Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Conservation Council: Classify Essex Chain Wild Forest

Essex ChainThe New York State Conservation Council contends that designating the Essex Chain Lakes a Wilderness Area would hurt the local economy and violate the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.

In a letter to the Adirondack Park Agency, the council calls for designating the Essex Chain a Wild Forest Area, a less-restrictive classification. Motorized use is permitted in Wild Forest Areas but not in Wilderness Areas.

The council, which represents hunters and anglers, argues that the 17,320-acre Essex Chain Lakes Tract does not meet the definition of Wilderness in the State Land Master Plan. The organization points out that the land has been logged extensively and contains more than forty miles of gravel roads.

“Classifying these lands as Wilderness amounts to manufacturing Wilderness and would raise some serious legal issues,” according to the letter, signed by A. Charles Parker, the council’s president, and Walt Paul, the group’s access and land-use specialist.

The classification of the Essex Chain Lakes is perhaps the most controversial decision facing the APA as it wrestles with how to manage some 21,200 acres of former Finch, Pruyn lands recently acquired by the state from the Nature Conservancy.

Local officials want the Essex Chain classified as Wild Forest. Environmental groups are pushing for a Wilderness designation.

The APA has set forth seven options for classifying the former Finch lands. The classification of the Essex Chain varies, but under all the proposals, the state would create a Hudson Gorge Wilderness Area, which would require reclassifying the 17,100-acre Hudson Gorge Primitive Area. The Conservation Council also opposes the creation of the Wilderness Area.

“Anything other than a Wild Forest classification will adversely affect the economy of the Park,” Parker and Paul write.

“The towns will only benefit economically if multiple recreational opportunities are provided, including hunting, fishing, nature viewing, canoeing, rafting, snowmobiling, ATVing, bird watching and others,” they add. “A Wild Forest classification will provide these opportunities.”

Click the link below to read the Conservation Council’s letter (PDF).

NYSCC letter

The Adirondack Almanack has published a series of four articles on the APA’s classification options. Click the links below to read them.

Wilderness options.

Primitive options.

Canoe options.

Wild Forest options.

 

 

 

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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.




27 Responses

  1. Penn Hoyt says:

    Anyone who cares about the people of the area should push for Wild classification. Anything else helps to further destroy the economic prospect of the people who live and work in the park.

  2. Charlie says:

    >> “The New York State Conservation Council contends that designating the Essex Chain Lakes a Wilderness Area would hurt the local economy and violate the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.”

    >> A.Parker and Walt Paul write “Anything other than a Wild Forest classification will adversely affect the economy of the Park,”

    There you go again!It’s always about economy.Look at the state of the world because of economy.Let us appease desperate people,let us appease hunters and fishermen,at the expense of every thing else.It’s the same old story…economy is more important than the ecology of the park,more important than the interdependent systems of nature within the park.Money is more important than living things! More important than the water that sustains us!

    >> “The New York State Conservation Council points out that the land has been logged extensively and contains more than forty miles of gravel roads.”
    Yeah but….Give it a year or two of non-motorized use and magic will happen,those roads will be swallowed by those serene, enchanting woods,and it will become a wilderness once again,a thing we desperately need more of.

    >> “Classifying these lands as Wilderness amounts to manufacturing Wilderness…”
    How do you manufacture wilderness? Cars are manufactured as are computers and godhead TV’s. A wilderness left to its own devices will follow the natural order of things and prosper and become more of a wilderness,which I keep stressing…we need more of.

    • “Give it a year or two of non-motorized use and magic will happen,those roads will be swallowed by those serene, enchanting woods”

      That statement has no basis in fact. The wilderness advocates I heard conceded it would take decades, if not century-plus to achieve the wildnerness they are looking for.

    • Paul says:

      This land was specifically bought in an effort to improve the local economy (among other reasons). That wasn’t the Conservation Councils idea. That was the idea of the state, the environmental groups, and any other supporters of the deal. Can’t just ignore it now. These folks have made the bed. Now they gotta sleep in it.

      As far as the ASLMP goes you can’t just use the parts of the law that support wild land preservation and ignore the parts dedicated to preservation of cultural uses of the lands.

  3. Charlie says:

    Darrin W. Harr says: “Give it a year or two of non-motorized use and magic will happen,those roads will be swallowed by those serene, enchanting woods” That statement has no basis in fact. The wilderness advocates I heard conceded it would take decades, if not century-plus to achieve the wildnerness they are looking for.

    Is it that bad in the Essex Chain Lakes? That much denuding has been done? The wilderness advocates may say what they will,or what you want to hear,but I know from first-hand experience that it does not take long for trees to practically swallow roads once they have been abandoned.Take the road that once led to Indian River in the Moose River Recreation Area.That is now a very narrow trail.The road they recently closed up back there,just past the 30-ton bridge,that leads you to Lost Pond… is quickly being swallowed by the surrounding forest.It was risky driving back there before they finally sealed it off recently. And even if it takes a hundred years what does it matter Darrin? Those people living then might appreciate some of what remains nowadays,which I highly doubt will be there then the way we’re going.

    • Funny how we see this differently. At the rate we’re going, downtown Indian Lake will be serene and enchanting woods in 100 years.

      It appears that you’re applying the Yellowstone National Park model to the Adirondacks and that’s the wrong model to use.

      The Adirondack “Park” is a mixture of community and Forest preserve. People are supposed to live here. Yes, the economy DOES matter tremendously. Of course, that needs to be balanced with protecting the ecological systems that makes the Adirondack Park the special place it is. Neither of us want to pave over paradise and put up a parking lot.

      Whether this land is classified as Wild Forest or Wilderness, it will never be developed or logged again under full protection of the Forever Wild clause.

      So, the only matter left to resolve is what kind of recreation the state will allow. We can allow many people to enjoy the beauty now and forever, or we can keep most people out and wait a century for a “wilderness utopia” that we’ll never live to see.

  4. Paul says:

    ““The towns will only benefit economically if multiple recreational opportunities are provided, including hunting, fishing, nature viewing, canoeing, rafting, snowmobiling, ATVing, bird watching and others,” they add. “A Wild Forest classification will provide these opportunities.””

    There is not going to be any ATVing on these lands. If left open these are not going to be town roads are they? ATV use will be prohibited. Saying this only hurts the council’s chance of getting a Wild Forest designation.

  5. dave says:

    This land was not purchased specifically to improve the economy. Improving the economy was a stated benefit of the purchase, not the reason for it.

    The difference there should be obvious, and the only reason you would misstate this is if you had an agenda to push.

    In terms of the economy, we now have 10 years worth of visitor data that shows conclusively that the vast majority of people visit the Adirondacks for outdoor recreation. And of those people, most come to hike and paddle.

    Furthermore, we also know that the vast majority of accessible waters in the Park are already motorized. A recent report showed that 192 out of 200 of our largest accessible waters are motorized.

    Local economies who are struggling need to start putting this data together.

    1. Most people come here to hike and paddle
    2. Most of our large bodies of water are motorized

    There is a mismatch there in terms of supply and demand. If these local towns were smart (heck you don’t really need to be that smart to recognize this) they would see that there is an opportunity here for them.

    If I were them, I would fight to classify this as the Park’s second Canoe Area and then market the heck out of it to what we know to be one of our largest visitor groups. This strikes me as economic and marketing 101.

    • “1. Most people come here to hike and paddle”

      How many people come here to hike and paddle in the winter?

      • Paul says:

        That is one problem with a Canoe Area designation. It probably makes economic sense to allow snowmobiles in there in the winter. That road network is probably perfect for that kind of use.

        • But Paul, the economy isn’t suppose to matter….right?

          Let’s keep it safe from evil snowmobilers. 😉

          • Paul says:

            Like I have said all along one of the big deficits in the presentation of these proposals is leaving out any economic impact data. There should be some numbers tied to each proposal including estimates on snow-machine related economic impacts. Dave that doesn’t mean that those impacts are the ONLY criteria but the local towns are very keen to see what these impacts may or may not be. In the end there is no reason to have too much data to help you make a decision. But having none in this case is a dereliction of duty to the tax payers.

      • Alan Senbaugh says:

        It is a shame snowmobiling is allowed on the Forest Preserve at all! What a disaster that decision was! It’s too late to reverse that travesty so lets at least designated this massive land area what it should be, wilderness.

  6. Paul says:

    “The difference there should be obvious, and the only reason you would misstate this is if you had an agenda to push.”

    What a weird comment?

    Why would I have an “agenda” to push. I personally think (and said as much in other comments) that a canoe area would be the right thing. Dave look at my comment again. I said “specifically” not exclusively. I said it was one of many reasons. So it is not a misstatement but a fact. I also said that I think the way to do it is to have some ponds where you can drive your car to, just like in the St. Regis Canoe area where you already have a model that works. I don’t think that any of these proposals allow for that.

    From an economic perspective you also need to consider the impacts of particular activities. Just because something is on the top of the list as far as numbers does not mean that it has the greatest economic impact. For example a hunter may have a greater economic impact than a hiker, or a snowmobiler may have a greater economic impact than a guy hiking around on snowshoes. Or how many people are employed by a marina versus an outfitter? In the end a classification that allows all of the above may (or may not) be the best one economically.

  7. Matt says:

    If, for purposes of clarity, we can avoid the constraints of the pre-determined classifications I’m convinced we can find common ground. It is encouraging to find that even when there appears to be people that are on opposite sides they still seem to share a common bond. The love of the Adirondacks. As a land owner in Newcomb and avid hiker, paddler, angler, hunter, mountain biker and snowmobiler I offer my wish list. Perhaps its not realistic and likely does not fall within the constraints of the proposed classifications. In order of importance:

    1.) No motor boats under any circumstances. Not needed. Sorry.

    2.) Reasonably close parking access (less than 0.5 mile). This gives some access to those that are unable to walk long distances but keeps car campers out for a picnic by a body of water

    3.) Mountain biking on some roads. I simply do not see how this runs contrary to an adirondack experience. It’s healthy, will do little to no damage to the roads (I’ve seen them) and are not noisy. Again, I’m sorry. Just dont get it.

    4.) Snowmobiles in the winter. The roads are in place and this would certainly be an economic benefit for local towns.

    Overall, to minimize the chance of us loving this area to death perhaps we consider a permit system or place an entry shack before a parking area. This can be operated by the local towns and they can share the management and the revenue for maintenance. They can also limit the people via the permits given out.

    One final comment before I’m brandished a capitalist intent on raping this beautiful wilderness. I have the utmost respect for those of you firmly on the side of Wilderness or Canoe Region. I understand and recognize your concerns as they are valid. I think there is common ground if we work together. One fact remains. This land was bought with all of the NY taxpayers dollars. Not just yours and certainly not just mine. We are obliged to classify this in a fair manner that gives reasonable access to all whether we like it or not.

    • Paul says:

      “1.) No motor boats under any circumstances. Not needed. Sorry.”

      Mountain bikes and snowmobiles and canoes and kayaks are not “needed” either. We are talking about what folks want to do in there, nothing is “needed”.

  8. Jim Frenette says:

    I’m in the process of reading the book American Canopy,sub titled Trees,Forests and the making of a Nation by Eric Rutkow published in 2012 by Scribners. Any one interested in how we have arrived at many of our land use programs and theories should read this.

    Reading this book has led me to thinking about the issues regarding the classifications of the former Finch Pruyn lands

    My first thought was what would the designation of a Canoe Area mean. Would a campground like Harris Lake in Newcomb grow in popularity when situated near a designated canoe area such as Fish Creek and Rollins Pond in Franklin County. Adjacent to the St. Regis Canoe Area .Would a second designated canoe area located in Newcomb enhance the entire region..Old Forge, Inlet,Racquette Lake,Blue Mtn. Lake Long Lake,Little Tupper Lake,Lows Lake Bog River, Hudson and Indian Rivers Stony Creek Ponds,Upper, Middle and Lowee Saranac Lake, Saranac River and the Northern Forest Canoe Route,and Make this region the Canoe Capital of the Northeast.and beyond.

    The final choice will result in compromises and not be to everyones satisfaction. I believe that the canoe area designation will provide the frame work for a decision that will have benefits for local and regional growth.

    • Paul says:

      That is the funny thing about these proposals. No matter what decision is made the folks that want to hike and paddle on these lands will get the opportunity to do it. They will be included, the only decision remaining is on who and what will be excluded.

  9. Penn Hoyt says:

    Paul – Obviously you will only be happy when there are no more humans allowed to live in the park and it is fenced off. The actual people who live there and make a living need economic opportunities to not only survive but to thrive. Working at Stuarts for $7.50 an hour doesn’t go a long way to paying for heating oil and food. Perhaps you should actually try living on that wage and see if your world view changes. It is bad enough that the state has cut back on educational funding to those schools in the park making it harder for those kids to keep up with the rest of the country. It doesn’t need folks like you further helping to drive more people to the welfare rolls by blatantly denying them the right to make a decent living an area they choose to live.

  10. Ryan says:

    I think the land should be split up into two classifications. I think some of the lakes/ponds should have a direct route to them for public access, and the rest should only have trails to them. The economy really does need help up there, but we shouldn’t completely open up the whole thing. Some of the lakes have already ruined by fishermen using illegal baits over the years.

    Just what I think. I enjoy fishing and hiking in that area very much. I like the seclusion, and wilderness. But its a big area. The whole thing doesn’t need to isolated.

    Although I do not live up there, my family comes from Indian Lake. One of the first families to settle it.They have hunted and fished that area for over a century.

  11. Darrin W. Harr says:

    This land isn’t “Wilderness”, not even close!

    I walked in there last weekend and took lots of pictures:

    http://www.ilsnow.com/2013/07/15/expos-southern-gateway-chain-lakes-tract/

    Wild Forest is sufficient protection under the Forever Wild Clause.

  12. Alan Senbaugh says:

    Great pictures! Can anyone think of a single wilderness area in NY that didn’t have a road in it prior to purchase by the state? I can’t. Your context is only in the here and now. The gratification of the wilderness designation will not come for sometime. Just knowing that this magnificent land will be preserved, free of motors and the heavy handedness of man going forward should provide you with great comfort. That is the idea of wilderness my friend.

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