Saturday, March 19, 2016

Pete Nelson: Slippery Slopes

Giant from Amy's Lookout. Many new Irene slides.Last weekend I did a traverse through the Giant Mountain Wilderness, from Chapel Pond over Giant, down to Hopkins and out to Keene Valley. The trail from Giant’s summit down to the col between Giant and Green Mountain is a favorite, a marvelous, unrelenting descent along a forested slope.

Last Sunday it was more entertaining than usual. Facing north and covered in trees, the slope had preserved a modest snowpack, but of course it had not escaped the cycle of thaws and freezes we have endured during this odd winter. The result was a mighty slippery hike. The Ridge Trail up Giant had its typical rivers of ice but the trail down to the col was considerably more treacherous, coated in a dull sheen, with long, icy slabs and bulwarks often lurking under less than an inch of crusty, fragile snow. Even with microspikes it was a dicey scramble requiring a special level of vigilance.

It occurred to me while I was making my way down Giant that this hike represented a pretty strong metaphor for the political shift that seems to be happening in State land use policy here in the Adirondacks. From my perspective we are positioned on a slippery slope and it is incumbent upon us as citizens of New York to raise our level of vigilance.

The intelligent reader can be forgiven for smelling a big, fat cliché in that sentence, but bear with me: “slope,” both upward and downward, is exactly the piece that I think is missing from the intensifying debate over Forest Preserve classification that is currently centered on the Essex Chain, and that will shortly move to the Boreas Tract.

For me, the debate is not about bicycling, bridge materials or access: it’s about the Primitive classification, about how its definition and purpose as given in the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP) is being abandoned. One can be in favor of bicycling in the Essex Chain and still be deeply troubled by how the intent of the Primitive classification is being abused to accommodate it. Those who assume that the Primitive classification is of lesser importance, sort of an awkward step-child hovering between Wilderness and Wild Forest, miss its significance. The Primitive classification is the political embodiment of slope, of an arrow or vector been that has been absolutely crucial Adirondack Wilderness protection for more than a century.

Much of the discussion about Wilderness protection proceeds along an implicit assumption that classification and protection of Forest Preserve parcels is static: if the land is judged to be in a certain condition, size and context it is Wilderness; if it is in a different condition it is Wild Forest. That assumption in hand, many people have argued that the Essex Chain does not meet the standards for Wilderness: subjected to decades of logging, populated with numerous roads and improvements, it should be classified as Wild Forest. Similar claims are being made about the Boreas Tract.

But the story of the Adirondacks is one of dynamic protection, of recovered wilderness. This legacy is not merely historic, not merely the region’s comeback from the long-past depredations of the nineteenth century.  Rather, it has been continuous. Some of the most dramatic recovery lives within the memories of people who still regularly hike the back country. Few would dispute that the view from Flowed Lands towards Mount Colden is primal, but well into the twentieth century Colden’s slopes were laced with clear-cuts, logging roads and structures – even log flumes built up to the high faces. Flowed Lands and Colden would never have made the cut in the 1930’s if the same standards were applied as some want to apply to the Essex Chain. Similar examples dating from even more recent times abound, right into the 1990’s.

The policy instantiated within the SLMP recognized and embraced this dynamism with great intention. In Wilderness areas non-conforming uses were halted and non-conforming structures were systematically identified for removal or remediation. And for those areas that were too damaged or compromised – say, laced with roads, clear-cuts and structures of one sort or another – to qualify as Wilderness, but that should, by all rights, get there, the SLMP had the Primitive classification.   It was designed to be a medium-term designation for lands that needed more time and work to recover, but that would eventually be able to be declared Wilderness. The Primitive classification was the very emblem of dynamism in wilderness policy, an unmistakable understanding by Temporary Study Commission that recovery was an inherent part of protection.

Assuming one agrees that Adirondack Wilderness is a precious asset, it is impossible to overstate the importance of State policy that defines an up-slope, a deliberate strategy to move land to a more wild state of being. It is not the particulars of any given Primitive classification that matter: which parcels, the total amount of acreage, the details of the Unit Management Plans. It is the purpose of the Primitive designation that matters. Compromising a few tenths of an acre for vehicle access is not the injury. Compromising the up-slope to recovery because now that road will never be removed is the injury. Compromising the very idea that recovery is fundamental to wilderness protection is the injury. Given the clear intent of those who crafted both Article XIV and the SLMP, the abandonment of the intent of the Primitive classification registers to me as a grave injury.

As it is in hiking, up and down slopes are very different. The courage, conviction and effort it takes to establish and follow through with an up-slope policy towards greater Wilderness protection stands in stark contrast to the down-slope that lets little bits of protection go for political expediency, for “balance,” for supposed economic benefits. That’s easy. But much like my descent to Hopkins, beware the slipperiness. It’s hard to arrest a fall.

I know good folks at the APA who would reject my assessment. They would claim – and indeed some have done so publicly of late – that they will never compromise protection of the Adirondacks. Having met and talked with them, I don’t doubt their sentiments. I also know lots of folks in the community who think this is a brouhaha over nothing: so what if we bend the rules or make exceptions here and there? Look at all the protected land we have, they’ll say. This is all no big deal, they’ll say.

If you wonder about that, watch the fight over classification of the Boreas Tract, which deserves the chance to recover and be protected as Wilderness if any land in the Park does (if you’ve been there you know). Are we on a slippery slope, or is all this no big deal? We’ll see.

Photo: Giant Mountain in slippery splendor.

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Pete Nelson is a teacher, writer, essayist and activist whose work has appeared in a variety of Adirondack publications, and regularly in the Adirondack Almanack since 2005. Pete is also a founder and current Coordinator of the Adirondack Diversity Advisory Council, which is working to make the Park more welcoming and inclusive.When not writing or teaching mathematics at North Country Community College, Pete can be found in the back country, making music or even walking on stilts, which he and his wife Amy have done professionally throughout the United States for nearly two decades.Pete is a proud resident of Keene, and along with Amy and his dog Henderson owns Lost Brook Tract, a forty-acre inholding deep in the High Peaks Wilderness.

65 Responses

  1. Phil Terrie says:

    “One can be in favor of bicycling in the Essex Chain and still be deeply troubled by how the intent of the Primitive classification is being abused to accommodate it.” Exactly! Good article, Pete.

  2. Pete Nelson says:

    Good morning. Here’s a preemptive comment aimed at the usual anti-Wilderness crowd who will write in about how we elitists want to lock up the land and don’t care about the residents or economy in the Park.

    I’m involved at one level or another in about a half-dozen projects in the Adirondack Park that are each about improving life here. Every one of them has an economic impact, some relatively small, some arguably transformational. A wide array of Adirondackers are leading and working on them. Some of these projects, like broadband, are not very controversial; some, like the rail trail, are. But none of them, from diversity to solar power, is affected negatively by greater protection of Wilderness. In fact in most cases, it is the draw of a spectacular, wild region that drives their potential success.

    I think that we need a concerted, committed effort to remake the economy of the Park. We need to help communities here. I also think we need more Wilderness, and better protected Wilderness. As if one has anything negative to do with the other.

    Of course, the same old points will be made regardless. But, as I’ve written before, this crowd has it exactly backwards. Protection of Wilderness is an exemplar of democracy and the celebration of common and universal values. Land so protected in the Adirondacks is saved forever by the citizens of New York: a precious, rare and incredibly valuable asset held for all people, regardless of who they are, or how and where they live. This makes the Adirondack Park a treasure of global significance.

    Weigh that against the protestations of those who want it their way, for their own parochial, narrow interests. Which, I ask, is more democratic? And which is more elitist?

    • Joe Smith says:

      “Weigh that against the protestations of those who want it their way, for their own parochial, narrow interests.”
      Sounds to me like your describing you and your ilk.

    • Will Doolittle says:

      I’m not sure I’m following the argument correctly, but overlooking the main point about wilderness and its value, it seems to me the statement ““One can be in favor of bicycling in the Essex Chain and still be deeply troubled by how the intent of the Primitive classification is being abused to accommodate it” is wrong. How can you be in favor of using something in a certain way, but troubled by that use at the same time? I mean, you can be, but then you’re being hypocritical, aren’t you? That’s a human thing to be, of course. I am troubled by the way cattle are raised for slaughter, but I eat beef. And I embrace lots of other hypocrisies. But I don’t think I can advocate for vegetarianism and eat beef. I can’t advocate for everyone else to shun beef but eat it myself. Or … I can, but it undermines my argument pretty effectively.

      • Pete Nelson says:

        Gee Will, you took long enough. How many columns do I have to write?

        I think you’re off base here. I can think of multiple ways that one can be in favor of bicycling in the Essex Chain and still be deeply troubled by how the intent of the Primitive classification is being abused to accommodate it.

        For example, one can be troubled enough to propose a new State land classification that supports mechanical recreation such as bicycling but otherwise protects the land at a level equal to Wilderness. Bill Ingersoll’s suggested “Back Country” classification is a leading example, though other commenters here have referenced the idea in general.

        Or, one could be troubled enough to propose that part of the Essex purchase be classified as Wild Forest in order to accommodate bicycling under the existing classification system.

        Or, one could favor bicycling but decide to support Wilderness classification over bicycling because one deems that more important. That wouldn’t be hypocrisy either. That would be a normal policy trade-off.

        One could even accept the deal that was made as reasonable but have a strong opinion about the dangers to the Primitive classification. Even that wouldn’t be hypocrisy.

        It seems to me that the confusion in your argument comes in this sentence: “How can you be in favor of using something in a certain way, but troubled by that use at the same time” (without being hypocritical)? There’s a big difference between being troubled by the use and troubled by the classification. One does not necessarily follow the other.

        Still, it was nice to finally have you call me on something.


  3. josh says:

    So far, we’ve had posts on this topic from Protect, and Wild, as you’d expect. So where is the ADK Mtn Club point of view? And the ADK Council? I’m curious. Were they part of this compromise? We don’t they pop up to defend it? Personally, I think the APA got it right, allowing bikes on 9 miles of old roads through cut over woods, near a float plane access lake, is pretty tame.

    An alternative solution is to stop adding more State land. The idea that private protection is better than State protection has some merit. The Adk Mountain Reserve has it closer to right, banning hunting and dogs, no camping. You can walk thru it, on a designated trail, that’s all. Now compare that to the State land where you can bring your dog, kill the animals, tromp anywhere you wish, camp anywhere 150 feet from a stream. Well, you get the point.

    Where we do have designated wilderness, I think most human activity should be way more limited, like no dogs, no hunting, no bushwacking, all dams removed, no trail-less peak herd path destruction, and so on. I know that may mean less land classified as wilderness but that’s fine. That beats fake wilderness.

  4. Lakechamplain says:

    Nice article Pete, and hopefully will lead to more lovers of the Adirondack wilderness to get out of their lethargy and start raising a ruckus.

    There’s a very big snake in the grass inovlved here, and his title and name is Governor Andrew Cuomo. Behind the glossy facade he presents of vacationing in Saranac Lake and doing the white water rafting thing lurks a crafty politician who seems to be deeply involved in eroding the protections of this vast wilderness that have served the people of New York, and the millions who have visited, for many decades. Time and again, it has been seen, sometimes belatedly, that Cuomo is not at all hesitant to use NY governmental agencies to ‘expand’ the use of the Adks. for different groups of users. The main thread that seems to connect these groups is a point of view that wants ‘loosening’ of the tight restrictions that limit access to the protected wilderness areas of the Adirondacks.

    It’s time to bring this governor’s positions to the full light of disclosure, and to rightly label him as a very powerful adversary, not a supporter of ‘protecting’ and saving the precious resource we have in the Adirondacks.

    • Dunno says:

      How does this view square with his record setting land buys?

    • Boreas says:

      I don’t really feel Cuomo is setting out to purposely weaken the protection of the Park, but rather, to increase access to it – for recreation, for business (NYCO mine deal), and political maneuvering in order to turn the Park into a revenue generator. It is not necessarily a bad thing, but some of the things he has helped massage into place could certainly have negative long-term effects, and if this type of activity continues, the slope becomes even more slippery. Many of us believe the administration’s methods of circumventing or massaging the classification system sets a serious precedent.

      A future administration may decide when times get tough that we need to open some more mines, fell some more timber, frack some shale, turn an area over to the military for an artillery range – now there is a work-around. As others have suggested, the entire land classification system should be looked at and reworked until it can provide maximize both protection and usage. Perhaps the NYS judicial system needs to be involved when passing any amendments. I don’t have the answers, but someone should be thinking seriously about it.

      • josh says:

        Make the Forest Preserve an artillery range?! Fracking. Oh my. I’m sad to read this as you’re way off the deep end. Sorry I can’t help you get past these made up demons.

        • Boreas says:


          I am obviously exaggerating for effect. The point is, once it becomes easy to amend the Master Plan, then any administration’s goals could be railroaded through – be they good or bad. The ‘slippery slope’ as it were…

          • josh says:

            So, no amendments ever? That makes no sense to me and it’s inconsistent with your post.

            • Boreas says:


              That is likely because I didn’t say anything of the sort. Reread my statement with an open mind. I said they are not all bad. I don’t mind amendments if it is done by a proper protocol. If it is deemed the protocol needs to change, then amend the protocol to something we all agree to.

              • Bruce says:


                Problem is we all won’t agree…some want changes in the SLMP, some want it used as written, some want an amendment process that’s more sensitive to their specific points of view, and some want a different amendment process altogether.

                When Josh mentioned fake wilderness, he hit it on the head, I thought of the very same thing earlier today. You can’t manufacture “wilderness,” what little is left has always been with us.

                • Bruce says:

                  And I might add, what little is left is deserving of the most comprehensive protection we can give it, to the point of not allowing any man-made changes.

                • Boreas says:

                  The ‘fake wilderness’ issue is only true in the short term. The virtually the entire Park is manufactured wilderness if you think about it. Over a century ago, much of the wilderness we have today was burned over clear-cuts. The original idea was we would treat it as wilderness and eventually the land would heal without manipulation by man. For the most part, it worked.

                  Many of us are still feel we should use that same approach with certain land acquisitions. It just doesn’t repair itself overnight.

                  I am all for using bikes on the roads in the new parcels and for limited access only for the disabled. My complaint was simply with the way it was handled by our representatives. I would prefer that amendments such as these be voted on by citizens before implementation, similar to the NYCO decision.

                  • M.P. Heller says:

                    The fake wilderness issue is constantly being exacerbated by the relentless addition of man made structures in wilderness designated areas to accommodate use by man. This issue is going to have to be addressed sooner or later. Especially as the prevalence of massive staircases and ladders is becoming more and more apparent through the efforts of the 46ers and ADK.

  5. Larry Roth says:

    The problem here is that Governor Cuomo is not one to let rules get in the way of what he wants. The rail trail process and the product it delivered should be a clear message that the Imperial Governorship of Andrew Cuomo will do what it thinks is good for Cuomo. And damn the long term consequences.

  6. Tom Payne says:

    Awh, Albany not rolling over to the Environmental Lobby like the old days. More voices being heard. A breath of fresh air after years of Environmental totalitarian rule.

  7. John Sullivan says:

    While arguing about the details, we’re losing sight of the underlying value of the Adirondack Park, as a unique wild, wet, steep, soft and hard land. It was never expected to be an amusement park, which only a fool can build. We need to be wise about the Adirondacks and leave them alone, to happen.

  8. Todd Eastman says:

    Cuomo has his finger on the pulse of Adirondackers and former residents…

    … his middle finger!

  9. Tim says:

    I agree, Pete, it could be a slippery slope. That said, Hurricane was changed from Primitive to Wilderness after lengthy debate about the fire tower. By the way, great use of a word I’d never heard of: “instantiate.”

  10. Bruce says:

    I just took a look at the SLMP Primitive classification, and there is an allowance for some Primitive areas NOT becoming Wilderness.

    “(b) in the case of areas not
    destined to become wilderness, whose
    retention is compatible with the character of
    the area and whose removal is not essential
    to protect the resource, will also be
    permissible, in each case as specified in a
    duly adopted unit management plan”

    The roads in question are compatible with the character of the area and their removal is not essential to protect the resource, and they have been subjected to a duly adopted UMP.

  11. boreasfisher says:

    An excellent and very clear statement of the principles and perils involved. Thank you!

  12. ADKerDon says:

    Pete still clings to the narrow view of the one percenters who want everyone kept out but theirselves. His arguments show more need to restrict the forest preserve to those lands above 3000 feet elevation and open the rest to all the people for use, access. The non-use of existing roads, just to deny the public from enjoying the Adirondacks is idiotic. Managed forests, conservation areas exist everywhere with no damage to the lands involved. They also provide access to the many different user groups, just as the Adirondacks should. Time to purge these one percenters from the APA and government.

    • Boreas says:


      The only person that seems to be incapable of enjoying the Adirondacks is yourself. You should try to change your perspective – perhaps you would be happier.

      I can’t access 99% of the Park, but I still enjoy it. I don’t feel a need to be able to drive to every square inch of the park, and I feel it would lose any wilderness character if I could. I don’t wish to ride a stair-lift up the Trap Dike on Colden. The way I see it, the places I can’t reach are set aside for Nature and the lucky organisms who can access them – which is kinda the whole idea of a Preserve.

  13. Tim-Brunswick says:

    Shoulda guessed it wouldn’t be an entertaining article about hiking/mountaineering from Mr. Nelson and once again it quickly deteriorates into the old tired rambling “wilderness only” chant….

    I like “wilderness” too, but we’ve locked up enough ADK land in this classification and it has become readily apparent that no matter how much wilderness is created/protected in the ADKs it will never be enough to satisfy folks like Mr. Nelson and Peter Bauer. NYS DEC and the APA are on track with recent decisions to open up the Adirondacks to all residents, not just the young/physically fit who can hike miles into wilderness areas.

  14. Bob Meyer says:

    “Given the clear intent of those who crafted both Article XIV and the SLMP, the abandonment of the intent of the Primitive classification registers to me as a grave injury.”
    this says it all. once again you have hit the nail squarely on the head.
    let’s hope enough folks are listening to return forward [up hill] to the original dynamic of the Primitive classification. i am worried at the down slop direction taken by the APA on this and other issues [ACR etc].

    • Bruce says:


      “Given the clear intent of those who crafted both Article XIV and the SLMP, the abandonment of the intent of the Primitive classification registers to me as a grave injury.”

      Exactly what has been abandoned? Please read the the quote from the SLMP I included in my previous comment concerning some Primitive lands.

      This is clearly a statement that not all Primitive lands are destined to become Wilderness. The roads in question are compatible with the character of the area (logged over private land), and the APA has adopted a UMP allowing for their limited use.

  15. rlstolz says:

    As Pete points out, the Primitive land classification has been derailed to justify an outcome it was not intended to serve. We have a legal document created to provide direction for the future of the Adirondack Park. It is far from perfect, and full of compromises, but sufficiently balanced to become law.

    Lands classified as Primitive are a good example of how exceptions can be accommodated but, while specifically-prohibited uses may become “exceptions” in the minds of outcome-driven, politicized stakeholders, it’s pretty clear to a lot of people that they are simply non-conforming.

    Bending rules to achieve an outcome, even if it is perfectly reasonable, is short-sighted at best. It’s often easier to bend rules than change them but when a process is politicized, as it has been in this case, and the ends are used to justify the means, that process becomes marginalized.

    When objective guidelines become mere obstacles to political agendas, you end up with contentious policy-making based on hyperbole and skewed self-interest at the expense of the vast majority of people. A wall of righteous indignation can grind progress to a halt.The irony is that people are really not that far apart on the outcomes they seek.

    The time has come to update the rules used to guide land use within the Adirondacks to account for changing circumstances. Although this will not be easy, it is far wiser than mangling the existing rules. The Adirondack Park is far too great an achievement to allow it’s future to be decided by a political three-ring circus.

  16. Running George says:

    The idea of the Park is not “access” but to preserve one place, a place in a natural, wild state for posterity. We need to maintain the Park for the purposes of the Park not for the selfish demands of users that damage the integrity of the Park. Andrew Cuomo may envision the Adirondack Park as one big Enchanted Forest for the purposes of those whose favorite sound is ka-ching but those of us that prefer the sound of Loons and solitude need to push back hard. This Governor is no preservationist. He is an opportunist and that is working against the long term interests of the Park.

    • josh says:

      Here is an idea. Let’s ban hiking, fishing, hunting. Great idea. So enlightened. No skiing either. No boats.

      • Boreas says:


        “Oh my. I’m sad to read this as you’re way off the deep end.” Sound familiar? Why not have a reasonable discussion? I am not even sure what your point is…

        • josh says:

          I was mocking Running George’s suggestion that the entire park will be like the Enchanted Forest attraction in Old Forge. It was click bait and I jumped at it, stupid me. Of course it won’t be, no one thinks so.

          So you suggest the issue the process and not the result of the process, right? What is it that offends people so? What part of the process?

          Many people participated. The Governor took personal time to work on the Essex Chain related topics, on site, in the Park, with reps from all sides. Options were proposed and analyzed. Hearing were held. Electronic comments submitted, and made public. It finally came to the Commissioners for a vote among options and they voted. Now the Governor can sign it, or not. Is this a horrible process? How so?

          Political, yes, but the park is a political creation so of course it is political…how could it not be?

  17. Scott says:

    The decades old debate…should the Adirondacks be a no use preserve or a recreational haven, or some compromise inbetween.

  18. Marco says:

    “But the story of the Adirondacks is one of dynamic protection, of recovered wilderness. This legacy is not merely historic, not merely the region’s comeback from the long-past depredations of the nineteenth century. Rather, it has been continuous. Some of the most dramatic recovery lives within the memories of people who still regularly hike the back country.”

    Yes. The horror of the deforestation, killing off of the beaver, led to lack of sources of clean water and countless other problems. These were pretty much repaired by simply leaving things alone. In my lifetime I can see the effects of acid rain increasing beyond tolerance, then being stopped by legal requirements. Rules have reasons if we do not always see them. In the fifties I was told god put nature here for us to use. In the sixties I knew better. Today, I worry that my grandchildren will have clean water without buying it at a grocery store!

  19. smitty says:

    Whenever you hear the slippery slope argument brought up, you can bet that it’s being advocated by someone with views at one end of the spectrum or the other, that doesn’t want to have their ideological purity besmirched by, dare I say it, compromise. Invariably, it is invoked to protest a reasonable middle ground – such as the APA decision with the Essex Chain. So would you rather the whole area be Wild Forest and allow vehicles, snowmobiles and all manner of intrusions? As for those commenters complaining about Cuomo, do you really think that a conservative Republican governor would be better for the Adirondacks? There is too much unwillingness to compromise these days for the sake of ideology – be it politicians or rail enthusiasts who all of a sudden find that rusty rails are historic. Compromise is good. It moves us forward and it brings divided communities together.

    • Bruce says:


      Good point. So many ideologues, each saying their way is best, is a good bit of what’s wrong with our country as a whole, these days. Compromise is viewed with deep suspicion by some who will make doom and gloom predictions if we don’t follow their view. They forget that compromise is what the very founding of our country was based on.

      That is one purpose of the APA, to balance preservation and recreation on state lands so most can have a little piece of the pie. And, like people everywhere, they are not perfect, so decisions are seldom perfect. Perhaps declaring the Essex Chain and Boreas Ponds as all Wild Forest might be the better decision, I don’t know. What I do know is some would still have a problem with that. Let’s move on and get whatever enjoyment we can get out of what we have.

  20. Curt Austin says:

    Pete has given an unusually valid view of the “slippery slope” argument, but he necessarily had to leave out the “slippery” bit. Or did he?

    The dedicated wilderness devotee will monitor every step taken, big or small, and object if it is in the wrong direction. That’s fair. Describing each “wrong” step as potentially fatal to wilderness is not. Beginning with a rhetorical trick is not the way to persuade me, anyway.

    Pete begins his piece by describing an icy, treacherous descent into a ravine. Was this a clever way to put the susceptible mind into the sort of panic the slippery slope argument exploits? I don’t think Pete engages in this sort of thing, but it may have had that effect.

    Is the land within the Blue Line more or less protected this year than last? It certainly is protected more if one views the entire situation. The state’s acquisitions mean the slope is still in the wilderness direction, big time. Will these acquisitions be ruined by bicycles? Compare log skidders to bicycles … on balance, no. Were promises of “amusements” required to secure these acquisitions? Yes.

    The primitive classification is indeed being tortured, however. I hope we get around to fixing these words on paper, in an atmosphere free of icy ravines.

    Back to “slope”. In terms perhaps only Pete will understand, this is the instantaneous rate of change, the first derivative, of an expression. The expression in question describes the amount and quality of wilderness in the park over time. It’s been positive for 100 years. Let’s talk about the second derivative: the expression must be asymptotic, since it cannot exceed 100%; the slope must decrease as wilderness increases.

    Is the torture of the primitive classification a simple ramification of this mathematical reality? Not yet, but inevitably?

    And even more profound, what is the limiting value of this expression, the effective endpoint? How much wilderness are we aiming for? Many anguished and contentious discussions would end if we could agree on some moderate level. I don’t know where we are now – 65%? I’d aim for about 75%. Can we all agree on that?

    • Boreas says:


      All rational points. Especially about an agreed upon final figure for the amount of land in each classification. That is key!

    • Pete Nelson says:

      Wow Curt! That some first-class mathematics-analogy construction. I’d only respond that the expression is a multivariate sequence and converges to a limit with respect only to the acreage variable.

      Cauchy is turning over in his grave at this point, so I’ll let it go.



    • Bruce says:


      That’s more or less what I’ve been trying to say in all these Adirondack land use discussions. Since more land is being brought under the umbrella of the SLMP, not less, it seems clear to me the small concessions being made to recreations other than foot traffic are no worse than cutting new hiking trails, building bridges, boardwalks and erecting lean-tos in Wilderness areas.

      The beauty of this particular action, is that no new constructions will be necessary to facilitate bike riding on the existing roads, at least I can’t imagine any. Many folks including myself, who can’t walk more than a mile or so without difficulty can ride bicycles, or the recumbent trikes which I see more and more of when I visit the Adirondacks each year.

  21. David Thomas-Train says:

    Not constructive, respectful, nor encouraging of dialogue to use phrases such as “The usual anti-wilderness crowd”, nor “you and your ilk”. Name calling is only a smug shout past the listener. Please address the issue not the individual.
    The APA and DEC need to take the time and thorough process to develop a new land classiification which allows human-powered-recreation (hiking paddling, skiing, cycling, etc) and omits engine-powered. That might address the complexity of thi issue.

    • Pete Nelson says:


      Point taken. But I think you might have missed the capital W “Wilderness” in my comment. For the record, I’m not meaning to accuse anyone of being “anti-wilderness.” I’m meaning to identify people who hold a policy view against classification of more land as Wilderness. This is a group who clearly self-identifies.

      As to a new classification, a question: if such a new classification were added to the mix, would you be concerned that future parcels might never be classified as Wilderness? Does a new classification give the State an out?

  22. Charlie S says:

    Tim Brunswick says: “it has become readily apparent that no matter how much wilderness is created/protected in the ADKs it will never be enough to satisfy folks like Mr. Nelson and Peter Bauer.”

    Maybe that is because there is a subconscious drive in folks like Mr. Nelson and Peter Bauer that guides them Tim. Maybe because intuitively they can discern slippery slopes before they are upon them.Maybe they have extra sensory perception.Perhaps they are gifted in that they see what looms ahead.

    When it comes to the dame nature society goes against it Tim… generally. That’s because we just don’t know any better,or apathy has subdued us,or because there is nothing of more significance than the image in the mirror.
    When it comes to her,ie…the air we breathe,the water that sustains us,the birds the bees the flowers the trees… we (society) are pro at misconducting ourselves,or at the very least we do not always do what is right or proper.

    We are short-term thinkers generally we don’t look too far ahead.Those that do are far and few. Add me to the ‘never be enough’ list. There will never be enough wilderness.There will never be enough protection. There will never be enough people who really care enough to speak up against those who have a blind side.

    • Boreas says:

      Charlie S,

      Great points. A more modern example of forward-thinking preservation is the Cape Cod National Seashore implemented by JFK in the early 60’s. Reviled by developers and others even to this day, it nonetheless preserved a great deal of Atlantic seashore that endures to this day. Many locals hate the restrictions, but it was a real boon to recreation and tourism by providing beach access that would likely have been locked up in private hands within a decade – not to mention habitat preserved for migratory species.

      Conservation is an ideal that many of us strive for. Others may feel we are greedy or selfish by trying to acquire, preserve, and protect as much land as possible, but once it is gone, it is gone. We may struggle for decades over how the acquired lands may be used and accessed, but the more we argue and file suits over land use and access, it will likely result in less desire for NYS to bother acquiring more parcels in the future. And then everyone loses.

      • josh says:

        Hmm, the idea that once gone, wilderness is lost forever is proven untrue by the Forest Preserve. It was ‘once destroyed’ and is now quite restored. That is the creation story of the Forest Preserve.

        • Boreas says:


          That is true. But with the political climate and with opposition to new wilderness areas, WOULD we do it again? There lies the rub. It is a different day.

    • Curt Austin says:

      But … that’s unreasonable, that there will never be enough wilderness. It is politically unreasonable. It is practically unreasonable. It is absolutist. It is a view that leads to extremism and perpetual discord. It is a view that allows no compromise. It means that Pete should have moved to Clifton Park, or some place like that, rather than disturb the Adirondack wilderness with his constant presence.

      Why does no one beat the drum for extending the Blue Line to encompass Clifton Park? We only focus on the Adirondacks because it is naturally thinly populated due to its harshness. We act as if deer and other animals love the Adirondacks, but for most animals, it’s like an Indian reservation – a place that humans have forced them to live. They’d prefer to live in Clifton Park.

      Deer may be a bad example, but think about it. It sounds flippant, but if your heart is really in protecting nature, you’ll turn your attention to Clifton Park, which truly went down a slippery slope after the Northway was built. At the very least, you’ll stop mowing your lawn; animals hate that.

      I seem to be even more rare than the people you cite. I enjoy devising a good compromise among competing principles rather than indulge in just one.

      • Boreas says:


        I agree. What I was trying to say is that ideals are something we all should strive for, KNOWING it will likely never happen. An unattainable goal. Like being the perfect human being. It ain’t gonna happen, but if we keep an ideal as our guiding light, it keeps us going in the right direction.

        Without the creation of the Forest Preserve, the land within the Blue Line certainly would be in a much different state than it is now. Piano key lots surrounding many more bodies of water, many more summit /ridgeline monstrosities, impounded waterways, eutrophication, etc.. You get the idea. The remaining lands would likely still be owned by private and business concerns, typically making them inaccessible to others.

        I don’t have the answers as to how to reconcile the various approaches to keep everyone happy. I guess for now we have to trust politicians to make good decisions. And we all know how that works…

  23. Marco says:

    Conservationism is great. It is good to hold the lands in trust for future generations. But we should never forget that we WILL NEED the resources available to us in the ADK’s.

    Recreation is NOT the DEC’s business. Recreation is and always was incidental. No mechanization makes it work. Hundreds of miles of logging roads amounting to an untold number of square miles of forest have been reclaimed. In a hundred years we can revisit this. For now, the forest is still recovering and changing in the face of global warming/climate change. Close the

  24. Charlie S says:

    Boreas says: “Others may feel we are greedy or selfish by trying to acquire, preserve, and protect as much land as possible, but once it is gone, it is gone.”

    To feel is to be ‘conscious of’ Boreas or to be moved by some thing or another. What moves one person may have zero effect on another. Some people may derive pleasure from the shores of a pristine lake in a wilderness setting while others would take delight in making waves on that same lake’s surface with a motorized contraption. The school that is all for acquiring,preserving and protecting as much land as possible is a special school whose students are marked with a goodness not appreciated,or even acknowledged,by your average folk.

    There is no place on earth like the ‘Dacks’ (as my grandfather would say.) Yet it seems there’s been a push of late to take it’s significant character away by allowing more and more uses by this or that mechanized group. I’m not sure where all of this is going but by the looks of where everything else is going I only imagine the Adirondacks losing more and more of its charm as time keeps on slipping and,as you say…once it is gone it is gone.

  25. Charlie S says:

    Curt Austin says: “that’s unreasonable, that there will never be enough wilderness.”

    What about when the time comes when the population has quadrupled Curt? Or do you not see too far ahead?

  26. Charlie S says:

    Curt Austin says: “We act as if deer and other animals love the Adirondacks, but for most animals, it’s like an Indian reservation – a place that humans have forced them to live. They’d prefer to live in Clifton Park.”

    I don’t remember because I’m generally new in this area but Clifton Park used to be all woods and farmland and some of the old remnants can still be found in many places there. Rapidly these places are disappearing. Why? Because tax havens are gold to our erected officials.

    My dad used to drive up from Brooklyn to the Adirondacks with his dad in a Model A with a rumble seat when the only way up was via Rt 9 and long gone are those old farmhouses and fields and woods diffused throughout the land along that course that my dad has talked so much about over the years….in Greenbush, Clifton Park,etc. Clifton Park is now a shoppers paradise. We do much damage in short periods of time Curt and left to our own devices there’d be nothing left in no time t’all. Thank a tree-hugger for what still remains.

    You say that the wild animals are forced to live in the Adirondacks. I say they prefer to live there due to the low number of human occupants. Humans scare them and rightly so. All cynicism aside it is a fact that in areas that are protected by the state species are thriving or are in healthier numbers than those outside of the protected areas.

    • Bruce says:

      Charlie S,

      I’m curious what you mean by healthier numbers. Read this about Whitetail Deer.

      Part of the reason they’re thriving is exactly the opposite of what you said…they like some of the changes man has wrought.

    • Curt Austin says:

      Perhaps not relevant, but there is a lean-to shed on my property that was built by my wife’s grandfather around 1930. It was for the first cars that appeared at his boarding house on Loon Lake. Before that, all summer guests arrived by train at Riverside (Riparius). Then the father would drive up alone; driving was still too much of an adventure for the whole family. Eventually, of course, they all traveled by car.

      We still use this shed to keep our cars, bicycles and a fair amount of junk. I found a tool in it recently that I needed for a 1959 Bugeye Sprite….

      I picked on Clifton Park because it was “wild” as you say before the Northway. I watched it become a bedroom community from Troy during the 1970’s. The northward finger of development may have slowed, but it bears watching. A Dollar Store is being constructed at the Chestertown exit – my exit – about which I have mixed feelings.

      If there is a point here, it is very broad. Perhaps something like “be mindful of the broad arc of time”. The climate, so to speak, and not the weather.

  27. Charlie S says:

    Marco says: “It is good to hold the lands in trust for future generations. But we should never forget that we WILL NEED the resources available to us in the ADK’s.”

    You’re a smart man Marco!

  28. David Thomas-Train says:

    Guess I’m not that dead-set on Wilderness classification per se. I do believe ATVs
    ( which were barely a blip in the 1970s when the State Land Master Plan was created) should be kept off Forest Preserve lands, and ; there are other issues that weren’t thought of then – a big one – turning fairly recently-logged lands into Forest Preserve. perhaps the whole SLMP and its forty-year-old assumptions should be revisited in the light of more recent developments in recreation and land use ( and land not-use!) .

    • Pete Nelson says:

      I think that day is coming; I think multiple pressures will bring us to a major revisiting of the SLMP within the next couple of years. The discussion and debate attendant to that revisiting will be crucial. As I said, we’ll see.

  29. Charlie S says:

    Bruce. I was thinking salamanders and other amphibians,plant species,etc. Species are protected when they are on State land,in many cases they thrive. The more land the state buys the happier many species are.In many cases the less people the happier species are. Deer have the ability to adapt just about anywhere.Not so for other species. State land is much about the protection of unique habitats and rare and endangered species.

    I would suggest many species don’t like the changes man has wrought. Frogs are very sensitive to change as are flowers. I know flowers are sensitive through my own documentation which I found interesting. Surely the numbers are high of the species whose life cycles are disrupted whenever man steps in Bruce.

    • Bruce says:

      Charlie S,

      What you said here is correct.

      The question here is will allowing bicycles on already existing and formerly well-used, heavy duty roads change what happens to the surrounding eco-system? We’re not talking about muddy, and soft dirt tracks, so I just don’t see it.

      I do see immediate and long-term negative impacts when new trails are cut and structures built where there aren’t any in the forest preserve. And of course, misuse of the resource occurs in every group of users.

  30. Charlie S says:

    I thought the question was about primitive classification,about how the SLMP is being neglected. While allowing bicycles on already existing and formerly well-used, heavy duty roads might not (?) be so bad I’m always skeptical when more people have access to wilderness areas Bruce. And when they start changing the rules to accommodate what appears to be a desire to fill the state or town or county coffers this is short-term thinking and often there’s negative consequences down the road because. If this is what it is.

  31. Bruce says:

    Charlie S,

    Whether or not the SLMP is being neglected is an opinion based upon one’s point of view. The rules give the APA the power to change (amend) the rules, through the amendment process, and a vote of 9-1 is pretty resounding. Since this was private property, any public use, even just hiking, will bring in people with money to spend who weren’t there before. If new hiking trails to key areas are built making it easier to access them, that will bring in even more people, and they’ll have money too. That money will go into someone’s coffers.

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