Saturday, December 5, 2015

Paine, Kissel Back Expansion Of High Peaks Wilderness

boreas pondsA proposal to expand the High Peaks Wilderness has received the endorsement of two of the Adirondack Park Agency’s founding figures.

The High Peaks Wilderness already is by far the largest Wilderness Area in the Park, but the Adirondack Council and seven other environmental groups are urging the state to add 80,000 acres, expanding it to 284,000 acres.

Enlarging the Wilderness Area “will place New York State and the Adirondack Park in a position of national leadership for creation and maintenance of Wilderness lands equal to any in the Continental United States,” Peter Paine and William Kissel declared in a joint letter. The council intends to use the letter in its campaign for the Wilderness proposal and sent a copy to Adirondack Almanack on Friday.

Paine served on the state commission that led to the creation of the APA in 1971. He later served on the APA board from its inception until 1991 and was the principal author of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, which governs the regulation of the state-owned Forest Preserve. Kissel was the APA’s first counsel and was a member of its board from 1999 to 2005.

As part of the proposal, the APA would classify as Wilderness most of the 20,500-acre Boreas Ponds Tract, which the state is expected to buy from the Nature Conservancy before the end of March. Other lands recently purchased from the conservancy also would be added to the Wilderness Area. In addition, the groups are proposing that the Dix Mountain Wilderness be incorporated into the High Peaks Wilderness.

Perhaps the most controversial piece of the proposal is the Boreas Ponds classification. The Wilderness designation does not allow the use of motors or bicycles. Under the proposal, people would be allowed to drive up a dirt lane, known as Gulf Brook Road, to LaBiere Flow, about a mile from the ponds. From there they’d have to hike or portage to the ponds.

Fred Monroe, executive director of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, said the local towns would prefer to see much of the tract given a less-strict classification – such as Wild Forest or Primitive – that would allow the use of bicycles on old logging roads near Boreas Ponds and provide “reasonable” motorized access to the ponds. He said the towns also want to keep a lodge at the ponds that environmental groups want to see removed.

Protect the Adirondacks, one of the Park’s major environmental groups, also objects to portions of the plan – especially a proposal to classify Gulf Brook Road as a Primitive Corridor to enable the public to drive on it. Peter Bauer, Protect’s executive director, contends this is a misuse of the Primitive classification and weakens Forest Preserve protections.

Bauer said that the road should serve as the boundary between Wilderness and Wild Forest. Since the road would be in Wild Forest, the public could drive on it to LaBiere Flow. This would create a smaller Wilderness Area, but Bauer believes this plan is more consistent with the State Land Master Plan.

“It’s vitally important for the future of the Forest Preserve and public recreational management that we keep public motor-vehicle use in Wild Forest Areas,” he said. “It would be a grave mistake and create many serious long-term problems if we allow motorized recreation beyond Wild Forest Areas and into Primitive and Wilderness Areas.”

In their letter, Paine and Kissell say the proposal by the council and the other groups does conform to the State Land Master Plan. “A Primitive Area giving road access along the Gulf Brook Road to LaBiere Flow south of the Boreas Ponds themselves would permit road access to the Boreas Ponds area but preserve the integrity of the larger Wilderness,” they wrote.

“We strongly encourage Governor Cuomo to adopt the recommendations for this expanded High Peaks Wilderness acquisition and classification,” the letter states.

CORRECTION: William Kissel’s surname was misspelled in the original version of this article.

Photo of Boreas Ponds by Phil Brown.

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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.

46 Responses

  1. ADKerDon says:

    Time to abolish the forest preserve and its discriminating, prejudice use policies. These lands belong to all the people, not just hikers. Time to end the discrimination against our wounded warriors, disabled veterans, elderly, handicapped, and others less than physically fit. Comply with the Americans With Disabilities law! Abolish the forest preserve and return conservation, wildlife habitat, forest management, to the Adirondacks! Open these lands to all the people for recreation! Keep all roads open for unlimited access and uses! Abolish the forest preserve and the APA now and allow everyone access to and use of these lands now!

    • scottvanlaer says:

      Would you like to see what is now the Forest Preserve remain publicly owned? Why do you feel the Forest Preserve is currently only by “just hikers”?

    • Marco says:

      Sure! Lets build some hospitals and emergency care stations at every access road. Lets do away with the political designations for Wild, Protected, Primitive, Canoe areas. Lets cut roads to EVERY pond, to every waterfalls, to every cliff and hill in the ADK’s. Lets build parking areas on every pond and make it so EVERYONE can enjoy our ADK’s. I think this is a GREAT IDEA ADKerDon! Lets allow ATVs, Motorcycling, Bikes, Horses and wheel chairs on the PEAKS! Lets see if we can cut an easy access road to EVERY valley to fish the creeks. I should be allowed to simply drop wrappers when I open my high calorie ZOOM bar. (Just so we can give the locals a job picking up or trash and build a real economy! We should allow commercial clear cutting to help with that, too.) I should be allowed to socialize with rest of city folk, No More Group Size Restrictions! We all love a big campfire from freshly downed trees! Especially when all the critters are so damn dangerous! I am really fed up with the bears stealing food. Open Season on Bears! Just don’t tell Albany, they worry about their water enough as it is. Thanks so much for the wonderfully well thought out comment.

      • troutstalker says:

        I’m with you! ADKer Don needs to think this out.My knees are bad,my brother has heart issues and we still manage to enjoy the wilderness by kayaking ,camping and portaging our packs and yaks.There are places accessible to people with issues,you just have to take the time to research and locate these areas.

    • Boreas says:

      That already happened once. Any trees that could be cut were cut, waterways were filled with silt, rampant forest fires, wildlife extirpated. People could do as they pleased, until it was gone. That is why the forest preserve was created.

      Now the APA is another matter. They seem to have lost their direction.

    • Todd Eastman says:

      Yo Don, do your sympathies for the wounded, handicapped,and less fit also support universal health care or the current stand-in, the ACA?

      Selective freedom, eh?

      Wilderness classification is the best method for ensuring water quality, habitat preservation, and the connectivity needed for wildlife management.

      I suspect you just don’t like not getting your way…

  2. Bruce says:

    Why do I see another long, drawn out flapperdoodle coming? The state is adding thousands of acres to the Wilderness, I don’t see how leaving an already existing and specified corridor for access is such a big deal, especially if it is closer to one edge of the tract instead of in the middle. There are already many thousands of acres of Wilderness where foot traffic alone is the only access. How much do environmentalists want?

    What about those of us who enjoy wilderness but can’t walk more than a mile or so at a time? I would like to see maps covering what is proposed, vs. what environmentalists want.

    As for the lodge, I believe if it is truly inside the Wilderness designation, then the rules concerning such constructions in Wilderness should have sway.

    • John Warren says:

      “What about those of us who enjoy wilderness but can’t walk more than a mile or so at a time?”

      Well, by definition, you aren’t going to see “wilderness” if you are only capable of walking a mile. That’s why more than half of the Adirondack Forest Preserve (and three-fourths of the Adirondack Park) is managed so that you can drive right into it. The idea that there is anywhere in the Adirondacks that is too remote to get to is simply false.

      The most remote spot in the Adirondacks is only 5.2 miles from a road, and nearly all of the Adirondacks is within 3 miles of a road.

      How remote would suffice? Should every spot in the Adirondacks be within one mile of a road? what about the people who cant’ walk a mile?

      • Boreas says:

        I agree. Mt. Everest used to be considered wild. Now people with nearly every disability have been to the summit – without a road!! Yet…. It is also now the home of a very large trash dump as well. Should we, as Joni Mitchell warned, pave paradise to put up a parking lot?

    • Tom Payne says:

      Don’t you understand the Environmental Lobby wants it all.

      • Boreas says:

        Regardless of what anybody wants, it’s up to the voters to decide. As you know, the ‘Environmental Lobby’ isn’t the only lobby in Albany.

        • Paul says:

          Classification decisions are not made by the voters. We just pick the people who pick the people who pick the people that pick the classification.

    • AG says:

      In all seriousness – if you can’t walk more than a mile then you should find another hobby. I’m not being mean-spirited when I say it. Wilderness and forests are not for those with physical limitations. There are already too many roads… That is why outside the northeast – the ADK’s is seen as a playground – not real wilderness.

      • Bruce says:


        The National Forests in western North Carolina (1.4 million acres) offer chances for solitude at distances greater than 5 miles in some places, with no, or few trails except those made by game, or long grown over logging roads, often having game trails down the center. The Forest Service has rules about how and when roads can be used, using gates when necessary. There are rules for ATVs, and foot trails closed to wheeled vehicles and horses. Hikers can go anywhere they want. Use is somewhat balanced, and not restricted to any one user group.

        My objection is environmentalists who want to turn the last potentially really great places into wilderness closed to all but one user group. If saving limited wilderness is the goal, then let’s close it to everyone and let nature take its course, unfettered, and untrammeled; or close it to all but hard core “bushwhackers,” with no human trails allowed. Speaking of which, and assuming there aren’t any, how long would it be until the hikers demand trails be cut into the better areas, so more of them can get there easier?

        Roads have been there for a long time. Whatever “harmful” effect they may have on wildlife behavior is already long past. Human foot trails alter animal behavior too, as any astute deer hunter knows.

        • AG says:

          Your comment is extremely short-sighted… There is no such thing that wrongs can’t be corrected.
          I mean they are even trying to re-populate buffalo in the plains states little by little.. They have been gone just as long as all the roads in the ADK’s – but those grasslands have never really healed back to what they should be.
          I mean even in China – who everyone looks at as notorious for just building – building – building is trying to literally replant millions of acres of forests because they realize the damage that has been done.

          Overall – it is going to be up to the citizens of NY in the long run to decide what the ADK’s will be and how they will function. This is not just for today but generations to come. It will continue to be a delicate balance.

        • Boreas says:


          I understand where you are coming from. Another source of multi-use ‘wilderness’ are BLM lands out west. They are quite popular, but there is significant human impact associated with that access. Same with National Parks and National Forests. But the fact is the Adirondack Park was created as a preserve to do just that – preserve as much wildness as possible while restoring and stabilizing the watersheds. It wasn’t set aside for all types of recreation, but rather recreation that was neither motorized nor destructive to habitat. Habitat and wildlife recovery and preservation was the emphasis on the formation of the park.

          Over the years, serious thought has been given by legislators in Albany to hand the lands over to the National Forest or National Park system, but for various reasons, it was decided to keep the ADK Park as an entity unique to NY and also to the country.

          In the past, vast private inholdings by forestry, mining, and private reserves allowed various types of access by lease and management permission. This was great for the hunting preserves, private camps, etc. that had exclusive rights to those lands, but it wasn’t like anyone with a disability was allowed to use their roads and cabins. In fact, with those lands being posted, it simply created private reserves by people that were only leasing the land from the actual landowners. But when the landowners found their ventures no longer profitable, NYS didn’t come in and steal their lands – they were offered for sale.

          Nature Conservancy and other groups stepped forward to buy lands as they became available – earmarked to be eventually sold to the state. Now keep in mind, Nature Conservancy could have kept the lands to do with as they please – including keeping ALL people out – but that was not their intention. Their intention was primarily to keep sensitive areas out of the hands of developers and create a less-fragmented land use area, and to help coalesce isolated areas of wilderness. To preserve nature, not historical access.

          Over the years I have hiked, climbed, skied, snowshoed, camped, paddled, hunted, and fished in ADK wilderness areas. It is hardly limited to hikers. I have met people with disabilities paddling and hiking where they could and were loving it. Now I no longer can do what I used to do when I was younger, but I don’t hold anything against the people who can. Every road into a wilderness area diminishes the wilderness experience – regardless if one is healthy or has limited mobility or abilities. Unless you own the road or campsite, you won’t be the only one using it.

          But I also feel there could be more access into less sensitive areas that could even be EXCLUSIVE to those with disabilities. Some areas now have locked gates that DEC will open by reservation for use by people with disabilities. I would like to see that effort expanded throughout less-sensitive areas of the park. I think this would help with some of the usage balance that is currently a hot topic.

          • Bruce says:


            I wasn’t referring to just hikers, but all foot traffic. I too have done all those activities you mentioned, and more. I think Fred Monroe’s plan is a far better one than just locking it up for foot traffic only.

            Fred Monroe, executive director of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, said “the local towns would prefer to see much of the tract given a less-strict classification – such as Wild Forest or Primitive – that would allow the use of bicycles on old logging roads near Boreas Ponds and provide “reasonable” motorized access to the ponds.”

            If the area is so sensitive that preservation of the entire tract is required, then “preserve” it by keeping any sort of regular use out. Regular foot traffic has its own adverse affects on the environment.

            • AG says:

              Bruce – foot traffic is a part of the natural environment – unlike cars or human made tools. The Amazon jungle supported civilizations for thousands of years before they began to be cut down during the industrial revolution… Same with other remote wilderness.. They always had humans. Machines changed the paradigm (guns are a machine as well). Long before the ADK’s were changed by settlers – there were native tribes in the area. There is a difference between using the natural environment and detrimentally altering it or destroying it.

              • Bruce says:

                Right AG, foot traffic in harmony with the environment. I wouldn’t say modern foot trails are generally in harmony, especially the more popular ones. They have a tendency to be placed where people want them, not necessarily where or how the topography dictates they shall be. We build bridges where we want to cross watercourses, boardwalks across wet lands, just because we don’t want to go 5 miles around to skirt the wetland, or 3 miles upstream to find a natural crossing place. If you want to see what I mean about harmony, follow game trails in undisturbed wilderness.

                If you’re talking about the Incas and Mayans, with their vast stone complexes and agricultural civilizations, they were only the beginning of where we are now. They changed and molded the land for their own uses and didn’t live as early man lived; they had primitive machines, else they couldn’t have built the stone structures that exist today. As far as a few Amazonian Indians go, living off the land and building only simple shelters of biodegradable, local materials, they are about as close as we can come these days to humans living in harmony with nature.

          • AG says:

            Boreas – yours is the best comment on here.

        • scottvanlaer says:

          There used to be a road into Marcy Dam. I believe there was a time long ago when the public could drive in. It is now maintained to a width to accommodate an ATV or a snowmobile for emergency use only. The vast majority of the public use the hiking trail from the Loj and not the “truck trail”. I can’t imagine how vastly different this area would be if planners decided that since there was a nice road into Marcy Dam they should have the trailhead there instead.

          • M.P. Heller says:

            No doubt Scott. South Meadows is close enough for vehicular traffic in that corridor. Another similar situation to the one you describe is Ward Brook. Imagine if people were allowed to drive almost all the way to Duck Hole!

            I think we’ve done pretty well with the opportunities that we have been given with the forest preserve. We need to keep doing well. It’s not perfect and never will everyone be pleased with all the management decisions, but it’s still way more than most other states have done to preserve their wild lands. NYSDEC does a real good job for the public despite what some may say. Again, it’s not perfect, but what is?

  3. Marco says:

    I am not against vehicles on that road. A mile from the pond is a good hiking distance with a canoe, not too far and not too difficult for most. It is my belief that each section with a road on it should be treated separately, on a case-by-case basis, pretty much avoiding the problems with arbitrary rules any access way presents.

  4. SLMPdefender says:

    Drafters of the SLMP vindicate the council’s proposal! Governor Cuomo, the forest preserve belongs to all ny’ers and we want wilderness! #bewildny

    • M.P. Heller says:

      I’m pretty sure if you read a little you will find that all NYers DO NOT want wilderness. That was the point of the article and the majority of the comments, that there isn’t unanimous agreement.

  5. Paul says:

    This particular chunk of lands and it’s proximity to the HPW makes this classification proposal make perfect sense.

  6. Paul says:

    Once this deal is done and then Follensby (now that the Finch deal is pretty well set) what is there going to be left for people to argue about?

    • Boreas says:

      New galvanized guard rails vs the previous rusty ones? That could be the source of a heated debate. FWIW, I preferred the rusty ones.

      • joe says:

        Yes, guardrails! There you go. People will find something to fight over. The rail trail was a huge draw on this site, for example. There is money in these sorts of conflicts, so I imagine they will continue. The advocacy jobs pay better than average around here, so they will write up an article, get a fight going, claim failure will ruin the whole place. That is until climate change really does ruin the whole place, but our regional advocates do not appear to care much about it.

        I expect the State will continue to buy land. There is no real end to it. Not until the towns actually refuse to go along, but that is unlikely as the towns slowly become ever more dependent on the State’s funding for everything. So this will go on for decades yet to come. Sadly.

      • scottvanlaer says:

        I do miss the brown ones…

        • M.P. Heller says:

          Remember the old concrete post and steel cable ones?

        • Paul says:

          Isn’t the state taking out the galvanized ones and putting in the ones that rust?

          But those small arguments can’t sustain a whole industry of environmental advocacy groups. What will they do?

          • M.P. Heller says:

            It’s the other way around. Galvenized is replacing the ones that rust. Evidently there are safety concerns with the brown rusty type.

            • Bruce says:

              MP Heller,

              Can you elucidate further about the danger?

              The brown ones are made of a steel called Core 10. They are supposed to be the latest and greatest since they require no maintenance unless damaged, and blend into the landscape better than galvanized steel. It’s the same steel in some of the power poles, too.

              • Boreas says:


                Supposedly a year or two ago NYSDOT studied their ROI on the brown ones. I forget the figures, but they were rotting out quicker than the manufacturer had stated – thus needing replacement sooner than expected. I don’t know if the posts or the rails were causing the problem, or both. Supposedly the road salt was chewing the posts up, and some rails were left without support.

                I don’t know the depth of the study, or if it was just something noted on routine repairs to the rails. My guess is a large part of the decision was based on the economics of scale – by condemning the brown ones, DOT didn’t need to inventory two types of guardrails and this also brought down the price of the galvanized system. Also, liability was probably part of the decision.

                I would think if they put on their thinking caps they could have made changes to the brown ones – such as brown rails and galvanized posts, but short term, they probably needed to keep their expenses and liability exposure down. Nobody raised hell, so DOT was happy.

                • Bruce says:


                  Yes, I can understand that. When I first read about the material after it first came out, it was the be all and end all of exposed outdoor steel construction.

                  I know of one artist who uses it in outdoor steel sculptures, some of which have been around for more than 20 years. He says the trick is any place which is enclosed, such as box section, there has to a way for internal condensation to escape. I guess road chemicals weren’t figured into the equation.

                  • Boreas says:

                    It would also figure that the rails below ground were victims of the same ‘enclosed’ effect.

              • Paul says:

                If you ever lived out west you would understand why the think people in the east are wimps. Guardrails, who needs guardrails?

            • Bruce says:

              When we come to the Adirondacks on our annual vacation, we don’t feel we’re there until we cross the Moose River and see the brown guard rails on the north side.

              • M.P. Heller says:


                Seems like you and Boreas got the issue of the core 10 rail replacement pretty much covered, so I’m just gonna go back to stacking wood. 🙂


  7. Byron says:

    Extend the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest to include the Gulf Brook Road.

  8. Charlie Stehlin says:

    ADKerDon says: “Time to abolish the forest preserve… Keep all roads open for unlimited access and uses!”

    Fred Monroe, executive director of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, said “the local towns would prefer to see much of the tract given a less-strict classification….and provide “reasonable” motorized access to the ponds.”

    >> ADKerDon and “the local towns” are devoid of any foresight in their thinking when it comes to the preservation of the Adirondacks.Their thinking is pathological at best. It is unfortunate that,in general,this society thinks along the same lines….minus the power to imagine the future. There is hardly a thing reasonable about what society in general puts out,no clear-headedness. Or so it seems. There is nothing novel in ADKerDon’s thinking nor are “the local towns” constructive in their thinking.

    Rare is a body of water in this country where man or vehicle has no access. Rarer still is an untarnished acre. Yet let us have unconstrained access to what’s left of either! Generally there is in society a desire to have every thing conveniently placed in front of us,moreso as the years go passing by and inertness takes over. A lazy eye will eventually propagate into total lethargy.If you look close you will see this effect has already taken hold on quite a large number of the population. Is why zombies are the latest fad. I fear the world our progeny will be living in. We should be taught from grade school on up that a tree and clean body of water are more important than a baseball bat and a noxious body of water.

    We must be careful how we plan for the future of the Adirondacks.We should look a hundred years ahead instead of from one election cycle to the next. And we must remember that destruction is accomplished little by little and almost always without our notice….until it is too late!

  9. Bruce says:

    Yes, we must plan carefully for the future, and that future may very well include increasing numbers of recreation-seeking visitors, and the economy they represent. The state is still adding acreage to the Wild Forest and Wilderness, not taking it away, and to think all of this additional acreage should be locked up with only access for those whose feet is a primary source of recreation is simplistic at best.

    I don’t believe the SLMP is all about preservation as some contend. If it were, Wilderness would be the only classification needed (environmental groups would be happy). There is a difference between preserving a tract of land which has been left to its own devices for the last hundred years or so, and one which has roads, trails, and structures in regular use up until recently. Each tract needs to be considered individually, as to what mode(s) of recreation (or none) is best suited to it, and that’s exactly what the planners in Albany are trying to do, like it or not.

    If the goal of environmentalists is really preservation, then they should insist that no new trails be cut or created in wilderness areas to give foot traffic better access to key areas within the tract. If they already do this, then great.