all activities done on a Wilderness can also be done on a Wild Forest. If one wants to experience nature with as little human intrusion as possible within 5 or 10 miles, then Wild Forests are not going to cut it, or at least not as well as Wilderness.

                I’m sure there are exceptions, that you will most likely point out, but in a Wilderness, a person is more likely to have the opportunity to experience this feeling than in a Wild Forest. At least based on my experience with the two land classifications.

                I’m sure many of the animals and plants within the Park would agree with me. If only they had any say in this decision.

                • Paul says:

                  So do we know what the balance of Wilderness and Wild Forest land there would be under this “preferred” proposal. If it is close to equal it would meet the fairness test for at least this transaction. Do we know what the percentages are? I’ll try and figure it out.

                • Paul says:

                  The bears would probably vote for an all intensive use plan. More picnic baskets!

                • Paul says:

                  From Peter’s post (and unhappiness here) I am assuming that the DEC’s “preferred” plan is one that adds 5000 acres of Wilderness land and 13,000 acres of Wild Forest. So it fail your test. But this is just for the first 18,000 acres in the end there could be more of a balance since I would expect that these other areas with fewer roads and waters that paddlers want to get to may be classified as Wilderness.

  19. Paul says:

    A Wild Forest designation now does not preclude the state from reclassifying the lands later. Starting with the Wilderness classification and re-classification to Wild Forest later would almost never happen. You would never see them re-construct roads that were abandoned in a Wilderness proposal.

  20. Joe says:


    You seem to think that the APA, DEC and the Governor working together on the Finch project is a bad thing. Why is that the case? Am I missing something?

    I would think collaboration across various parts of government is a good thing that we could use more of. They invited input from many people, accepted all these different proposals, plan 10 hearings, etc.

    I don’t get your dark conspiracy plot to cut out anyone. Quite the opposite, they’ve gone to some lengths to include everyone this time, well beyond the usual people who show up at hearings. Protect should embrace this process, not threaten it. As you know, in the end, Protect can always sue if it does not like the public process outcome….been know to happen, eh.

    Could you please just offer your ideas without impugning the efforts of everyone else? Diss everyone else from the beginning, accuse them of bad faith, and you will eventually find yourself justifiably ignored. By being so hostile, you are giving the rest of us enviros a bad name and degrading our role in this place.

  21. Charlie says:

    Matt says: “Unfortunately, we live in something called a democracy. We leave the decision on our public lands to the public to decide, through their elected leaders.”

    I call them ‘erected’ leaders Matt…as in put up on the podium by those whose sole purpose is the earning of profits,ie..corporations. Some people just don’t care about trees or clean water or those millions of animals (whose homes are rapidly evaporating into thin air) who are run over by mindless people every year. A few weeks ago the Times Union printed a story that hinted strongly of special interest infiltrating the DEC,which I have suspected for a number of years now just by their actions alone.
    Our erected leaders are followers Matt,every last one of them.

    • Paul says:

      That is the tricky thing about a democracy. All those folks that “don’t care” about the same things you care about have a voice. But Charlie remember in the Adirondacks we have far more land protected today then when you or I were born, and we will have more in the future. The amount of protected land here is not evaporating it is doing the opposite (whatever that is, condensating?).

  22. Charlie says:

    John Henry says: “I like this plan as it opens it to the public and older less mobile people or physically disabled. Or Peter do you and your group feel the ADK park is not for anyone but the elitist hikers?”

    Reading the above the first thing that came to mind was “This society.” How it differs from society just a few generations removed.Used to be people were more connected to the land and the elements,were more keenly aware,or shall I say ‘In tune” with their natural surroundings. This generation is a whole new ball of wax.I call it the wimp generation. We whine about the weather if even a few raindrops start to fall.. “O’ what a rotten day!” is so common to hear when it rains.Even the corporate news robots (who feed us just about everything we hear and see via a public medium) whine over the air if it’s raining outside. Forget about snow. It’s the most horrible thing on the face of this earth according to average Joe or Mary who just cannot stand the sight of it.How pitifully sad we’ve become!We are becoming less and less appreciative of the things in life that have real meaning. We have been too convenienced over the generations and now look at what we have become (generally)…wimps. A society that wants the easy way out. And this is why I fear my beloved Adirondacks is going to lose its magical appeal as the years go passing by. I appreciate Peter’s concern’s and I sure as heck wish there were more people out there like him.

    • John Henry says:

      Nothing here changes in fact more land in ALL proposals is more restricted and protected. Other parts of land is getting the same use rights as it HAS NOW and has been for year, just not by only private clubs or companies.

      No other part of the park is impacted or opened, so you are not losing one acre of the park as you know and love it.

  23. John Henry says:

    What amazes me is calling the elderly and disabled wimps. If any leader in politics local or national said they you all would be calling for their heads.

    I will be sure to tell that my child she is a wimp. The one who at 4 with cancer had a goal to beat it and climb chimney mnt at 5 YO tomorrow when she graduates from college and climbs another mnt this weekend. If we could bot have driven to the base and parked she could not even tried.

    Or the person who comes in my office and works full time from his wheelchair org sporting activities for those who want to still enjoy the outdoors. Yep all wimps.

  24. Charlie says:

    John and Paul… I like your optimism.
    John again… I didn’t stereotype anybody in particular when I called this the wimp society.I do see it as such and I wish I were wrong.Maybe I could be using other terminology instead of wimp,but I think you must know what I mean.( Or do you?) How anybody can ‘Hate’ rain is beyond me.And snow! O how it turns the world a lovely silent white! It’s all about convenience John.Why do you think people drive to the store one block away instead of walking to same store? I can go on with more than mere examples but I have to get off this darned computer as I have been on it doing genealogical research for hours. I’m starting to cramp up.

    • Paul says:

      Charlie, I would not really consider myself as much of an optimist. I share many of the same concerns that you have. I was just saying that for the Adirondacks, despite the problems we do face, that protected land is on the rise. Just the fact that we are having this conversation about what to do with many thousands of new acres of protected public land is a testament to that fact. Other places I am sure are envious of this “problem” that we face!

  25. Alan Senbaugh says:

    I think people need to remember the criteria for even being considered wilderness, most simply that it must be 10,000 contiguous acres. Most purchases would not even qualify. When new purchases are able to be classified as wilderness we need to think very carefully as why they should not be classified as such. The opportunity to add wilderness is a rare event. Lets not miss it. Drive down Rt 30, 86, 73, 3, 8,9. There are roadside ponds and lakes on every turn. lets not give up the opportunity to protect something very special, to “create” a wilderness area we take our children and grandchildren to. Drive up, car top boating opportunities are a dime a dozen. Less really protect these special lands and make the journey getting to them one we will always cherish.

    • Paul says:

      You make a very good point. But a three mile carry is not something that you will cherish. In fact even the most die hard probably wouldn’t even try.

      • Alan Senbaugh says:

        You just don’t get it. I will never make it up Denali either but I take great joy and comfort knowing the land is protected. I don’t want them to put a road to the top so I can drive there. Large unfragmented wild tracts of land are necessary for large mammal populations that the Adirondacks could potentially be home for again like mountain lions.

        You don’t have to walk through wilderness to value it. Just knowing it is there that we have wilderness is a wonderful thing.

  26. Alan Senbaugh says:

    I don’t understand the logic that just because it’s vast and has amazing interior areas it should not be classified wilderness? If this isn’t classified as wilderness we have lost the understanding and purpose of the classification system entirely.

  27. Public comments are overwhelmingly pro-Wilderness in APA land classification hearings | Protect the Adirondacks! says:

    […] While this is a strong showing the DEC is still pushing a Wild Forest designation. Awhile PROTECT Executive Director wrote a piece on the Adirondack Almanack stating that the DEC’s political might over the APA and the APA’s lack of independence made a Wild Forest designation a done deal. […]

  28. APA puts off a final decision on the former Finch Paper lands until October or November | Protect the Adirondacks! says:

    […] spring PROTECT Executive Director wrote that a Wild Forest classification was a done deal. Now, all indications point to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) holding firm to […]

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