Friday, November 22, 2013

Martens Discusses Classification Process For Finch Lands

Essex ChainState officials are considering a variety of possible recreational uses, both motorized and non-motorized, for the former Finch, Pruyn lands, according to Joe Martens, the commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Martens said officials from DEC and the Adirondack Park Agency have been in discussions with various stakeholders, including environmental groups and local officials, on what types of recreation would be appropriate on the 21,200 acres acquired in the past year from the Nature Conservancy.

Martens told Adirondack Almanack that he believes the lands, which are split among three tracts, can accommodate a wide variety of recreation, including snowmobiling, without putting natural resources at risk. He declined to say where he thought snowmobiling might be allowed.

With input from DEC, the APA must decide how to classify the land, a decision that will influence how the former Finch lands are used. The APA’s most common land classifications are Wilderness and Wild Forest. Under a Wilderness classification, motorized use and bicycling would be prohibited. A Wild Forest classification would give the state the option of allowing snowmobiles, motorboats, and floatplanes (as well as bicycles). Two other options—Canoe and Primitive—generally prohibit motorized use, with limited exceptions. Most likely, the lands in question will see a combination of classifications.

At the moment, Martens said, “our focus is not on classifications; our focus is on acceptable uses.”

Perhaps the most controversial decision will be the classification of the Essex Chain Lakes, a string of seven ponds which lie at the heart of the largest tract (17,320 acres) acquired by the state.

Environmental groups want the APA to classify the Essex Chain and most of the rest of the tract as Wilderness. Local officials want the tract classified as Wild Forest. Among other things, the latter designation would allow DEC to establish a snowmobile route to connect the hamlet of Indian Lake with communities to the north.

Earlier this week, Adirondack Almanack reported that APA Commissioner Dick Booth has written a twenty-one-page legal analysis concluding that the State Land Master Plan precludes a Wild Forest classification for the Essex Chain.

Martens said he has read parts of Booth’s analysis. “It’s all food for thought,” he said. “Dick is a smart guy. His point of view is valuable. His opinion matters, and I think everybody is going to reflect on it.”

So far, the APA has declined to release Booth’s memo.

Last year, DEC issued a conceptual plan for the former Finch, Pruyn lands that called for placing the Essex Chain in a Special Management Area within a Wild Forest classification. The idea is that the Essex Chain region would be managed more strictly than is typical for Wild Forest but not as strictly as Wilderness.

Martens was interviewed Wednesday in Lake Placid, where he attended a news conference where Governor Andrew Cuomo announced economic initiatives for the North Country.

Photo of the Essex Chain Tract by Carl Heilman II.

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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.

9 Responses

  1. Running George says:

    So Peter Bauer was right! “Stakeholders” including environmental groups have been meeting with the DEC and APA. I want to know who is bargaining away Wilderness. Who are the deal makers?

    With concerns over climate change, it is insane that we are encouraging motorized recreation at any level, never mind the effect on the land.

  2. Pete Klein says:

    I believe the SLUMP and all classifications other than Wild Forest are in violation of Article 14 which reads, “The lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands.”
    It says wild forest. It does not say wilderness.

    • Daniel says:


      Article XIV does not indicate which classification of lands are to be applied within the forest preserve. That amendment was written before the different land classifications (wilderness, intensive use, wild forest, etc) were in play. As such, one cannot make such an argument as what you have presented.

      The differentiation of lands has been evolving over time since this time, and now includes the different statuses which we see in play today, and which were laid out by the APSLMP.

      In fact, most people would make the argument that Article XIV, which requires the full protection of lands in their wild state, would require wilderness (or even stronger) designation (protection). No roads, snowmobile trails, or other ‘improvements’ are to be allowed (as no timber can be removed) from the ‘wild forest lands’. Even those groups who generally are opposed to the classification of new lands obtained by the state generally don’t agree with your interpretation, but rather with what I have written here. However, they would like the state/public/law to “look the other way” regarding Article XIV, and allow for increased usage so as to provide economic benefits. Such benefits, they argue, must come at the expense of environmental benefits. Their argument is that the benefits of a wilderness designation would eliminate some of the benefit by eliminating the ease of access to a given area.

      • Pete Klein says:

        The main reason the Adirondacks is what it is is because it is not hospitable to development due to climate and the general topography.
        The whole classification thing does little to change conditions on the ground. You can not tell the difference between wild forest and wilderness when you are in the woods.
        The only real difference between the two is whether or not existing roads are closed and whether or not a seaplane can land on a lake.
        In other words, it does seem the main purpose of the wilderness classification is to exclude some people because of health or age and to line the pockets of the so called environmental activist who might have to get a real job if it weren’t for all the nonsense that goes on up here.

        • David says:

          The last thing wilderness does is exclude people based on their age. It excludes people based on their desires. In my time in the wilderness I have seen people of all ages enjoying the resource, I have talked to 80 year olds who honor the resource. If you are not willing to put work in to get a reward that’s fine, the Adirondacks provide ample opportunity for you too.

          Your argument is just as absurd as me saying that main purpose of Wild Forest is to exclude the people who want silence. I’m not excluded, I can go there if I want to.

          By diluting the argent into straw mans and attacks on the classification itself you miss the point entirely. I’m not arguing for wilderness in this comment just arguing against your method of arriving at wild forest.

        • Scott van Laer says:

          I am not skilled enough to climb Wallface but I admire it’s beauty. The “Wild Lands” were never meant to be developed for use by all but we can all enjoy them from different perspectives. We can’t pave a road up every mountain. I hope.

    • Alan Senbaugh says:

      Are you being facetious or are you serious?

  3. Bruce says:

    There are so many places available for motorized use throughout NYS. Some of these places are too busy for people, myself included, who like to paddle or mountain bike. Not to mention the increased amount of traffic on the single lane road that passes through privately owned property surrounding Goodnow Flow.
    Who will widen and maintain these roads?
    We need to keep this area for non motorized use..

    • Paul says:

      Bruce do you want these roads open for Mt. Bikes? A Wild Forest designation would be required. If done properly this road system could be great for Mt. Biking.

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