With good reason, a large coalition of organizations interested in preservation of New York State Forest Preserve lands in the Adirondacks is today trumpeting a four to one margin in written comments made to the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) that supports banning motorized vehicles from newly acquired state lands. The second most popular option was allowing motorized access.
An analysis by PROTECT’s Peter Bauer here at the Adirondack Almanack three weeks ago reached a similar conclusion. The APA received about 3,600 comments, totaling nearly 5,000 pages, and petitions totaling about 2,500 signatures. Although not included in the analysis of written comments received, eight public hearings were also held (only three outside the Adirondacks), at which around 200 people spoke – they were largely divided.
“The 4 to 1 ratio of comments to preserve the Essex Chain of Lakes ‘motorfree’ demonstrates that prospective users comprehend that that the fragile ecology and fishery of these 10 small lakes and ponds would be exposed to invasive species, overuse and the loss of remoteness and quiet if floatplanes, motor boats and all terrain vehicles are permitted,” Neil F. Woodworth, Executive Director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, said in a statement sent to the press.
Nine organizations signed on to that statement, including the Sierra Club’s Atlantic Chapter, the National Wildlife Federation, Hudson Riverkeeper, Environment New York, Environmental Advocates, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, Adirondack Council, Protect the Adirondacks and the Adirondack Mountain Club.
Some representatives from local towns have pushed hard for motorized access – to open roadways, and install parking lots and boat launches – but statewide organizations are right to argue that the classification decision should be based on statewide support for a Wilderness classification that would ban floatplanes, snowmobiles, ATVs, and cars and trucks.
These unique lands are owned by all the people of this state, from Montauk to Buffalo. Time and time again since the late nineteenth century citizens in this state have expressed their desire to protect the Adirondacks as ‘Forever Wild’ and have rolled back attempts to weaken protections. Every year recently, for example, State Senator Betty Little (R-Queensbury) has introduced a bill in the NYS Legislature to log the Forest Preserve – every time it’s been defeated.
Cynically our (suburb-dwelling) state representatives Little and Assemblyman Dan Stec (R-Queensbury) play on 30-year-old anti-environmentalist animosities to garner votes, forgetting their pledge to protect the state’s constitution and its historic “Forever Wild” clause, and abandoning the promise made by the people of this state nearly 125 years ago.
One of the most vocal proponents of motorizing the Essex Chain Lakes, Minerva Supervisor Sue Montgomery Corey, argued in her comments to the APA that local towns were promised motorized access.
That’s quite a revelation. The law requires public input into the classifications of new state lands. If the Minerva Town Supervisor, or anyone for that matter, believes they were promised a secret backroom deal that would negate the will of the people and abandon that process, they’ve got some explaining to do. It takes some real guts to flaunt a back-room deal while the rest of the state is pretending their comments matter in a legitimate process.
Whether the fix is already in or not, local pandering politicians have a lot of gumption in complaining that a wilderness classification leaves their interests out.
They need a reminder that most of these lands – about 89,000 of the 161,000 – went straight to motorized access and forestry as easement lands. That was a gift to the motorized access crowd long before the public had an opportunity to weigh in. The easement deal offered the private clubs an opportunity to keep their private playgrounds, provided for new snowmobile trails (the Newcomb -Indian Lake trail for example), and lots of other motorized access, including for floatplanes.
They need a further reminder that most Forest Preserve land is already fully-motorized and every spot in the Adirondacks (including in the wilderness areas) is within 5.3 miles of a road. By a margin of about 100,000 acres, most Forest Preserve land is already classified for motorized access and that doesn’t include some 800,000 acres of easement lands. Also, the vast majority of large Adirondack lakes are open to motorboats – those are lakes you can literally drive directly in to, forget about up to.
So the motorized access crowd has already won the larger debate over motorizing the Adirondack Park.
For this small piece of exceptional lands it’s time they stopped being greedy and give the people what they want: a little wilderness peace and quiet.