Monday, July 8, 2013

Ex-APA Commissioner Favors Canoe Area For Essex Chain

Essex ChainThe hearings on the classification of the former Finch, Pruyn lands are finished, but the public can submit written comments to the Adirondack Park Agency through July 19.

In one such comment, a former APA board member recommends classifying the Essex Chain Lakes a Canoe Area.

Rick Hoffman, who served on the board as a representative of the New York State Department of State from 1998 to 2008, argues that a Canoe classification would be as protective of the natural resources as a Wilderness classification and would stimulate paddling tourism.

“The ten small lakes and ponds that would be included in this classification are in proximity to each other and allow for short portages.  The relatively short total length of a trip, six or seven miles, argues against the need for more than a very few, well-designed interior campsites, so that overuse may be prevented through a carefully planned UMP [unit management plan]. The Canoe classification was intended for areas precisely like the Essex Chain of Lakes,” Hoffman writes in a letter to the APA.

At present, the Adirondack Park has only one Canoe Area–the St. Regis Canoe Area–and it is often crowded. “The addition of a new Essex Chain of Lakes Canoe area might lessen the overuse problems of the St. Regis Canoe Area, by  diverting some paddlers  from St. Regis,” Hoffman says.

The classification of the Essex Chain is perhaps the main controversy surrounding the former Finch, Pruyn lands. Local officials and sportsmen want the chain classified as Wild Forest, which could allow people to drive to the lakes and use motorboats. Environmental groups are pushing for a Wilderness classification, which would prohibit all motorized use.

Motor vehicles and motorized recreation also are prohibited in a Canoe Area. In his letter, Hoffman describes the Canoe designation as “Wilderness for Canoes.” In a Canoe Area, however, the state Department of Environmental Conservation can use floatplanes and motor vehicles to manage fisheries and natural resources.

The APA has set forth seven possible options for classifying 21,200 acres of former Finch, Pruyn lands that the state has acquired from the Nature Conservancy. Hoffman is endorsing a proposal known as 3A. The APA also has an option (3B) for creating a larger Canoe Area. Click here to read about both.

Under 3A, 6,624 acres would be classified Canoe, including the Essex Chain and the lands to the east as far as the Hudson River and to the south as far as the Cedar River. The land immediately north of the lakes would be designated Wild Forest. This would enable visitors to drive relatively close to the Essex Chain, though not into the Canoe Area itself.

The proposal is similar to 1A, the option favored by environmental groups. The only difference is that the region designated Canoe under 3A would be designated Wilderness under 1A. For most recreationists, this would not be a material difference. However, a Canoe Area designation would permit mountain bikers to ride on roads used by DEC. Bikes are forbidden in Wilderness Areas.

DEC has called for designating the Essex Chain region Wild Forest with special regulations. The department hasn’t said what the regulations would be, but they could include banning or restricting motorboats on the lakes.

Hoffman is the second former high-ranking state official to come out publicly in favor of a Canoe Area. Christopher Amato, who served as DEC’s assistant commissioner for natural resources from 2007 to 2011, argued for the Canoe classification in the May/June issue of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine. Click here for more details.

A few decades ago, both Amato and Hoffman worked at the APA as staff attorneys. Before then, Hoffman also had been an APA planner. He left the agency in 1992 to serve as an attorney with the Department of State. In 1998, he became the first former APA staffer to sit on the agency’s board. He stayed on the board until retiring from the state in 2008.

Click the link below to read Hoffman’s letter to the APA (PDF file).

Hoffman letter to APA

The map below shows the various classifications under 3A. The newly acquired Finch, Pruyn lands are the four parcels outlined in dark purple, orange, violet, and green.The proposed Canoe Area is represented by blue stripes. The light green would be classified Wild Forest. The dark green would become the Hudson Gorge Wilderness Area.


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Phil Brown is the former Editor of Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack. Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing. He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.

6 Responses

  1. Alan Senbaugh says:

    Good argument. Makes sense.

  2. Nice story, but Mr. Hoffman’s opinion carries no more weight in this matter than yours or mine.

    • Lily says:

      Mr. Harr –
      Of course a letter written by a former colleague of APA commissioners will carry greater weight in the Agency Board’s voting than other public comments. The principle of every vote being equal does not apply in the matter of these public comments. You can be sure that any letter consisting of pure emotion, anger, but few facts will have less impact on the APA decision than one having a clearly constructed argument based on relevant information.

      • “Of course a letter written by a former colleague of APA commissioners will carry greater weight in the Agency Board’s voting than other public comments.”

        Is that a fact, or do you say that because Mr. Hoffman agrees with what YOU want?

        “You can be sure that any letter consisting of pure emotion, anger, but few facts will have less impact on the APA decision than one having a clearly constructed argument based on relevant information.”

        I can read between the lines here. You think the advocates for Wild Forest classification are running on pure emotion and anger. That certainly isn’t the case.

        At the Indian Lake meeting, at least one of the advocates of Wilderness classification conceded that neither Indian River or Essex Chain lakes tract fit the state’s criteria for Wilderness.

        The century-plus old network of roads throughout and the logging by the previous owners are FACTS that present serious problems to your cause.

  3. Charlie says:

    Phil says: “Local officials and sportsmen want the chain classified as Wild Forest, which could allow people to drive to the lakes and use motorboats.”

    I feel strongly that the less motorized access to areas in the Adirondacks the more likely future generations will know the spiritual experience we now are able to appreciate in them woods. Isn’t that what it is supposed to be about? Posterity? Those rising generations?

    Motorboats are a nuisance and will not only spoil a body of water (which has been proven over and again Hello),but will also take away the magic of the woods which is what many of us go there for.
    Local officials,ie..area politicians..think more in terms of economics than they do the future state of the Earth. Is why what remains of woods and open fields and farmland are disappearing rather rapidly right from under our noses.Is why more and more shopping centers.Is why all the polluted bodies of water. Local officials are not as futuristic as they should be. Fifty years from now, when more and more people are pressing on the outskirts of the Adirondack woods,people who need a source of income…what then?

    Like the city folk locals become too soft thanks to a culture that is bent on being convenienced at any cost.
    Before long they’re desperate for all the things which save time and labor.Like a car instead of a bicycle,a snow-blower instead of a snow shovel,a riding mower instead of a push-mower,a microwave instead of a stove,a motorboat instead of a canoe,motorized access instead of foot travel…….. Hunters? They’re important,but they are not as important as keeping a wilderness untrammeled by man,especially considering how so few wild places are left!
    Before long we will know what will come of these new public lands.One can only hope that whoever has sway in this decision he or she will be futuristic in their thinking when they vote on the matter.
    One thing is for certain…there is hardly a sense of adventure in anyone anymore.We are becoming more and more marshmellow soft,moss is creeping up from between our toes,and the light at the end of the tunnel is a streetlamp,not the twinkling light of far-away stars in those magical heavens,whose shimmers are getting harder and harder to see thanks to our hostilities towards the natural order of things on this,the only home we know,planet earth.

  4. Paul says:

    How about a new designation to retain the “cultural” use of the lands?

    A designated “Hunting and Fishing Area”? Hikers and all kinds of paddlers are welcome just like hunters and fishermen (women) are welcome in a Canoe Area.

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