The state’s newest piece of Adirondack Forest Preserve shelters rare plants, pure waters and sensitive wildlife species, while exhibiting high ecological integrity and wild character, according to two recently released scientific studies. The studies are being cited by advocates for expanding the High Peaks Wilderness to include the Boreas Ponds area between North Hudson and Newcomb, north of Blue Ridge-Boreas River Road.
The #BeWildNY alliance argues that the 20,500-acre Boreas Ponds Tract should be shielded from automobiles, invasive species, and motorized or mechanized recreation and called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Adirondack Park Agency to classify most of the new tract Wilderness, and add it to the High Peaks Wilderness. The studies were completed by Adirondack Research LLC and by the Wildlife Conservation Society.
“This is a rare, fragile and globally unique treasure,” Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway said about the Boreas Ponds Tract in a statement issued to the press. “It deserves the State’s highest level of protection. Only if it is protected as wilderness can we ensure that future generations will inherit this magnificent landscape in a condition as good as it is today. Only if it is protected as wilderness can we ensure that surrounding communities will reap the maximum benefit from new tourism.”
“These waters and forests have been off-limits to public use for more than a century,” Neil Woodworth, Executive Director of the Adirondack Mountain Club said. “They are unspoiled and should remain unspoiled, protected from autos, motorized or mechanized recreation and invasive species, while offering a variety of public recreational opportunities. How we classify and manage these lands and waters is critical to their future.”
Boreas Ponds Plan To Expand High Peaks Wilderness
The Adirondack Forest Preserve is protected by the “forever wild” clause of the NYS Constitution (Article 14, Section 1), which limits logging, development, and the sale or lease of public forests inside the Adirondack Park. About half of the six-million-acre Adirondack Park is Forest Preserve; less than 20 percent of the Park is classified as wilderness.
In part because the Boreas Ponds tract borders the existing 204,000-acre High Peaks Wilderness Area, eight groups including the Adirondack Council, Adirondack Mountain Club, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, Audubon New York, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Environmental Advocates of New York, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the New York League of Conservation Voters have urged state officials to annex Boreas Ponds into the High Peaks Wilderness Area (HPWA). They have also called on the state to classify several nearby parcels as wilderness and to add them to the HPWA in order to connect the HPWA with the Dix Mountain Wilderness, creating more than 280,000 acres of contiguous wilderness.
The expanded High Peaks Wilderness Area would be comparable in size to the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and would be twice the size of Zion National Park in Utah.
Scientists Find Area Worthy of Protection
The Adirondack Research study was carried out by Dr. Ezra Schwartzberg. The 27-page illustrated report is entitled Boreas Ponds: Scientific assessment of physical, biological and intangible characteristics. It examines the various features of the land that the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan requires state officials to examine when determining the classification and management plan for the property.
“My evaluation showed that the tract exhibits high levels of ecological integrity and wild character, while its wetlands, steep slopes and erodible soils make it a poor choice for siting roads,” said Schwartzberg in his report.
The Wildlife Conservation Society 60-page study entitled Ecological Composition and Condition of the Boreas Tract, examines the ecological characteristics of the property and shows that adding the tract to the High Peaks Wilderness Area would make the wilderness more biologically rich, diverse, resilient and sustainable. It would enhance connections to other wild land areas so wildlife and plants can expand their ranges, migrate and adjust to a changing climate.
“The Boreas tract contains a number of significant habitats,” the report states. “The tract very likely provides habitat for a number of representative and rare species. The Boreas tract is distinctive from existing state land areas — supporting a richer flora and fauna than the natural communities typical of the acid, nutrient-poor shallow soil environments.”
In addition, “Boreas has larger patches of Northern Hardwood and Conifer, Northern Peatland, and Northern Swamp, patches of which are larger, on average, on the Boreas tract than those on existing state land units,” the study notes. “If added to the High Peaks (Wilderness) management unit, the Boreas tract would enhance overall resilience, integrity, and local and regional connectedness of that unit … all of which are above average on the Boreas tract.”
The Adirondack Park Agency is expected to take the lead developing classification scenarios for the Boreas Ponds Tract, accept statewide comments on those proposals, and make a final recommendation to the Governor. The State Land Master Plan, which sets state policy for this decision, prioritizes natural resource protection.
Photo of the Boreas Ponds Tract provided by the#BeWildNY Alliance.