We are writing as the Chief Elected Officials of the 12 Counties comprising the entire Adirondack Park. We are the Elected Representatives of the 130,000 residents of the Park, as well as the million people who comprise the broader Adirondack region. It is our privilege to comment on the current Classification package which the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) has presented for input.
We would like to thank you and the entire APA for this huge undertaking, and the admirable effort you have made to inform people about the Classification package and travel the State to listen to the public’s views.
First and foremost, it is critical that the Park Agency give special consideration to the plans and desires of the Elected Representatives of the impacted communities (Towns) on all of the Classification package recommendations. These Elected Representatives play a legislatively defined role in land acquisition decisions within the Environmental Protection Fund, and their views demand greater weight than advocacy groups or those prone to extreme positions. These Elected Officials, like all of us and the Governor, are elected to represent all the diverse views within their communities. Many of us have stood with the Governor for balance, in efforts to promote tourism, in efforts to build our economies, and in standing up for what is right. We have a chance with these classifications to do what is right, and fulfill the vision of the Governor and our communities, and we encourage you to play your role in ensuring those plans come to fruition.
At this time, we would like to share some specific insights with respect to the Classifications of MacIntyre East, MacIntyre West, Casey Brook Tract, and the Boreas Pond Tract. These parcels comprise roughly 35,422 acres, and represent an unprecedented opportunity for New York State, and our Counties. We offer these thoughts, recognizing that we represent the same broad constituency that the APA and State have a responsibility to serve.
• While arguments have been made that MacIntyre East and West, as well as Boreas, could each be Classified as all Wild Forest or all Wilderness, neither of those outcomes would serve well New York State, our Counties, or the people of the State. The need to find balance in land classifications is clearly required by the State Land Master Plan, which gives primacy to resource protection, yet encourages recreation and economic sustainability.
• The combination of Option #1 for the Boreas Tract, with the proposed Classifications for MacIntyre East and West, and the Casey Brook Tract, would result in only about 34% Wild Forest across these properties compared to a huge addition to the Wilderness. While these numbers are clearly out of balance based on acreage alone, we believe this combination does offer primacy to resource protection, while accommodating many of our citizens/recreational users.
• While it is clear that additional lands within Boreas, and the two MacIntyre Tracts, have the “characteristics and capacity to withstand use” that justify a Wild Forest Classification, we believe there is value in a partial Wilderness Classification for the properties that further buffers the existing High Peaks Wilderness, and connects the High Peaks and Dix Wilderness areas.
• Well-managed recreation can absolutely be achieved on those areas of these parcels that have the capacity to sustain use (specifically the road network) through well-developed Unit Management Plans. We have an opportunity to create well-reasoned, graduated access that meets all of the core aspirations for these lands. We should not pass this opportunity up.
• While we support Option #1 for Boreas, we DO NOT support motorized boats or float planes on the pond, nor ATV use anywhere on this spectacular treasure. We understand people will argue that such uses are “possible” under Wild Forest, but they are neither required nor appropriate, and can be excluded during the UMP process. We must not allow the arguments of fear to distract us from our primary responsibility for balancing resource protection with recreational opportunities.
• Lastly we want to strongly reiterate our support for DEC’s and APA’s desire to ensure more protective management of what will become the new enlarged High Peaks Wilderness area. We have much information which should compel us all to put as much emphasis on better protection of the existing High Peaks Wilderness area, as we are in figuring out how to create Graduated Access to the south.
As the duly elected representatives of the 12 Counties and the entire Adirondack Park, we know very well how critical this amazing resource is, and why we all have to fight to protect it. We also have an obligation to balance the need for economically sustainable communities where our citizens can live, work and go to school. At the County level, we are the people responsible for economic development and tourism. We see and understand what works and what doesn’t. We understand, as our communities do, that our success will be based in large part on the Governor’s vision for the future for the Adirondack — a vision of diverse recreational opportunities that spur economic activity, coupled with sound environmental management that protects our incredible natural assets.
The Classification process, predicated on a responsibility to evaluate the character and capacity of
these lands, provides an unprecedented opportunity to create the requisite balance between recreation and environmental protection. What’s more, because of the legacy of good stewardship that Finch, Pruyn & Co. and The Nature Conservancy have passed on to us, these lands are in spectacular environmental health AND have a unique built-in capacity to continue to accommodate a diversity of recreational activities. We encourage the Park Agency to take these factors into account when making its Classification recommendation to the Governor.
Thank you again for your hard work and for providing us with the opportunity to comment.
Harry J. McManus, Chairman, Clinton County Legislature,
Michael A. Tabolt, Chairman, Lewis County Legislature,
Randy Preston, Chairman, Essex County Board of Supervisors,
Anthony J. Picente Jr., County Executive, Oneida County,
D. Billy Jones, Chairman, Franklin County Legislature,
Arthur “Mo” Wright, Chairman, Saratoga County Board of Supervisors,
Charles Potter, Chairman, Fulton County Board of Supervisors,
John Burke, Chairman, St. Lawrence County Legislature,
William G. Farber, Chairman, Hamilton County Board of Supervisors,
Kevin Geraghty, Chairman, Warren County Board of Supervisors,
Bernard Peplinski Sr., Chairman, Herkimer County Legislature,
Robert A. Henke, Chairman, Washington County Board of Supervisors
The above commentary was submitted to the Adirondack Park Agency, which will soon be deciding how to classify Boreas Ponds and a number of other recently acquired state lands.