Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Wilderness Management of Boreas Ponds Favored by Commenters

The APA recently reported that it received more than 11,000 comments on the classification of the Boreas Ponds Tract.

Adirondack Wilderness Advocates has reviewed the comments (more than 16,000 pages worth) and found that more than 37 percent support classifying the entire tract as motor-free Wilderness.

Altogether, 84 percent of the comments support either AWA’s or BeWildNY’s plan, according to AWA, whereas only 15 percent support a Wild Forest classification that could allow motorized access all the way to Boreas Ponds.

BeWildNY, a coalition of eight environmental organizations, and Protect the Adirondacks all support opening Gulf Brook Road to within a mile of Boreas Ponds. Adirondack Wilderness Advocates and Adirondack Wild propose classifying nearly all of the Boreas Pond Tract as Wilderness.

I haven’t gone through all the comments, so I can’t verify AWA’s figures. In perusing the comments, however, I can confirm that many people do favor a Wilderness classification for the ponds (though not necessarily the entire tract). The Adirondack Council says 22,000 people signed a petition in favor of a Wilderness classification for the ponds.

Advocates for a less-restrictive classification plan, one with more Wild Forest, also are well represented in the comments and submitted their own petitions.

The APA is expected to vote on the classification early this year. Afterward, the state Department of Environmental Conservation will prepare a management plan. The APA then will review the plan to make sure it is compatible with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.

The APA has posted all Boreas Ponds classification comments here.

Boreas Ponds in June 2016 (Phil Brown photo).


Phil Brown

Since 1999, Phil Brown has been Editor of the nonprofit 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.




64 Responses

  1. Boreasfisher says:

    Phil, I have done a spot check too–certainly not definitive– which seems to corroborate the conclusion that 84% support some form of enhanced wilderness designation. I say enhanced because of comments elsewhere that the APA’s suggested plans do indeed reserve part of the parcel for wilderness.

    But my reading of these results is that some 84 percent of the responders are actually rejecting all 4 proposed APA plans in favor of a more extensive wilderness designation.
    Important to make that clear if it is indeed correct.

  2. Justin Farrell says:

    Happy to see so much support for Wilderness!

  3. Jim S. says:

    I am impressed by the number of comments and petition signatures. The state should listen to the people who obviously are interested (with a good amount of enthusiasm) in the well being of that area of the park.

  4. Peter Bauer says:

    It’s worth noting that during the classification of the Essex Chain Lakes area, calls for Wilderness for the chain ran 4-1 over Wild Forest. We ended up with Primitive that allows bikes and motor vehicles and a Wild Forest corridor was created through the heart of the tract, rendering the area basically Wild Forest.

    Then during the Essex Chain Lakes UMP hearings, 85% of comments called for the removal of the Polaris Bridge. The bridge remained and is scheduled to be used for motor vehicles.

    During the State Land Master Plan public hearing, nearly 90% opposed the APA proposal to weaken Primitive areas, but Primitive areas were weakened.

    My experience is that these hearing are conducted to check the public participation box so that the APA complies with state law for process as a necessary prerequisite for rendering a political decision made by the Governor. It’s highly likely that the APA will once again blow off the majority of public comments.

    • Justin Farrell says:

      Proof that we can’t rely on Protect the Adirondacks for future Wilderness classifications.

      • Boreasfisher says:

        Golly Justin. If you are going to take that conclusion, why not condemn all of them except your organization. Let’s please try to find some reasonable common ground here.

        • Justin Farrell says:

          My organization?
          I feel that I’ve been pretty vocal about the existing reasonable compromise regarding public motorized access.

        • Justin Farrell says:

          My organization?
          I think you may have me confused with someone else. I feel I’ve been pretty vocal about the existing middle grown regarding reasonable public motorized access.

          • Boreasfisher says:

            OK, you must be right. I was put off by what I read as hate speech.

            • Justin Farrell says:

              No hate, just a little jab for supporting a rather weak wilderness proposal for the Boreas Ponds. 😉

              • Boreasfisher says:

                In your humble opinion. In mine, it was really no weaker than the BeWild position which would have cut down a lot of new trees to allow cars along the road for 9 months, but restrict snowmobile access to the periphery (and destroy all those trees) for 3 months, if and when sufficient snow. Probably ATVs at other times. Protect’s position was more pragmatic, but how does BeWild’s make any sense?

                We can all agree or disagree, but it helps to do so transparently. It was these two mostly complementary but ultimately unsatisfactory positions– Protect’s and BeWild’s– that lead me to realize that the only solution, if one values wilderness, is to close the entire road to motors.

                Call me an elitist. Call me someone who worries about what the science says and is dedicated to longterm preservation of one of the few mostly wild spaces left in this country.

                • Justin Farrell says:

                  Agreed!
                  My friendly jab comment was toward Protect & Mr. Bauer. Had a representative of ‘Let’s Not BeWildNY’ chimed in, He/she deserves the same criticism…in my humble opinion.

    • Boreas says:

      As the leader of the free world said so eloquently, “The system is rigged.”.

    • Jim S. says:

      So you’re saying the classification process can ignore the will of the people just like the presidential election. Long live king Andrew.

  5. Steve M says:

    Hardly true….. all chambers of commerce, all local governments and a huge number of supporters for COMPROMISE between wild and wilderness exist. Almost half of the public land today is designated wilderness which is a fair and balanced approach. Boreas needs to be the same balanced approach. All in NY paid for it so ALL should use it in the ways desired while protecting the land as well. The balance can exist and should. Attendance at the hearings by WILD supporters minus the buses of kids brought in from Vermont college for example, far numbered the wilderness. The money , the social media blitz, the petitions signed from all over the place and buses from Vermont may out number but the people who truly understand and support the compromise but it wont change the need for a balanced approach to land designation.

    The land is perfect for access since the access is ALREADY there. The unwillingness to compromise is not realistic, balanced or fair. This is not Yosemite or the Sierra club although that confusion is evident by the wilderness supporters. People who also love the outdoors and the Adirondacks, also live and work here and the balance must exist for ALL people who enjoy and protect the Adirondacks, not just the subset seeking some private sanctuary at the expense of others.

  6. Tom Payne says:

    Golly more news from the Albany swamp. Isn’t it odd that the environmental lobby gets complete access to all APA documentation so guickly? Must be those FOIL requests get processed a whole lot quicker for certain organizations. Next to Washington, the Albany swamp comes in a close second. The Albany swamp, ” forever corrupt”.

    • Boreas says:

      The comments were posted to the NYS website for the world to access.

    • Andy Testo says:

      Tom, I am unsure what you are basing your presumption on? Adirondack Wilderness Advocates did submit a FOIL request for the public comments for the Land Classification Action. Anyone can do that, anyone. We received a link to the APA’s website when it was publicly published. We were organized in reviewing the materials quickly.

    • Craig says:

      The documents were posted on the APA website on Friday for anyone to view.

  7. Tim-Brunswick says:

    Bickering…constant bickering even between your varied “Wilderness Advocacy Groups”. You can’t even agree to agree with each other and funnel your energy into one single-minded cause.

    Alternative #1 is a great compromise that “should” within reason make all parties happy. I’ve got my fingers crossed that the APA/Governor will take the same common sense approach they took with the Essex Chain Lakes classification.

    • Scott van Laer scottvanlaer says:

      How is alternative 1 a compromise? Why is alternative 1 common sense when the other adjoining Forest Preserve land is classified Wilderness? That seems contradictory not common sense.

      • Paul says:

        Not sure about the common sense part but as far as compromise…

        A classification that is all wilderness certainly is the antithesis of a compromise.

        • Craig says:

          there are many options available to the APA when it comes to the tract. Certainly all wilderness is one, and there are options where perhaps the area around The Branch would be treated differently. You could use the current gate as a compromise. Unfortunately, the APA did a poor job in creating a diverse set of options that the public could comment on. All wilderness did get a lot more support than motorizing everything except the higher elevation areas.

        • Tyler says:

          Classification is based on the capacity of land to withstand use. Boreas Ponds is the perfect candidate for full wilderness due to the fact that 5 Value-1 wetlands, steep slopes (80%+ labeled as “severe erosion hazard”), elevations above 2,500 ft., rare and endangered species live here, it is remote (6.7 miles away from Blue Ridge Road), it’s large (20,758 acres), and presents tremendous opportunities for solitude. Compromise is not the goal of the SLMP. Doing the right thing for the land is!

          • Paul says:

            Most of these wetlands are the product of a dam. Not a beaver damn a man-made dam.

            It is not 6.7 miles away from the Blue Ridge Road? There is a road that runs right up to the ponds (and I think even goes around them).

            You can certainly argue that an all Wilderness Classification is a good call here but not really for these reasons.

            • Boreas says:

              Paul,

              Take away the dam and you still have wetlands and a few smaller ponds. That is what many of us are concerned about – the natural wetlands, not necessarily the man-made ponds we have today.

    • Boreas says:

      My fingers are crossed that eventually politicians and their appointees will realize that ignoring the majority of their constituents’ wishes carries negative consequences.

      • Paul says:

        You are not trying to say that these comments represent the “majority of their constituents” are you? If you are that is most certainly what Mr. Trump would call an alternative fact!

        • Craig says:

          Paul, what is your view of what the facts are? Do you have some insight to provide that may be missing from the discussion?

          • Boreas says:

            Exactly. I feel the largest land purchase in recent memory should have been given a state referendum vote WRT classification, or for that matter, buying it at all. 1 person, 1 vote.

          • Paul says:

            The facts here are that a large number of people have weighed in that they would like to see a relatively restrictive classification of the area. That by no means represents the majority of the representatives constituents. There is a heck of a lot more than tens of thousands of people in NYS. I think it’s just under 20 million. That claim was not factual.

            • Boreas says:

              Paul,

              Do you believe in polls and statistics? Wouldn’t you agree the views of10k people at least COULD be an indication of similar views throughout the state? As I said, I wouldn’t ignore them.

        • Boreas says:

          Of course not – only a statewide vote would clear that up. But I would say 80% 0ut of over 10,000 comments may be a good indication of a majority and shouldn’t be ignored. If they do, it may be at their own political peril, as I stated.

          However Albany politicians have wisely insulated themselves by appointing the APA. Albany can always point to the APA as a scapegoat – “Hey, don’t blame me – THEY did it – not me!”. You get the idea.

          • Boreas says:

            Sorry, the above was a reply to Paul that got out of sequence.

          • Paul says:

            If you did that you probably would not get what you wanted. Look at what happened with the Jay Mountain Wilderness and the mine. Many people who live in places like NYC have a very different perception of what is wild than we do. They get a mile away from the dirt road and into a place like these ponds – they would be pretty impressed with how wild that is.

            I personally don’t want to end up like CA where everything is on the ballot! At some point you just have to trust the folks in government working for you. This looks very transparent. There are many criteria other than public comment that go into a decision like this. These are decisions that are better left to people with some expertise. In November you saw what can happen when you just put it up for a vote!

            • Craig says:

              Paul, I agree. This decision is not a popularity contest.

              It’s worthwhile to know for local businesses how popular wilderness recreation is though. It may be useful in offering products and services that sell well.

            • Boreas says:

              They put a mine issue in Essex Co. on the ballot a few years back to allow a relatively small land swap. I would think this would at least be that big of a deal.

  8. James Marco says:

    Thank you. Yes, the Wilderness classification is needed for this. Regardless of any midnight deals among politicians, Wilderness is still the best course for this land.

    Now, what actually happens in the face of a seriously high percentage popular opinion is anyone’s guess. But it will be hard to ignore that well over three quarters of the population wants wilderness and still get a Primitive or Wild Forest classification, without admitting to political influences and blatant corruption of the democratic system in Albany.

  9. Craig says:

    a couple of additional thoughts:

    – with 80+ % supporting wilderness, this is not some elitist movement, it is people from all walks of life

    – we need to work with local businesses to get the message out that human-powered recreationists a big majority of their customers

    • Boreas says:

      Craig,

      The term “elitist” has been used almost exclusively by people favoring unlimited access via automobile to discredit the people wishing for more environmental protection. As far as I am concerned, the people desiring drive-in access are the elitists – lobbying for their specific style of drive-up outdoor recreation. It is part of the divisive rhetoric from both sides – not conducive to long-lasting compromise.

      Local governments near the proposed gateway have bought in to this view of the situation – that vehicular access should be the way to go for BP. I feel the dialog should be changed to figure the best way to allow access to the Ponds by people with real mobility issues while limiting general motor vehicle access from the center of the parcel.

      Since it appears a Wilderness classification isn’t likely for the entire parcel or even the wetland sections, perhaps the public comments can guide how the DEC manages Gulf Brook Road and other interior roads WRT vehicular access. As yet, it isn’t a given that the gate will come down with the DEC allowing unlimited access to LaBier Flow. It may still be possible to work out a reasonable compromise between all parties. The APA seems to be leaving the door open for this type of compromise in the verbiage of their proposals. Perhaps keeping the gate at the midway point or moving it back to the Blue Ridge Road and allowing restricted vehicular access beyond by guides with clientele with mobility problems, a permit system, or a shuttle system.

    • Bruce says:

      Craig,

      80% of 16,000 people is a very small percentage of the residents of New York, even a small percentage of folks living in the park. Has anyone tabulated how many of those respondents live outside the AP, or indeed outside the state and choose to spend their vacation/travel money in the park, as I do?

      The APA and the Governor have to keep in mind that the vast number of their constituents do not live in the park, but must be considered all the same.

      • Craig says:

        Bruce, given that the comments were published on Friday last week, I don’t think there has been time to do the kind of analysis you speak of. I know a few folks who are interested in doing that kind of analysis.

        However, I don’t know if economics or recreation will be the primary driver. I hope that the APA will consider many factors when making a recommendation.

  10. Todd says:

    Just because the majority of the commenters supported wilderness that doesn’t necessarily mean that it what the majority of the people want. Maybe it means the wilderness advocates are better organized, funded and equipped at getting the word out and getting people to comment.

    • Buck says:

      Agreed. I firmly believe that the APA and especially the DEC put more stock into those who take the time to write a letter or send an email stating the reason for their choice or attend a public meeting, over simply signing a petition. At the meeting I attended I’d say the opinions were 50/50 for some form of access to Boreas Ponds or LeBeir Flow vs. total Wilderness. And, as I recall at the meeting I attended on the Essex Chain in 2013 the public comments heavily favored access, at least at that location (Queensbury).

      • Boreas says:

        So again, the people with vehicles and time to travel a couple hours to evening meetings should carry more weight than others who work evenings or cannot make meetings far from their homes? There are other people out there. That’s why the state “allows” mail/email responses. But this doesn’t mean they pay any attention to either group. The APA are appointees and they take their marching orders from Albany, not the public.

      • Craig says:

        Buck, Just to clarify: the results quoted in the article were from individual responses and not petitions.

        There is also a mention of the number of responses from petitions in the article as a separate comparison.

    • Craig says:

      Todd, that is a fair perspective. Note however, that the AWA, the organization that compiled this data and was involved in many other ways in this process is !00% volunteer with no budget.

    • Tyler says:

      37% of the entire public support called for Full Wilderness for Boreas Ponds, and nearly all of that support was driven by Adirondack Wilderness Advocates, a group with no budget, no mailing list to work with initially, and comprised simply of passionate people who want to protect the environmental assets of the State. Support for Full Wilderness is a widely held view. Letters came in from all 50 States, 4 Canadian Provinces, and 5 other countries. A majority of comments supported wilderness because a majority of the public supports stronger wilderness in the face of its global decline.

  11. James Marco says:

    Many of the people of NY, and, elsewhere around the country, don’t even know of the existence of the DEC and APA. I see many hikers over the course of a year, even some of the hikers never heard of either.

    Many people assume that the state will comply with the legalisms when purchasing land. Why? Because they do not know about the issues. They ass-u-me that the state will make a correct classification. Unfortunately, There is no cut and tried logical method.

    People cannot say we will start at the most restrictive and work backwards, since the goal of the classifications is to PROTECT the land, PROTECT the water, PROTECT the existing ecology. Vehicles, roads, a large human presence, economic impact and access to an area is NOT considered. There is no “one” way to weight these variables in an arbitrary classification process.

    We can all agree that the political motivations for expenditure of state dollars to purchase land in the ADK’s is reasonable. They want to look good to their constituents. But MOST OF THEIR CONSTITUENTS WILL SUPPORT ANYTHING they do not know about because they trust the government. Perhaps misplaced, but they trust (and assume) the state has some formal logical procedure.

    Guess what? The people really interested become the experts and debate things. The APA gleans what it can and makes its RECOMMENDATIONS. NONE of this will help if the people with the real decision for classification (politicians) want something different But, how many times can they go against popular opinion and still maintain the “trust” of the people?

    BP should be Wilderness if that is the result of the debate. The APA should make this recommendation, minimally at the existing gate ~3mi from the flow/pond.

  12. Todd says:

    I just glanced through the first batch of the comments I wasn’t all that surprised that many of them are identical with different signatures. I didn’t bother to send my comments in as I know that in the end the Governor is going to do what he wants to do, which fits my situation. The average person in NY has never heard of the Boreas Ponds, it is fascinating that so many people from out of state felt compelled to comment.

    • Craig says:

      Todd, what is the thinking behind your comment about out-of-state comments?

    • Bruce says:

      Todd,

      You said the Governor is going to do what he wants to do.

      The APA will arrive at a conclusion it feels is best, in spite of some people’s views, just like at Essex Chain or the rails and trails case.

      How many times has the Governor gone against the recommendations of the APA?

  13. Charlie S says:

    There are those who know a beautiful thing when they see it, there are those whom you cannot move on the matter. Some people see the beauty in trees while others see board feet only. To some the Adirondack wilds are a good place to romp and play a few seasons in the year and whom attach no value to them outside of that,while others see the real estimate of their value…viz, the richness of her natural state,the spirituality that comes with her seclusion. We should all be taught to take interest and to have a love for what wilderness remains so that a wider perception can be had of them and then hopefully out of this would come a wise effort to preserve them.

    Beauty and nature cannot be sold to those who do not see value in them. Too few of us recognize the importance of preserving what remains of our wild,hushed places. When we do to the wilderness,or even have an inclination to do,what we do everywhere else,we lack vision to the peril of our progeny. This is not pseudo science this has been being said since at least the visitation of Halley’s Comet in the night skies three appearances ago.

    I was one of those more than 11,000 who commented on this matter to the APA. I specified my pro wilderness stance and while I was at it I threw science in for added measure. Too often we ignore science because we have amnesia or because we are self-absorbed not thinking about our grandchildren which we should be doing. Most of our woes are due to the fact that we lack the ability to form a mental picture of the year 2050. Is why history continues repeating itself…because we have not learned. I find comfort in Tyler’s take on this matter and some of you others,and the fact (if it is so) that most favor wilderness for this Adirondack jewel Boreas Ponds. We have taken so much away! Now more than ever we need to preserve what remains!

  14. Charlie S says:

    Todd says: “Just because the majority of the commenters supported wilderness that doesn’t necessarily mean that is what the majority of the people want. Maybe it means the wilderness advocates are better organized, funded and equipped at getting the word out and getting people to comment.”

    Maybe you are right Todd. Maybe it is not what the majority of the people,aka the general populace,ie..the mainstreamers,want. Maybe that is because they don’t really care about what remains of our wild,serene,magical places which most probably is the case. Which is more the reason why it is important that there are some few people who are intelligent enough and wise to stand up and put up a defense because without them few there’s no hope for us. Personally I don’t think there’s any hope for us anyway….because of the so few who are wise and really care!!

  15. Roger Dziengeleski says:

    Classification isn’t a popularity contest. It is about the parcel being classified and it’s ability to withstand public use. A parcel with a road network can withstand fairly intensive use without damage to the environment.

    • Boreas says:

      It only means the ROADS can handle intensive use. Many people can actually be expected to get out of their vehicles.

  16. James Marco says:

    Well said, Charlie S!

    Roger, I don’t agree with you. Roads aren’t really a problem, especially dirt/gravel roads. The biggest problem arises when mechanized traffic comes along.
    1) Burning fossil fuels, or alcohol, they add a lot of CO2, and other chemicals into our air. (I am NOT saying we don’t need cars, I am saying we should NOT use them where we can.)
    2) Oil spills, and, other fluids. Antifreeze, transmission fluid, chain oil, etc. Minor, but again, we do not HAVE to use them in the Boreas Ponds area.
    3) Maintenance of the road. Mining gravel, trucking, spreading and removing potholes are ongoing maintenance chores.
    4) Maintenance also includes culverts, drainage. This will effect things locally as water courses are changed.
    5) Noise pollution from all sorts of mechanized traffic.
    6) Population pressure from the people that can just drive up to a camp site.
    7) Trash and garbage are a follow up to more people using the area.
    8) Motor boats do not do the greatest with human powered water vehicles (canoes, kayaks, pack rafts, etc) I’ll include the noise and environmental pollution of the water and surrounding area, here.
    9) Loss of wildlife due to disturbance. They will just move out to a quieter, less populated, area.
    10) Roads are a barrier to many species. Stopping their reproduction is not the best, but, we really do not know all the effects of having a road. Perhaps this could be a good long term study as roads are left to be reclaimed.
    11) We don’t know ALL the effects of the road. We do not know the long term effect of importing invasive species. Seeds, spores, and other natural invasives could destroy/damage the forest for example. Boats could bring in many invasives, good and bad.

    All these seemingly trivial effects add up to a much larger impact on the land than a Wilderness Classification of the area, and closing the roads, would demand. These ADK areas, typified by Boreas, cannot withstand a large number of cars&people without changes, changes that can effect the area greatly.

    • Boreas says:

      James,

      Great comment! Much of this is common knowledge, yet there are many people that know this and still prefer unfettered auto access. People simply have differing priorities.

  17. […] though our message was resoundingly clear after the first public comment period – a vast majority (84% of the 11,200+ submitted comments) of people passionate enough to speak out on behalf of […]

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