Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Boreas Ponds And A Bigger Adirondack High Peaks Wilderness

Boreas_PondIn 1936, the conservationist Bob Marshall made a list of forty-eight forested areas in the United States that exceeded three hundred thousand acres and that remained roadless — that is, relatively pristine. Evidently, he considered three hundred thousand acres to be the minimal size of a true wilderness.

“We would like to point out that the 300,000 acres is not a roadless area in any pioneering sense,” Marshall wrote in the magazine Living Wilderness (with co-author Althea Dobbins). “Actually, a 300,000-acre tract is only about 21½ by 21½ miles, something which a reasonably good walker could traverse readily in a day if there were a trail.”

Although the Adirondack Park boasts more than a million acres of officially designated Wilderness, where motorized use is forbidden, no single Wilderness Area comes close to Marshall’s criterion. The High Peaks Wilderness — the largest in the Park — covers only 204,000 acres.

If the Adirondack Council and several other environmental groups get their way, the High Peaks Wilderness will grow dramatically in the near future. In November, the council and seven other groups sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo setting forth a proposal to expand the Wilderness Area to more than 280,000 acres — a 39 percent increase in size, leaving it less than twenty thousand acres short of Marshall’s threshold.

“You have an extraordinary opportunity to create a true national legacy, an Adirondack wilderness area here in New York whose scale and positive impacts will rival some of the most famous conservation landmarks in the world,” the groups wrote the governor.

Besides the council, the organizations endorsing the letter were the Adirondack Mountain Club, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, Audubon New York, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Natural Resources Defense Council, and New York League of Conservation Voters.

Protect the Adirondacks, one of the Adirondack Park’s major green groups, declined to sign the letter, citing objections to parts of the proposal.

Cuomo-600x409The Adirondack Council and its allies are urging the governor to expand the Wilderness Area after the state purchases the 20,500-acre Boreas Ponds Tract from the Nature Conservancy. This will be the last acquisition in a multi-year deal with the conservancy to add sixty-five thousand acres of former Finch, Pruyn timberlands to the Forest Preserve. The state plans to buy Boreas Ponds by March 31, the end of the fiscal year, if not sooner.

The Boreas Ponds lie just south of the High Peaks Wilderness, and the groups say most of the tract should be added to the Wilderness Area, along with other state-owned lands.

As part of the Finch deal, the state bought two large tracts near Tahawus, known as MacIntyre East and MacIntyre West, and a smaller parcel, the Casey Brook Tract, near Elk Lake. The groups maintain that all of Casey Brook and MacIntyre West and most of MacIntyre East should be added to the High Peaks Wilderness. Furthermore, they say a parcel bordering MacIntyre West, acquired from the Open Space Institute, also belongs in the Wilderness Area. Finally, the groups say part of the Vanderwhacker Wild Forest adjacent to the Boreas Ponds Tract should be reclassified as Wilderness.

All told, the classification of new state lands and reclassification of old state lands would add about thirty-five thousand acres to the High Peaks Wilderness.

The Boreas Ponds Tract and Casey Brook form a link between the High Peaks Wilderness and the Dix Mountain Wilderness. Therefore, the groups recommend combining the two, in part to streamline management of the lands. This would add another forty-five thousand acres to the High Peaks Wilderness.

Under the proposal, the High Peaks Wilderness Area would grow to a grand total of 284,000 acres. In the Adirondacks, this is big. The West Canada Lake Wilderness, the second-largest in the Park, encompasses 171,000 acres. Compared with Wilderness Areas in Alaska and in the far west, however, it’s still puny. The Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness in Idaho, for example, is 2.4 million acres and several Wilderness Areas in Alaska are substantially larger. Nevertheless, the environmental groups point out that the expanded High Peaks Wilderness would be larger than Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado or Mount Rainer National Park in Washington.

“It would give the highest level of environmental protection to the most sensitive lands the state possesses,” said John Sheehan, a spokesman for the Adirondack Council. “The state’s tallest mountains, wildest rivers, and most sensitive wildlife habitat are located in this relatively compact area.”

The most controversial piece of the proposal is the call to designate most of the Boreas Ponds Tract as Wilderness, the most restrictive of the land-use classifications for the Forest Preserve. Most of the Forest Preserve in the Adirondacks is classified either Wilderness or Wild Forest. The most significant difference is that motorized use is prohibited in Wilderness Areas, whereas some motorized use is allowed in Wild Forest Areas. Bicycling also is banned in Wilderness Areas.

Boreas Ponds is in North Hudson, and town supervisor Ron Moore wants to see the tract classified as Wild Forest to facilitate public access and maximize recreational opportunities. For example, he said old logging roads in the area would be ideal for bicycling.

“We’re not looking to destroy the environment,” he said. “We’re looking to use an existing infrastructure of roads. We want as many people to enjoy the area as possible.”

Moore argues that the general public should be able to drive on one of those dirt roads — Gulf Brook Road — to within three quarters of a mile of the ponds. The disabled and those with special permits should be able to drive to within a quarter-mile, he said.

Under the environmentalists’ plan, people would be able to drive only as far as LaBiere Flow, a little over a mile from the ponds. From there they’d have to hike the rest of the way or paddle and carry their canoe up the flow and the ponds’ outlet.

Moore says the same road should serve as part of a snowmobile trail connecting North Hudson and Newcomb to the west. The council and its allies are calling for the snowmobile trail to be located a few miles farther south, paralleling Blue Ridge Road, a county highway.

“I can drive a car on the highway,” Moore said. “I think I would rather [snowmobile] in the woods and enjoy the scenery.”

The environmentalists want to extend the Wilderness Area all the way to the proposed snowmobile route — that is, nearly to Blue Ridge Road. The rub is that Gulf Brook Road then would fall within the Wilderness boundaries. To allow people to drive to LaBiere Flow, the plan calls for designating Gulf Brook Road a Primitive Corridor.

This use of the Primitive classification is the foremost objection of Protect’s Bauer. He contends that Gulf Brook Road should serve as the Wilderness boundary, leaving the road itself in Wild Forest. Thus, people would still be allowed to drive to LaBiere Flow. Bauer agrees with Moore that the road also should be used as a snowmobile trail. Cutting a new trail farther south, he said, would kill thousands of trees.

“If we’re going to have a motorized road, it should be in a Wild Forest Area,” Bauer said. He argues that creating a motorized Primitive Corridor — when there are no private in-holdings and no history of public use — would be a misuse of the Primitive classification and weaken the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. The same rationale, he warned, could be used in the future to allow motorized incursions into other Wilderness Areas.

“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.”

Primitive Areas are managed as Wilderness, but for one reason or another, they cannot be classified as such. Usually, they are too small or there is some use or structure that is inconsistent with Wilderness. Generally, the inconsistent use precedes the classification.

Yet, two founding figures of the Adirondack Park Agency, Peter Paine and William Kissel, have written a letter in support of the proposal of the eight environmental groups, saying it conforms to the State Land Master Plan. Paine was the principal author of the master plan, and Kissel was the APA’s first counsel. Both also served on the APA board.

“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.

In response to Bauer’s objections, Willie Janeway, the council’s executive director, said the groups want to maximize the amount of land added to the High Peaks Wilderness and keep snowmobiles out of the interior of the Forest Preserve. “There are some very wild lands south and west of the Gulf Brook Road that deserve Wilderness protection,” he said. “We don’t agree with those who want a smaller Wilderness.”

But Bill Ingersoll, publisher of the Discover the Adirondacks guidebooks, criticizes the plan for compromising on Wilderness. He argues that all of Gulf Brook Road should be closed, even though this would require people to hike eight miles or so to reach the ponds.

“The appeal of Wilderness is directly related to the absence of motor-vehicle access,” Ingersoll said in an email to Adirodnack Explorer. “The ponds should be the destination, not the scenery behind a trailhead parking lot. The presence of an active motor-vehicle road would negate the benefit of the Wilderness designation.”

Bauer’s other objection is that the groups favor keeping and maintaining a concrete dam at the foot of Boreas Ponds. To maintain the dam, state officials would be allowed to drive on Gulf Brook Road all the way to the ponds. In their letter to Cuomo, the groups said the dam is needed to preserve “a special brook trout fishery, and a remarkable paddling destination.”

Bauer questioned the appropriateness of maintaining this dam as well as a smaller one on LaBiere Flow. Wilderness Areas are supposed to be largely free of manmade structures, and Bauer noted that most dams in the High Peaks Wilderness have been removed or allowed to deteriorate. “We think there should be a real conversation about whether there should be dams in a Wilderness Area,” he said.

Bauer contends that the Boreas Ponds dam is not needed to protect the fishery, saying brook trout live throughout the ponds and their channels as well as in the ponds’ outlet and LaBiere Flow. “Whether the dam stays or goes, it’s going to stay brook-trout habitat,” he said.

Bauer also said people would still be able to paddle on the ponds if the dam is removed.

In response, Janeway asserted that the brook trout will be better protected if the dam is maintained. “With climate change warming Adirondack lakes and streams, we know deeper waters are more likely to provide refuge for brook trout,” he said. “The information we have seen to date has led us to believe that it is ecologically important to preserve the Boreas Ponds. We will continue to evaluate the science.”

Protect does agree with the other groups that most of the Boreas Ponds Tract and other former Finch lands in the vicinity should be added to the High Peaks Wilderness. Bauer also said “it’s worth taking a look” at combining the Dix Mountain and the High Peaks Wilderness Areas.

Three years ago, the state Department of Environmental Conservation set forth in a memorandum its own preliminary ideas for classifying the Boreas Ponds Tract. Like Protect, DEC suggested that Gulf Brook Road could serve as the Wilderness boundary and as a snowmobile route. Unlike Protect, the department also favored maintaining the dam for the sake of fishing and paddling.

DEC spokeswoman Lori Severino said the department will address the issues surrounding the dam and the road after the state buys the property. She added that “historic fisheries information gathered over the winter months will be important in making future decisions.”

The eight environmental groups also are calling for the removal of a lodge at Boreas Ponds. Finch, Pruyn used it as a corporate retreat. Moore, the town supervisor, argues that the lodge should be retained for possible use as a ranger station or as overnight accommodations in a hut-to-hut trail system.

“You’ve got a beautiful lodge looking at the High Peaks,” he said. “It just doesn’t make sense to me to tear it down.”

Photos and illustrations, from above: The High Peaks form the backdrop of Boreas Ponds (Photo by Carl Heilman II/Courtesy of Adirondack Council); New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo talks to the media during a visit Boreas Ponds in 2012 (Photo by Nancie Battaglia); A stretch of the Hudson River flowing through the MacIntyre East Tract (Photo by Seth Jones); and a map illustrating the proposal by environmental groups to expand the High Peaks Wilderness to 284,000 acres (Map by Nancy Bernstein).

This story originally appeared in the Adirondack Explorer, a nonprofit newsmagazine devoted to the protection and enjoyment of the Adirondack Park. Get a full print or digital subscription here.

Related Stories

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.

40 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    I had the great fortune of growing up and spending many weeks at Casey Brook during hunting season and throughout the summer. It is truly a pristine place. I was dismayed when it was sold but hoped the state would buy it so there could still be access to it via the Gulf Brook road. I believe they should leave the dam and the lodge.

  2. M.P. Heller says:

    Another example of Bauer and PROTECT! being off in the land of make believe.

    Kudos to those who are supporting this additional wilderness land. This is exactly the type of land that a wilderness designation is most appropriate for. It’s important to note the differences between this tract and the Essex Chain and why wilderness is appropriate here but much less so in the Essex Chain tract.

    If a discussion is going to occur regarding if dams are appropriate in wilderness designated areas, it’s therefore reasonable to extend that discussion to be inclusive of bridges, staircases, ladders and bog planking. If wilderness is supposed to be free of man made structures you can’t pick and choose which structures this applies to. Unfortunately the same folks screaming that every state purchase be classified as wilderness are one who also scream the loudest about cutting more trails to make more direct routes and building hiker accommodations so they don’t get their tootsies wet or muddy. How is building a steel bridge over the Hudson at the East River Trailhead to Allen any different than a dam at Boreas Ponds? Why is this steel bridge over the Hudson acceptable when other bridges are not? When hikers demand a shorter more direct route to Allen be provided after the Boreas tract is added how are the trees cut to create the trail any different from trees cut for a snowmobile trail? It’s this type of hypocrisy that undermines the credibility of those organizations who get on the wilderness soap box only to ignore the special treatment their user groups regularly receive all the while bashing members of other groups. It’s a total scam. One that relies on the inability of the masses to be able to get into the backcountry to actually see what is happening there.

    For those of you who can’t or don’t hike or bushwhack in wilderness areas I’m happy to be your faithful correspondent. I get out a lot. I love the quiet and peace that the wilderness areas offer and am thankful that I am capable of enjoying them at this point in my life. I also enjoy other activities besides hiking and bushwhacking on our public lands too and I fully support those who chose to do something other than hike or camp. I’ve been known to get on a snowmobile from time to time, I have an ATV for pulling stumps and dragging boulders, I am a Conservation Legacy license holder, my guide badge number is 5180, I own 2 boats, plus a canoe and an inflatable, my upstairs hall closet is now a gear loft for hiking and camping, and somewhere in my garage is an old Talera mountain bike that I don’t ride anymore but might consider taking to the Essex Chain this summer if I can find it.

    I’m for everyone being able to access our public lands. Clearly there must be different classifications of protection for different land types. It obviously can’t all be motorized access for all because that defeats the purpose of protection, but similarly it can’t be all wilderness foot only access either. This goes back to “balance”. A word people use to score points in public, but rarely truly intend.

    Snowmobilers need a place, fisherman need a place, hunters need a place, trappers need a place, hikers need a place, backpackers need a place, bushwhackers need a place, skiers need a place, snowshoers need a place, even the dreaded (for whatever elitist reason) ATV operators need a place. No one user group is better than another. Saying otherwise is pure snobbery and demonstrates anti social personality traits. They are our public lands. They belong to everyone. It’s high time we recognize this and create appropriate facilities for each interested group of users.

  3. Paul says:

    ” the groups said the dam is needed to preserve “a special brook trout fishery, and a remarkable paddling destination.””

    I think that sometimes we can even make a place a bit wilder than it was before we got here. There is no good reason not to allow a dam in a Wilderness area. Maybe we should start looking at ourselves as part of the ecosystem since we are. Think of us as big beavers.

    • Bruce says:

      ” the groups said the dam is needed to preserve “a special brook trout fishery, and a remarkable paddling destination.”

      As I pointed out with a letter from the DEC in the previous discussion about the dam, there is no special brook trout fishery (meaning native, heritage strain) in Boreas Ponds, nor are there any plans to create one. The letter stated the ponds have been stocked with 5 different strains of brook trout, and the watershed is home to browns as well. That doesn’t mean the fishery is not high quality.

      However that said, the point about climate warming and using the dam to maintain a certain depth of water for good fish habitat is a valid point. Bauer is only concerned about the dam being gone, and cares little about preserving an existing quality fish habitat.

      • Boreas says:


        Another thing to keep in mind is that one doesn’t find a lot of pond/lakes with Brook Trout in them south of the Mason-Dixon line. In the south, Brook trout often seek shady, cold water streams (like in Smoky Mt. Nat. Park) because the lakes become too warm. The problem with a warming climate is the southern border of Brook Trout habitat will continue to move inexorably north, dam or no dam. So leaving and maintaining the dam at its existing level may indeed only be a short-term reprieve for any Brook Trout in the area.

        • Paul says:

          My point was more of a general one. I don’t think that we should be too bent out of shape on things that people have placed in the ecosystem that may actually be an improvement. The Adirondacks in particular is supposed to be an “experiment” where we see how people and the environment can co-exist. I see Adirondack wilderness a bit different than Wilderness in other places. The wildest place I have ever been was in the middle of the ocean in a small sailboat. It is all in the eye of the beholder.

      • Scott D says:

        Going on a slight tangent here but I’ll never understand why the so called sportsman’s lobby is so bent on increasing access to new land purchases, especially those with brook trout fisheries. In the 30 some years I’ve been Adirondack brook trout pond fishing I have learned that the best fishing for Brook trout and the most healthy populations of brook trout are found in the wilderness areas far from roads. Sure there are exceptions to be found here and there in WF areas but by and large I believe this to be true and so does every other serious brook trout fisherman I’ve talked to or fished with. Access allows overharvest, invasive species, and environmental degradation, plain and simple. Do these threats go away with a long access hike, no but they are certainly greatly diminished. As for the dam, if the brook trout fishery is self sustaining which is likely given the large tributary system, then the dam should stay and be maintained as a fish barrier dam to protect from downstream invasives. There are plenty of precedents for this type of activity in wilderness areas such as the use of fish barriers in the St. Regis Canoe area which is managed as a wilderness.

  4. Tony Goodwin says:

    I have a feeling that this will be a long and contentious classification battle, so I will stay out of it for now except to question whether the concrete dams could be replaced with a natural barrier of large boulders and fill that would mimic an outlet to any natural lake. It would be expensive, but it should be a one-time expense. It would require some large pieces of machinery, but again there would be no further need for the machines.

    The above is based on a conversation I had with Jim Papero, DEC forester for the High Peaks in the 80s and 90s, who said this technique had been used in Minnesota. While this solution to maintaining the current water level won’t solve all of the classification issues, it would at least take one big issue off the table.

    • M.P. Heller says:

      Tony this is exactly the type of discussion on land management practices in wilderness designated areas that needs to be occuring. How to best manage these cast tracts of public lands. This whole business of buy a chunk of land, slap some designation on it and figure out how to make it conform needs to end. The planning on new parcels has to be implemented properly and the guidance needs to be conducted immediately. Only then do any of these designations have any real meaning.

      • Boreas says:


        Ideally, the people who ultimately make these decisions would read forums like this, but I doubt they do. They likely read/hear individual statements, but refrain from listening to discussions as they appear on this site. Discussions can often reveal deeper questions and answers that single written statements do not. It seems statements are basically tallied as pro or con and the content is missed entirely.

        • Paul says:

          The people who make these decisions get to see public comments so they get all this sort of stuff. Then they do what they were going to do before they read it all and filed in in the circular file.

        • M.P. Heller says:

          I agree that they are probably not drilling down into the comment sections of sites like this, but it is part of the larger discussion. Perhaps by having these types of discussions, as we do, some of these thoughts and ideas will somehow find their way into the process. Can’t really hurt right?

  5. Tim says:

    People should write to the governor, as I just did: https://www.governor.ny.gov/contact

  6. Tim-Brunswick says:

    I don’t even need to read the article to know that there will be another Court Battle down the road.

    We have enough non-accessible wilderness and at 68 w/one lung I’m getting tired of being shut out of places such as the Boreas Ponds Area an many others that you have to hike into for miles to get to the core areas. ( Yes I understand that , the wilderness designation protects those areas……)

    Those folks above who advocate to leave the dam etc. are right on track. I am pleased as all get out with the direction that the APA and NYS DEC have been taking in recent years.

    The Adirondacks belong to all of us, not just a select few who are physically fit and capable of hiking miles to view and enjoy the many lakes, mountains in the ADK’s.

  7. ADKerDon says:

    Just one more reason why the forest preserve must be abolished. These greenies and eco-terrorists just want to destroy the natural resources of the area and deny access to the people. Removal of the dam will destroy the brook trout. They need cold, deep waters, not shallow, muddy, warm waters. Wilderness destroys all wildlife habitat, food, and shelter. All state lands and waters must be open to all the people for all types of outdoor recreation. Abolish the forest preserve now!

    • Boreas says:

      “Wilderness destroys all wildlife habitat, food, and shelter.”


    • Todd Eastman says:

      Ole Don’s been drinking bottled Flint water for the last several years…

    • M.P. Heller says:

      Always a lot of anger from you Don. It’s your right, and you are certainly entitled to your opinion, but please don’t be offended when I say that the majority of your comments are unproductive. The Forest Preserve is not going to be abolished so just forget that. You aren’t going to get the majority of the voters to change the constitution to facilitate this. Time for a new mantra. The old one is tired and boring.

      • Paul says:

        MP, this may be true but even here folks like Pete Nelson and others have talked about the “survival” of the Forest Preserve and about how it could be threatened as the state diversifies and possibly moves away from folks that actually care about it. So it is not something that is just out of the question especially far off in the future beyond all of us. Also some of the greenm groups have talked about things like proposition 5 (the mine thing) as eroding the protections on the FP? It is coming from the both radical sides.

  8. Boreas says:


    Perhaps a different approach could be taken on future state land acquisitions. Since many of these ‘wilderness’ type acquisitions are realized with the benefit of a mediator – often by Nature Conservancy or similar groups, perhaps what should happen is the mediator who ultimately sells it to NYS should be able to dictate the final classification and access types. Perhaps they could stipulate yes to dams and existing roads, but no to certain activity types, such as ATV, snowmobiles, motorized boats. This would become part of the state acquisition agreement, possibly eliminating costly, routine court battles.

    I find Nature Conservancy lands are often accessible in some form to people with limited mobility. They recognize the particular sensitivities of the parcel while recognizing the benefit of education and public access, and are quite good at coming up with trails that allow both. If these measures are ensured with the transfer to the state, it could possibly eliminate much of this ideologic hand-wringing.

    • Greg M. says:

      If they are selling it, no way. If they donate it at no cost to the state, I’d at least entertain a conversation about this.

  9. Bruce says:

    We have to realize that the numbers put forth by Bob Marshall are just numbers based on his own analysis and his opinion about what that analysis means. They are not some sort of magic number which say “we’re doing it right.” It could just as easily have been 100,000 acres, or a million.

    The important thing to remember is NY is experiencing a NET GAIN in state owned wildlands. There is nothing whatever wrong with setting aside a small portion of those wildlands for recreational use not involving foot traffic only. Wilderness is like a bank account…generally speaking, more is better on many levels, and like a bank account it is not the be all and end all of our responsibility. To maintain quality of life, it is wise to set aside a portion for ready use so that we don’t shed tears when opening the wallet. That’s the job of the APA and SLMP.

  10. Tom Payne says:

    The past two articles speak of balance and compromise. I find this totally disingenuous considering all the lawsuits brought forth in Albany are started by the Environmental Lobby. Balance is only when the pendulum is swung in favor of the Environmental Lobby. The word Compromise does not exist in Mr. Bauer’s world. And one key word that has been totally ignored is the word Trust. Which thousands New Yorkers in and out of the Blue Line have very little of for the NYSDEC, APA and the Environmental Lobby. As for bringing in a third party to purchase lands for the park. Just another scam to make sure the Environmental Lobby gets its way in Albany. More dirty deals in the dark.

    • Todd Eastman says:

      You are right, our shady web will take over the entire Park, chase out all people, and reintroduce unicorns…

      … yep, it’s a vast conspiracy!

      • M.P. Heller says:

        “Shady Web” is right. Such phony posturing. Like a green measuring contest. My green is bigger than yours. You people really need to get over yourselves. You are about as green as an oak leaf in January.

    • Boreas says:

      The “third party scam” exists because private and corporate owners selling large tracts in sensitive areas would prefer the land end up as state lands and not private developments. Not many private landowners are willing to open their lands to the general public, so they may not be accessible at all. Because the state moves at the speed of a slug, the third parties are typically just intermediaries. But there is nothing that says they have to sell it to the state at all. But their intention is to preserve as much of the wilderness a possible while allowing non-motorized and non-destructive access.

  11. Byron says:

    This fringe of the wilderness which has been developed for human accessibility and harvested for its resources should remain a fringe of the wilderness. Providing accessibility to public land doesn’t mean having people walk seven miles each way on that which they own by existing road so they can put a boat in the water, hunt or finally reach a trailhead. The level of public impact in this area is not going to be more significant than it already has been simply because of what the road now accesses, with targeted use by the public with limited recreational interests.

    I stay out of the majority of the High Peaks “Wilderness” during 3 seasons because it’s too crowded. To me, there aren’t crowds in the wilderness, yet there are in the High Peaks. It appears that the goal here is public ownership and inaccessibility. If that’s the case, why am I buying it?

  12. Taras says:

    Ah yes, Wilderness areas are inaccessible. The largest of the Wilderness areas, the High Peaks, is so so darn inaccessible that only a 150 thousand people visit it annually (based on two old surveys done in the last two decades). Oh my! It seems it’s not all that inaccessible after all.

    I started hiking in the High Peaks in the late 70’s and continue to do so. What a treat to return and find everything as unspoiled as it was 40 years ago. When I can’t walk long distances anymore, I’ll probably switch to canoeing. When I can’t do that anymore, I’ll look at my photos and reminisce. What I won’t do is complain how the Forest Preserve must be altered to accommodate frail old me.

    • M.P. Heller says:


      Not quite what it was 40 years ago Trail Boss. Lets see….. You and I were just talking about the old trail up Colden. Gone. Replaced by a new one which now has lots of man made accommodations to aid hikers. In 1976 I don’t think too many people were climbing Marshall via Herbert brook, or Donaldson on the Calkins route. The old NPT was still in use (even though some of us nuts still use it). There were lean-tos at Indian Falls, the Plateau, Gothics/SB col, and lots of other places that are gone now.

      Of course most of this is directly related to the tens of thousands of people using the resource that you mentioned. It is important to note that of the 150,000 people you spoke of probably about half are from somewhere besides NY. So that leaves 75,000 NYers. That is about 3/8ths of 1 percent of the state population. In that light it is a bit misleading to say that it’s very accessible. Thankfully the accessibility issue is just a red herring thrown around by those who are anti-wilderness. As we both know, accessibility is not a wilderness management principal. In fact, I’m of the firm opinion that these areas are becoming too accessible with all the hiker accommodations being installed in the last few years.


      • Taras says:

        *Mostly* what it was four decades ago. 🙂 Maybe not on the micro scale, where several trails and lean-to’s were deleted/added, but at the macro level things look much the same. The view from Haystack looks like my Ektachromes from 1980 and that’s a good thing.

        Yeah, my point about accessibility was that the High Peaks are a big draw (for better or worse). Tens of thousands of visitors don’t regard foot travel as an onerous constraint. In fact, it’s an asset to have land that excludes mechanized travel, looks the same for decades, and still allows primitive-camping, bushwhacking, hiking after dark, and hunting and fishing. It’s why I’ve visited the High Peaks for decades. If I wanted anything less, I’d lop an hour off my drive and head north to Mont-Tremblant Park! 😉

        I support the addition of the Boreas Ponds area to the High Peaks. Being a Canuck, I’ll leave the hashing out of details about roads, dams, and spot-zoning to NYS citizens. Just know that as a long-time visitor, I’m thrilled to hear the High Peaks Wilderness zone will expand and (hopefully) preserve the vistas for generations to come.

        • M.P. Heller says:

          Ektachromes??!! Wow. Now there’s a blast from the past!

        • Byron says:

          Earlier you pointed out “What a treat to return and find everything as unspoiled as it was 40 years ago.” You do that by driving to a parking spot near a trailhead or put in, parking and beginning your hike as you have and I have over the years. If the parking area were an additional 7 miles from where you could begin your hike, you would indeed find the additional foot travel onerous. Double the Ausable Lake Road in both directions.
          The Gulf Brook Road has been there long before you or I, and will be there long after my kids or grandkids are gone. It was developed for human movement of timber and timber harvesting equipment and used for decades to do so. It isn’t a trail that can be trampled by hikers in mud season as much of the High Peaks are, or damaged by driving a car, snowmobile or bicycle on. It will belong to the people of the State of New York and should be able to be used by them.

          • Taras says:

            I regret to inform you that your guess was incorrect. I would not find the “additional 7 miles” to be onerous.

            I enjoy hiking so whether it’s a 1 or 8 mile walk to Boreas Ponds it’s all part of the journey. I’ve walked a few of the “truck trails” in the High Peaks (Marcy Dam, Ward Brook, Calkins Brook, Moose Pond, etc). I never thought “I wish I could drive on this road.” If nothing else, a dirt road makes for easy walking.

            I’m pleased the majority of the land will be part of the High Peaks Wilderness. I’ll accept whatever NYS citizens choose to do with the Gulf Brook Road. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t have thoughts on the matter. 🙂

            Closing the road to vehicles creates the ideal conditions for a wilderness experience but that’s a tough sell. Classifying the road, and the lands south of it, as Wild Forest is more pragmatic and a “purer” use of the extant classification system. However, you get more land classified as Wilderness if you just “spot-zone” the road as a “Primitive Corridor”. That seems like a worthwhile compromise except it bends the current rules for “Primitive” and could affect the state of other Primitive areas. Maybe spot-zone it as “Wild Forest Corridor”? I don’t know.

            Good luck with this decision folks!

  13. Pragmatist says:

    I find Peter Bauer’s position ridiculous and moronic. By taking it, he has splintered the unified opinion of the environmental groups on this, meaning that any story about the issue, such as this one, is half as much about the relatively minor differences between the mainstream green position a sit is about the real issues.

    His stance will only end up hurting the green lobby in negotiations with the governor and the towns.

    I’m done with him and with Protect.

    The way to get things done with this governor is to negotiate, not dictate. The Adirondack Council understands this, as do their partners on this issue. Bauer does not.

  14. Bruce says:

    According to the SLMP, the Wilderness classification says in part: “as to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition;”.

    In a previous discussion about either Boreas Ponds or the Essex Chain, Bauer has mentioned he wants “wilderness”, in which it’s ok to build hiking trails, bridges, boardwalks, campsites and lean-tos. Apparently, “unimpaired” means different things to different people.

    • Boreas says:


      With language such as “as to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition;”, multiple interpretations are inevitable. Mr. Bauer’s group is but one of many interpretations.

      Each additional parcel added to the state lands should have some sort of plan for its eventual use or non-use. Different parcels will have different potentials. Using your example, the High Peaks Wilderness is an example of a high-usage yet extremely sensitive area. If one were to take away the maintained trails, bridges, campsites, etc., the area would become much more of a mess than it is. Many of these ‘improvements’ were not added to make access easier, but to manage and minimize the inevitable damage from heavy foot traffic and camping. Unless access is limited or prohibited, it is thought that these improvements are the only way to protect the sensitive areas.

      I feel the SLMP should only be used as a tool to help guide decisions, but not as the final word on how every parcel will be classified or managed. Depending on the parcel, its guidelines may need to be tweaked to allow NYS residents the best usage of the land, while preserving the resource.

      • M.P. Heller says:

        I think we need to develop a permit or licence system for certain backcountry areas. This should be combined with a mandatory course on wilderness safety that also has a strong LNT component.

        I agree that some hiker accommodations are necessary to protect some resources, but lately it’s getting way out of hand. I really am offended by the new (2012) staircase on the Ore Bed trail. This is only compounded by the fact that it leads to the cable route on Gothics. Some folks in the past have on occasion made the tongue in cheek comment “next they will pave the Van Hovenberg trail to Marcy”. Well, not quite, but getting closer and closer every year.

        • Boreas says:

          I agree.

          FDR built a road up Whiteface, not to mention an elevator. Yet I have driven to the top more times than I hiked/skied it. What does that say for my wilderness ethic? But it did enable a bazillion people to see the views from the top of a mountain that otherwise wouldn’t. My elderly parents really enjoyed it. The last time my Dad had a view from a peak was from the Erpeler Ley after scampering across the Ludendorff Bridge in March ’45.

          • Bruce says:

            Driving up Whiteface says absolutely nothing about your wilderness ethic any more than driving on any public road in the Adirondacks.

  15. Bruce says:

    The SLMP is a tool for guiding use and preservation decisions, and tweaking the SLMP is what the lawsuits falsely claiming the law is being broken are about. I’ve read the SLMP classifications many times, and I saw nothing which says all newly acquired lands in beautiful places will be classified as Wilderness or Primitive as Mr. Bauer is claiming.

    Yes, trails do somewhat control where users go, but they also encourage more extensive use because they are there. As Heller and others have pointed out, some of the more popular places are becoming a real mess, has Bauer complained about that?