Monday, August 11, 2014

DEC To Reopen Essex Chain Draft Management Plan

The-Essex-Chain-Nancie-Battaglia-300x192The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will make revisions to the Essex Chain Draft Unit Management Plan (UMP), DEC Commissioner Joe Martens announced on Friday.

“In response to public comments from local businesses, community representatives, individuals and a variety of stakeholders – including many who recommended that potential locations for a snowmobile trail should be addressed in the current Draft UMP – DEC has decided it will revise the Draft UMP to fully assess the options for locating a snowmobile trail and propose a preferred alternative,” a statement to the press said.

DEC expects to release the revised draft UMP for public comment this fall and complete the UMP in time for implementation in 2015. Until that plan is approved, DEC will continue to manage these recently acquired lands and resources under a stewardship plan to guide access and recreation.

When the APA issued its classification of these Essex Chain lands and adjacent areas earlier this year, it anticipated that DEC would consider alternatives for locating a snowmobile trail through these lands to connect the communities of Indian Lake, Newcomb and Minerva. In June, DEC released a Draft UMP for public review, which noted that the location of this snowmobile trail would be addressed in a future amendment to the UMP.

In addition to addressing the preferred alternative for a snowmobile route through the Essex Chain Complex, the revised Draft UMP is expected to include proposals in the previously released draft plan to designate mountain bike routes on gravel roads used by the lessees within the Essex Chain Complex through 2018, limited parking near the Chain of Lakes, and the construction of a bridge over the Cedar River. Originally, this bridge had been proposed for non-motorized recreation including hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

DSCN5950In the revised Draft UMP, DEC will explore options that could include using this bridge for mountain biking and snowmobiling as well.

DEC is also expected to update its interim recreation plan for the Essex Chain Area and issue a formal Stewardship Plan designed to guide DEC’s management of the area.

DEC has been working with partners, including the towns of Newcomb, Minerva, North Hudson, Indian Lake and Long Lake, the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry Adirondack Ecological Center and the Student Conservation Association to implement the Stewardship Plan.

Public access projects already completed include:

Designating 13 primitive tent sites on and around the Essex Chain Lakes and related water bodies, which require a (free) permit;
Posting signs prohibiting fires within 500 feet of water bodies and at all permitted sites;
Posting signs indicting no at-large camping within the Essex Chain and Pine Lake Primitive Areas;
Designating primitive tent sites throughout the remaining area of the Complex;
Establishing parking areas in the vicinity of Deer Pond;
Relocating a parking area closer to the Polaris Bridge;
Establishing parking at the vicinity of the Outer Gooley Club;
Designating canoe carries;
Establishing a horse trailer parking/staging area along the Chain Lakes Road (north); and
Designating a cross-country ski loop.

The Stewardship Plan will also include enhanced seasonal access during big game hunting season on the Camp Six Road and Chain Lakes Road (South). This enhanced recreation access will be allowed on an interim basis and will also be addressed in the revised Draft UMP.

Photos: Above, The Essex Chain (by Nancie Battaglia); and below, the entrance to the new Upper Hudson and Cedar River lands on Route 28 in Indian Lake (by John Warren).

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30 Responses

  1. Jim S. says:

    Leaving roads in and allowing snowmobiles so close to wilderness and primitive areas are going to make this gem less appealing to most hiking and canoeing enthusiasts.

    • DM says:

      So your solution is that the majority should not be allowed to use it at all, so that the minority doesnt find it less appealing. Even though they would never be there in the winter anyway?

      Nice plan.

    • Hope says:

      Why? Because the place will be overrun with snowmobiles during the hiking and canoeing season?

  2. Joe says:

    Not me, I prefer a short way to get my canoe in the water.

    Snowmobiles operate in winter, and I don’t go it the woods on trails then. They are no problem for regular season hikers.

    • Dan says:

      This used to be the case. Now we get snowmobile superhighways bulldozed through wild areas that change the accessibility and character of the place. As time goes on, it becomes more and more clear that the compromise of allowing motors within the Forest Preserve was a mistake in my opinion. They degrade the environment excessively.

      • Joe says:

        This is about different uses in different seasons. People in canoes obviously never see or hear a snowmobile.

        The number of winter hikers is exceedingly small. Hiking is a summer activity here.

        Snowmobiles operating on frozen snow covered routes have zero impact compared to hikers, summer campers, horses, boats with invasives, etc. Horses are probably the worst in terms of damage to trails and, btw, you don’t see them in the back country in winter.

        In the long term, climate change will halt the snow mobiles.

        I don’t buy the ‘slippery slope to ATVs’ theory. The public will not accept ATVs. Bikes, yes, we will see lots of bikes. But not ATVs.

        All that said, they are noisy. So get a law passed requiring mufflers. Add motorcycles to the muffler law too. Problem solved.

        I should add I don’t own, or wish to own, a snowmobile. I just think the park is a big place and there is plenty of room for seasonally separated activity. At the moment, winter activity is our weak spot.

        • Woody says:

          Funny, I hike in the Indian lake area all the time. And summer hiking can’t happen at the Essex lakes if there are roads allowing you to drive everywhere.

          Snowmobiles got trails on the nearby easement lands, but then decided that wasn’t enuff. So they decided they wanted more trails on the new state lands too. And the people sticking up for the snowmobiles are accusing the hikers of wanting everything, even though DEC wants to open up so many of the roads at the Essex lakes to cars and sleds that there is no place left to explore in peace and quiet, at any time of the year.

          That’s what this is about, not the need for mufflers.

  3. Woody says:

    Good riddance to a bad plan.

  4. Jim S. says:

    Joe, go into the woods in winter it is amazing unless you hear and smell snowmobiles. I started winter hiking last year and got hooked!

  5. adkmike says:

    I would note that state highways are next to wilderness all over the Park. Are as many lesser roads.

  6. Jim S. says:

    DM, the majority have been excluded from this area for a century, there will be more people using this area now than ever before. What makes the Adirondacks unique is wilderness,there is less and less of it all over the world and by increasing the amount of it the region is
    strengthened.

  7. Dave Gibson says:

    The Essex Chain has renewed statewide interest and passion in our Forest Preserve and in the towns and that is good news. Cooperating enterprises such as Cloudsplitter Outfitters and the Adirondack interpretive Center in Newcomb benefit. The Unit Management Plan is supposed to plan ahead so that what we are enjoying now will be sustained and cared for long after we are gone. On its own it cannot amend existing laws, but must comply with them. The current draft does not. So pulling the draft back for more public participation is the right move.

    • dave says:

      Pulling the draft because it did not comply with the law obviously makes sense… although, one must ask why an ‘illegal’ draft was put forth in the first place!

      My confusion, however, is with the calls for “more public participation.” Is the plan to go through this entire process again? Public meetings, comment periods, etc?

      The public already participated. Our voices were already heard. In large numbers, and the outcome of that participation was overwhelmingly clear. 4 to 1 the public favored Wilderness. Seems to me they should simply heed that feedback and draft a legal plan based on it.

  8. Hawthorn says:

    The “majority” you speak of are the hikers, paddlers, etc. Most people don’t own $10K plus snow machines, which degrade the environment for everyone else, including the native creatures that inhabit the land. The proposed snowmobile superhighways and bridges will also provide access to ATVs in the summer, which the DEC already fails to keep out of many wild areas. If they can’t stop vehicles driving into Crane Pond will they be able to keep them out of the Essex Chain?

  9. Charlie S says:

    Snowmobiles! Monotonous,noisy contraptions.Large segments of this society thrive on noise they cannot escape it nor do they wish to. Jet ski’s & atv’s in the summer, snowmobiles in the winter. A mindset!
    I’m with some of the commenters above who like the “uniqueness” of wilderness,a haven to get away from the constant bombardment of noise. Snowmobiles are a nuisance!

    Aren’t there enough places for snowmobilers to ride to appease their inane short-term desires? And how do they stand all of the noise?

  10. Pete Klein says:

    Except for OK Slips Falls, I don’t expect the Chain Lakes region accessible from Indian Lake will get much use by hikers. All I have heard is negative comments that boil down to “nothing worth the effort.”
    Just for fun, here is a question I’ll bet no one will correctly answer.
    What is the largest wilderness area in the lower 48? Hint – it is totally accessible by motorized access. Hint two – it is in the eastern half of the United States.

    • Bill Ingersoll says:

      This hiker hasn’t gotten excited about the prospect of hiking the Essex Chain because I wouldn’t hike to a place I can drive to. If there were no motor vehicle roads, then I would be happy to hike it. I hike to places that can’t be reached any other way.

      Your trivia question is wrong, just by the hints you provided. The largest single wilderness area in the lower 48 is the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in Idaho. It is 2.3 million acres in size. There are primitive airstrips here and there, but it is in no way “totally accessible by motorized access.” Read more here: http://www.wilderness.net/NWPS/wildView?WID=194.

      • Harold says:

        I totally agree. I was pretty excited about checking out this area and then it turned into a tourist destination like many places in the high peak region. Once they determined there would be no fires I had no interest in backpacking or kayak/camping the area. We’ll check it out this winter and probably thank the snowmobilers for breaking trail for the XC skiing.

      • Matt says:

        “primitive airstrips”. Ha ha.

        You can drive to the edge of the Frank Church, but the road isn’t very good. I agree that the question makes no sense.

      • Pete Klein says:

        The answer is the Great Lakes.

  11. Charlie S says:

    Moose River Plains.

  12. Jim S. says:

    I hiked to OK Slip Falls last week. I was thinking how nice the trail was,surprised at the size of the trees(the land was owned by a lumber company}then we popped out of the forest onto a road for about 200 yds on the trail. It sort of spoiled an awesome outdoor experience.

  13. peter says:

    Once again, most of these comments are about the use of this land by recreationalists, be they snowmobilers or hikers. While these types of debates are important, the voice of conservation needs to be revitalised, something that the Department of Environmental Conservation seems to be veering away from under current politics. From my own perspective, the best areas of the park are those that nobody gets to. It makes me happy just to imagine the quietness of isolated ponds. My very hope for the Essex Chain is that it remains underwhelming in comparison to other recreational destinations, and will therefore be less abused. In the meantime, the AC and the Nature Conservancy will hopefully wield they’re influence to limit the DEC’s slicing and dicing of the property.

    • Justin says:

      I completely agree with you Peter. Just knowing that there are wild and beautiful places out there that I and hardly anyone else will ever see, where nature is unrestrained and undisturbed, has great value for me too. Unfortunately, nowadays it seems to be all about recreational experiences. The “voice of conservation” is overwhelmed by the loud and discordant “voices of recreation” shouting at each other. Recreation is of course an essential cornerstone of the Adirondacks, but so is conservation.

      While there are problematic aspects of the draft plan, there are some elements of the draft plan, notably fire restrictions, larger set backs, and a site reservation system are a good step forward for conservation.

      I noted that PROTECT!, and many in favor of Wilderness oppose these measures that will undeniably help conserve and protect the area. This suggests that for some, their own preferred recreational experience is more important than protecting this area for species other than Homo sapiens, not to mention the people and generations who will follow.

      • Peter Bauer says:

        Justin,

        You are misinformed. I guess that’s a luxury of posting anonymously where you’re not accountable for your statements.

        PROTECT opposed only the reserved campsites for floatplane users and operators. We did not oppose the campsite reservation system. We did, however, note that it’s likely to be unnecessary as the carries and long road in will result in uses similar to Lake Lila, Henderson Lake, the St. Regis Canoe Area, Low’s Lake, among other places. Two PROTECT Board members canoed the entire Essex Chain on Monday and saw eight people.

        PROTECT took no position on campsite setbacks/fire ban. We did note that it’s unfortunate that the DEC is moving ahead with building these facilities before a UMP is completed and all biological assessments and inventories completed. Little Tupper Lake was managed as a day use area before it was opened for camping. That worked well.

        PROTECT is also in full agreement that the basic purpose of the Forest Preserve is natural resource protection where wildness can exist largely unbothered by humans. This is what the Forest Preserve is all about. One of our criticisms of the Essex Chain Lakes area classification is that it was driven by recreational management and not natural resource protection.

        Read our comments for yourself: http://www.protectadks.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/140725-PROTECT-Comments-on-Draft-ECCUMP-1.pdf

        • Justin says:

          My apologies. I misinterpreted your suggestion that parking lot size is a sufficient control and alternative to a reservation system, and your lack of clear support for setbacks and fire bans as opposition.

          It isn’t opposition, but it certainly isn’t support. Why aren’t you clearly supporting these measures, which would inarguably help protect the Adirondacks?

  14. Charlie S says:

    Dan says “As time goes on, it becomes more and more clear that the compromise of allowing motors within the Forest Preserve was a mistake in my opinion. They degrade the environment excessively.”

    Never mind the fact that there’s a good possibility they’ll introduce non-native species also Dan.You’d think the DEC and the State would know this by now but you know when it comes to thinking clear and trying to appease certain groups oftentimes all rationality goes out the window.And we sure as heck don’t want to aggravate the locals and their leaders who cannot get past “A source of revenue.”

    • william Deuel,Jr says:

      I have never heard of snowmobiles spreading non native species, maybe you can give an example ?

      The locals as you call them do live there , so they do have a say in what happens within their own town. I find it strange that people from the outside feel they know better than the actual residents.

  15. Charlie S says:

    Too cold for invaders to even exist in winter conditions up here in these northern climes William….so no threat there with snowmobiles being their means of introduction. Dan said “motors (not snowmobiles) within the forest preserve” and I was replying in kind,so as not to be Miss Undra Stood.She can be a real bear at times.

    • John Warren says:

      “Too cold for invaders to even exist in winter conditions up here”

      There are plenty of invasive species that overwinter here just fine, and no doubt more than a few that can be carried on anything that moves through the forest, especially over long distances.