The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) postponed action on the classification of the Boreas Ponds this month. The APA had planned to unveil its proposal for these lands in March and make a decision in April. The schedule going forward is uncertain.
The Cuomo Administration is divided on how to best manage the Boreas Ponds and as a result, it has no final plan for classification. Top staffers to the Governor and top brass at the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) are vacillating between two main options.
The preferred option of the Governor is to create a small Intensive Use area at the south end of the Boreas Ponds, from the 4 Corners area to the dam. The Cuomo Administration is trying to figure out how it can create a new small Intensive Use area that would have formal lodging, such as yurts, small cabins, tent platforms, perhaps some kind of hut-to-hut lodging facility, or some combination of these. The Intensive Use area would ostensibly be surrounded by Wilderness lands, but the Gulf Brook Road would remain open, the Boreas Ponds dam would be retained, as would an access road to the dam.
If cramming a hodgepodge of uses onto a landscape seems familiar it’s because the Governor and DEC are using the same guiding principle for the Boreas Ponds that they used for the Essex Chain Lakes – something-for-everybody. The Governor and DEC start planning with a set of public recreational uses that they want to see in an area and then start drawing lines to connect the dots. Questions about what the lands can support, about the science and ecology of the tract, about how a tract fits into a larger system, and about compliance with the State Land Master Plan are distant considerations.
I think that the 2.5-million acre Forest Preserve has something for everybody. In fact, it has an abundance of nearly everything for everybody. I do not think it makes any sense that every major piece of the Forest Preserve or every new acquisition has to facilitate multiple and conflicting recreational uses.
The Intensive Use area option marks a sharp departure from the various options for which the APA prepared an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and held public hearings at the end of 2016. In fact, what the Cuomo Administration has settled on for its first choice was rejected by most of the commenters. Different analysis has shown over 80% of those who submitted comments wanted Wilderness for the Boreas Ponds. (Then again, ignoring the public will has been a cornerstone of the Cuomo APA.)
There are many obstacles to the Intensive Use area scenario. First, state law is clear that DEC cannot rent out cabins and structures on Forest Preserve and other DEC lands. Tent sites, yes; cabins, no. The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation rents out cabins at various state parks. There is a big difference in state law between Forest Preserve and state parks. Then there is another practical problem in that this classification is at odds with State Land Master Plan Intensive Use area guidelines. The biggest obstacle is the Forest Preserve protections under the State Constitution. Historically, this fight on “closed cabins” was fought a long time ago and New Yorkers chose a Forest Preserve with lean-tos and campsites and not cabins.
At a minimum, the APA would have to issue a new EIS and hold a new round of public hearings for the Intensive Use area option. If they were to include buildings of any kind, they would be violating state laws and the State Constitution.
Other aspects of the classification involve planning for motorized access and a campsite near the Boreas Ponds for CP-3 permit holders (disabled access) and to manage the Boreas Ponds as motorless. As to the Gulf Brook road, it would be kept open to access the Intensive Use area and a canoe launch (the site of which is in flux). It’s unclear at this moment where the state’s thinking is on the route of a Newcomb to Minerva snowmobile trail as there are competing options, but one involves the Boreas Road-Gulf Brook Road while others utilize only the southern parts of the Gulf Brook Road.
The only other classification option under active consideration is a variation of Alternative 2 from the APA public hearing, where the majority of the Boreas Ponds is Wilderness, yet there is another classification of a few acres at the south end of the ponds, from the dam to the 4 Corners. Primitive and Wild Forest classifications for the small tract at the south end are on the table. Both the big Wilderness classification and the proposal to ring the Boreas Ponds with a Wild Forest classification appear to be off the table.
This is a discouraging, though not an unexpected turn of events. The Cuomo Administration made it abundantly clear early on that they take a dim view of Wilderness, were committed to building an east-west community connector snowmobile trail through these lands, and that land acquisition under Andrew Cuomo must have an economic development component.
Nevertheless, the Boreas Ponds is far too important for such shortsighted planning. These lands contain ecological gems that demand the state’s highest protections. The Governor should use the time to step back and reflect on what is working and what is not working on the Forest Preserve.
What is working is the High Peaks Wilderness. Why the Cuomo Administration refuses to invest millions of dollars in protecting the High Peaks and ensuring resource protection and positive user experiences for the tens of thousands that go there, and eat and sleep in places like Lake Placid, is mind-boggling. The High Peaks Wilderness is seeing public use at an all-time high, yet investment in trail maintenance and staffing of Rangers is at an all-time low. It is time for the Governor to get off his snowmobile and visit the High Peaks.
What is not working is the Essex Chain Lakes classification. It has been a failure.
The Cuomo Administration went all-in with something-for-everybody planning at the Essex Chain. There is motorless canoeing, a wide and long motorized Wild Forest corridor, new motorized bridges, bike riding, DEC patrolling in motor vehicles, public motorized access to the heart of the Essex Chain Lakes, roads (like that between Third and Fourth Lakes with “The Tube”) were retained when they should have been removed and the filled wetland restored, and there is CP-3 access. In an effort to maximize public recreational opportunities, the opposite has happened. Public use has been light because nobody knows what to expect. A hodgepodge of uses alienates public use, rather than heightening it. Those who want a Wilderness experience go to other places where they can get a Wilderness experience. Paddlers are not enthusiastic about paddling where people drive motor vehicles and ride bikes. The bike riding on sandy and rocky dirt roads is crappy so few do it. Hiking on dirt roads is unappealing for most. Hiking in an area where the DEC drives motor vehicles is even more unappealing. Poor planning begot a poor classification, which begot low public use. The low numbers at the Essex Chain Lakes are irrefutable.
And now, Governor Cuomo and the DEC seems prepared to double down with the same approach and the same set of poor planning principles at the Boreas Ponds.
The good news is, of course, that these amazing lands are Forest Preserve and now belong to the people of the State of New York. For that we are indebted to Finch, Pruyn & Company, the Nature Conservancy, and Governor Cuomo. Under every classification scenario for the Boreas Ponds tract, far more roads will be closed than retained. The forests will grow wilder and older. Log landings and tote roads will reforest. And over the decades, as we ring in years like 2030, 2050 and 2075, the inexorable powers of nature will restore the forests that surround the Boreas Ponds, and the promise of the Forest Preserve will endure as a bright place on New York’s landscape, and management decisions can be revisited and mistakes can be corrected.
Photo of LaBier Flow by Gerry Lemmo.
From the very start of this debate, I felt that in the end, the powers to be,
(The Gov.), is going to do what he wants, and to hell with public option.
The almighty dollar rules.
Neither option acknowledges the groundswell of letters and public statements supporting a larger wilderness classification below the ponds to 4 corners and south. These seemingly discarded opinions reflect the attitudes of a younger generation now assuming stewardship responsibility for these lands; will there be a price to pay at the ballot box?
This isn’t an attempt to find compromise or balance of public attitudes toward classification. It is choice by administrative fiat. Mario would blush.
Beautiful photo, Gerry!
It’s a shame that some organizations want to cut down more trees & build a parking lot there.
Excellent article. There really is no need to study anything, take comment or debate. We all have to just wait until the Governor decides what should be done. History, precedent and science just do not matter
This news comes as no surprise. Many of us have been calling “Government conspiracy” all along.
It surprised me! I knew he wanted access along the lines of what TNC advised, but I had no idea Cuomo was pushing for an Intensive Use area essentially bordering existing Wilderness areas. It makes no environmental sense and degrades the surrounding Wilderness areas with noise, light, and air pollution. This idea needs to be quashed before it gains any momentum. This isn’t the area for this type of usage.
I just meant that it seemed apparent early on that government officials (local & state) were going to dictate the final outcome of the property, not the citizens of the New York State.
Wilderness World Theme Park! Just a stone’s throw from Allen Mountain!
Imagine the feelings of the people being forced to give up their leased camps so that Guv can build yurts on the site.
I wonder if it might make more sense for the governor to consider this intensive use project in the new Mac East or Mac West parcels with Henderson Lake as the focus. It is closer to Newcomb, has a better entry road – even a railroad. The area around Upper Works could be gerrymandered a bit to allow new structures that echo the old Adirondac structures that were recently stabilized. It is a very historical area and the Hudson River is there. The mine is probably a little toxic, but that shouldn’t be a big deal upstream.
Thank you for such compelling arguments why one size does not fit all! As Bill Ingersoll has so often said this tract should be treated as Cedar Lakes are, a delightful wilderness that is enhanced by its remoteness. There are already plenty of Adirondack waterways with easy access.
If I were a betting man, I would have my money on snowmobile access.
We had about 6-7 weeks of snowmobile season this year, slightly up from last year. To make profound natural resource planning decisions based upon lobbying from an industry that may or may not have a future is preposterous on it’s face.
Of course, I suppose if climate change forces the snowmobile lobby out of existence it could hop into a phone booth and emerge as an ATV lobby.
Snowmobile seasons may shrink from year to year, but I still generate way more income than anything else in the winter in the ADK.
Absolute and utter nonsense that has been refuted here numerous times.
A lot could emerge from that phone booth. Not to stir up another pissing match, but I wonder what the future holds for drones WRT the SLMP. I think some of the footage at the APA presentation was shot from a drone. Are there any regulations concerning drone usage above state lands? Or should we just arm ourselves with drone-swatters?
Anonymous sources strike again. While I support your position Peter, many of your claims are without attribution. We should demand more transparency.
Intensive use and a “something for everybody” outcome is foolish. Recap of Essex Chain usage numbers is telling.
How long has Essex Chain been open to the public?
So many viewpoints…each with its merits, yet none compelling enough to abrogate the merits of the rest. Perhaps a delay, as opposed to just jumping in, is in order.
“an abundance of everything for everybody”…..and you simply want more for your group.
Trumps Environmentalism is definitely working. Even Cuomo gets in on the action. It isn’t even legal..l, but, hey, he has all the money he needs. I would hope this is an alternative fact or more false news.
Make no mistake, Gov. Cuomo has always been involved with this classification. Understandable since he basically wrote the check from funds taxpayers gave him. But at least looking at the current laws on the books regarding classification, I would say that the APA has a better handle on what can and cannot be done with the parcel – especially since the 2-day detailed land & water presentation they recently heard.
It is hard to say what the delay is for. But I don’t think any part of the parcel could legally be considered for Intensive Use without some sort of amendment(s) due to the scrutiny the parcel’s classification is receiving. Otherwise, it will likely be tied up in the courts indefinitely – with the gate hopefully staying where it is in the interim.
Why would it be illegal to consider it for intensive use? They can consider whatever classification they want. One isn’t more legal than another. Especially when you consider that this parcel has been managed as commercial timberland with an extensive road network etc. for over 100 years.
None of this was subjected to the public comment and public hearing process or the EIS.
True, they would have to re-do all of that if they really want to consider this classification. But it is perfectly legal to do it.
As far as an EIS goes it seems that if the land was able to withstand a large lodge as well as numerous hunting cabins a few small cabins probably will not have nearly as much an impact. The land is now a gem there is no debate there so it seems like it could work. But yes another EIS would need to be done. More work for the weary and another bill for the tax payers.
I have to disagree that the EIS would be similar between private and public usage. In the past the area has been gated, with only a few hundred regular/returning guests and leaseholders using the area. Landowners, leaseholders, and their guests are typically going to treat the land differently than the general public, as they are held accountable for their actions.
Maybe. A large lodge on the lake. A vast network of logging roads open for commercial logging traffic. Many relatively large cabins scattered all around the property. Commercial timber operations and dozens of camp owners cutting substantial amounts of fire wood including many live trees for both. To me it seems like the environmental impact there would be fairly substantial, but again obviously not enough to have ruined the tract.
As Boreas said further down, “The governor went public with his plans for the area before it was even purchased. You can research that yourself.”
If the Governor’s plans were known before the purchase, there has been plenty of time for folks to make their bones about it. This article is the first I’ve read mentioning “Intensive Use” of any of it. Why? Do folks require specific official meetings to speak up, or can they petition the Governor on their own?
These links may be helpful. They do not include direct conversations and negotiations between the governor’s office, TNC, APA, and local communities, which are really the crux of the discussion.
The official website:
Letter to APA. Pretty vague here:
There is a legal process. The governor and his administration are not yet completely exempt from the law.
“a groundswell of letters and public statements supporting a larger wilderness classification below the ponds to 4 corners and south”…Really?
It wouldn’t be too hard to imagine that the Governor’s staff recognized the artificial nature of the so-called groundswell? One of the more transparent measures taken by wilderness only advocates included T-shirt giveaways to folks organized and bused to hearings to create the appearance of overwhelming support for a single classification.
Time to grow up kids and be prepared to share the resource….
I think they recognized the groundswell for what it is – people concerned about the resource. Keep in mind, much of the groundswell was written. That doesn’t mean it will alter their development plans. He’ll need to figure out how to navigate between the people who helped elect him, the people who didn’t, and his legacy.
It the potential for pandering to those who DIDNT that worries me in cases like this one.
I think the governor is trying to do the right thing, but doesn’t really know what that is. The NYS Constitution is a murky pool at best. I think he knows what he wants, but isn’t familiar enough with that area of the Park to realize that it isn’t the best area for intensive use – whereas an area farther from the existing wilderness epicenter would make more sense. Even something the other side of the Blue Ridge road may be preferable.
I assume this is the reason for the delay – the APA is passing on the knowledge they have learned about the area as well as public responses to the governor & staff. I would like him to sit through the same presentation that was given to the APA. Regardless, I would rather see them take the time to think as opposed to damning the torpedos.
You are a generous man. What worries me isn’t what he doesn’t know, it is being surrounded by people who might be telling him what they think he wants to hear. Tom Friedman’s NYT column today about peanut butter is a case in point. There are good folks at DEC and APA. Let’s hope he let’s the professionals advise him well and they don’t come to work with peanut butter on their faces.
This sort of hits on what I was trying to say last year in several different comments on multiple Almanack articles regarding the Boreas Tract… If only the second gate & its existing large clearing suitable for a possible long term parking area had been mentioned & discussed a bit more early on by reputable Adirondack journalist, perhaps (doubtful but maybe) our government would have a little more to work with other than the “all or non” type scenerios that had been presented by the differing public parties.
I continue to believe that the existing interim parking area at the second makes perfect sense. My hope is that we can all work together to keep that an acceptable compromise, but in the end it’ll be up to big bro.
My gut feeling is that BP is not on the radar of most politicians in Albany. $14 M is pocket change down there (probably the cost of a parking space in NYC!), and it is already spent. There isn’t a ton of money to be made regardless of the final classification, so why invest any political capital pushing the governor one way or the other?
I think it is a Cuomo thing – buying a big chunk of land and turning it over to the public. Preserving the land with a Wilderness classification isn’t as sexy politically as yurts, boats, sleds, bikes, etc.. Many people see the wild as a place where you do these activities, and I believe he is one of those people. I do not believe he is as interested in his long term legacy as a preservationist as he is trying to open the parcel up for everything & everyone and to help rejuvenate local villages. I don’t believe it is an evil plot, just misguided. I do not believe he yet understands the environmental implications of a plan like that.
I am hoping that the environmental program presented to the APA made enough of an impact on them to turn the governor away from the intensive use as he envisions it. The APA’s recommendations were flawed in many ways, but at least they were legal and logical. The parties need to sit down and rethink things. As far as I am concerned, they can take all of the time they need. The interim plan is causing no harm in the meantime.
I too hope the APAs recommendations are taken to heart…and put into practice…your lips to God’s ear.
As one who was in the middle of that groundswell (evidenced at hearings as well as written comments) and knows how legit it was, it is my tremendous pleasure to note how completely false your characterization is. Stay tuned! More groundswell coming.
Call Cuomo’s office: 518-474-8390, option 1 to leave a message or 2 to speak to staff.
Hey you guys voted him into office, now you got live with the liar!
I would say we all do – a lot of that going around!!
An interesting juxtaposition really. Two megalomaniac liars each from a different side of the isle…pick your poison I guess.
Deja Vu. This was how the ACR got the green light from the APA. Cuomo told the APA to give the go ahead, wasted a lot of peoples time and energy. Ignored all the expert testimony, ignored any local concerns about the proposed financing(PILOT) that would raise all the locals taxes. All for nothing as the ACR now sits ready to totally collapse under the weight of back Taxes, Mechanic Liens, Foreclosures and Fed Tax Liens. Instead of spending 10s of Millions on Whiteface, Gore and Frontier Town the state should put money in Big Tupper to get up and running again. That would actually help the local economy of Tupper Lake.
Yes – so it seems – tail wagging the dog.
And I assume that you two have some evidence that the governor is making these decisions and the agencies are just rubber stamping them. Please provide it to us.
The governor went public with his plans for the area before it was even purchased. You can research that yourself. Then, after the purchase, the APA was tasked (by law) to determine the final classification. This is nothing new, which you are certainly aware.
The problem now seems to be the APA DIDN”T rubber stamp his vision because they were shackled with obeying the existing SLMP law.
It isn’t an indictment of the administration or the APA. It is simply a functional problem of the bent/broken state constitution WRT land acquisitions.
The only way I see around this problem is to task the APA with advising the governor what the best classification plan would be BEFORE a purchase is made. But as we see, this is very time consuming. By the time an administration knows what a parcel contains, environmental and usage impact studies done, public comment, etc., etc., China could buy the property and could do as they wish with it.
If a large chunk of land like this comes up for sale, it is typically in a governor’s best interest to try to buy it. He has to give reasons why it is important and how it will be utilized before it is purchased. SOP. But the implementation is left up to APA & DEC, using the SLMP, and may not allow all facets of the governor’s vision. That is what I call tail wagging the dog.
It isn’t skulduggery or corruption, it is just an odd and inefficient way to plan for land acquisitions. Of course DEC and APA are going to try to accommodate ANY administration’s plans as best as possible. That is their job. But they can only do so much without amendments or waivers to the basic SLMP.
Just wanted to say thank you for the post above. It truly helps to better understand all of the confusion involved in the classification process of this parcel. – Justin
The thanks should go to TNC for acting as intermediary between NYS and sellers, thus allowing NYS to be able to get their ducks in a row and purchase these lands. As convoluted as our system is, we may have lost some of these recent acquisitions to private concerns without the help of TNC.
Think of the cost of BP alone. $14.5M. That isn’t a lot of money for that amount of land. Many private citizens could have easily snatched it up, let alone foreign or domestic extraction companies. While I don’t agree 100% with TNC’s advise to the Cuomo administration, they were certainly instrumental in placing the parcel(s) in public hands.
It is really interesting to see a gov who has overwhelmingly been in support of adding hundreds of thousands acres to the Forest Preserve and putting much of the land into Wilderness classification demonized as some kind of anti-environmental guy. This just flies totally in the face of the facts. But I agree let’s get the guy out of there so that he stops adding more land to the FP. Like Peter says it already has something for everybody. Let’s try and keep more of it in private hands where it has obviously been well protected and none of this is an issue.
I am glad to see Peter add that one last (long) sentence. No matter what they come up with in the end it will all be good.
Nice article but at this point it qualifies as fiction. No sources named nor has the APA specified the classification. Until that happens articles like this are merely done to stir the pot of wilderness advocates and keep them actively debating. Even after classification the UMP process must be undertaken to determine what, if any, camping or other uses can take place on the BP parcel. That is the time for this commentary to occur.
What is wrong with an active debate now?? It’s not like we are marching on the governor’s office with pitchforks. May as well sit back and relax – this is going to be a long process with a lot of debate. There will be facts and there will be fiction.
Nothing is wrong with debate, but lets debate what is actually occurring, not what is fiction or hypothetical.
The governor’s own State of the State materials specifically prioritizes building infrastructure at Boreas Ponds as part of a hut-to-hut network. Therefore this is hardly a fictional concern.
I LOVE IT! Give me more instead of less. Public lands are to used for more than just hiking. The air pollution from the couple of miles driven into the ponds from the main road doesn’t hold a candle to the pollution emitted when driving to Gulf Brook road in the first place. Look at all the cars and people at the Bog River Flow. The woods aren’t falling apart and the place is mobbed. Why not put a fence around all public lands and only allow people to look and take a picture. If you feel the need to not drive in then go ahead and hike it. No one is stopping you. Not everyone is under 50 and physically able to hike miles with equipment. OPEN IT UP.
Show me an actual classification and proposal. Not a reference to a political speech.
I, like the vast majority of commentators at the public hearings, feel that the best use for Boreas Ponds is to incorporate it into the High Peaks Wilderness with foot access only. IMO the distance to the pond from parking should be something like a half mile, allowing relatively easy access but forcing folks to make a deliberate commitment, hopefully discouraging the casual slobs and impede carrying excess baggage.
Hut to hut or yurt hiking/skiing is a great idea… for another section of the Park. The high Peaks area is already overused, putting something like that in an adjacent area seems short sighted. There are areas on the Western, Southern and Northern edges of the Park that are underutilized that would seem to be better suited to these ideas. Giving Cuomo the benefit of the doubt, I suspect he means well in trying to increase tourism in the area. But he seems to be channeling his inner Trump on this one, ignoring the experts and the majority of the citizens and forcing his limited personal perspective of how things should be.
Right again, Peter. Putting a couple of yurts at the dam will not create business opportunities for many, and will discourage numbers of visitors. And, such crumble-the-cookie ventures will siphon activity away from the North Hudson center, where it should be concentrated to provide a hub for hikers, canoeists. And, instead of cabins and yurts, provide transportation from that hub to Boreas Ponds, Essex Chain and other magnificent recreational opportunities in the area.
Its not just about business, it is also about allowing more taxpayers to use state owned land. Lets let more people use this property please.
It is open to everyone. If people can’t handle the effort it takes to make a mile long hike then maybe they don’t really care all that much. The elderly and infirm will likely understand the reality. Couch potatoes, tailgaters and people who feel entitled to bring tons of stuff and leave heaps of it behind can go somewhere that isn’t kept so pristine.
Not very caring or considerate of others. The obvious counter is that there are 22,000 acres on this property, all but 100 of which would be accessible only by hiking. Isn’t that enough? The hikers can easily distance themselves elsewhere if they want to.
Elitism at work in the statement. Land is for all. Common ground can be reached with consideration of others who also have a stake.
The land will be open to all regardless of classification. Demonizing the people seeking protection from motor vehicle access in a wilderness setting is the elitist act here. The true elitists are the people who want to drive into ‘wilderness’. Motorized access via CP-3 permits have always been on the table for those with limited access. Lets stop this BS and call a spade a spade.
If we want common ground to be found in this discussion, stop the name-calling, demonizing, and polarization. Find something we all agree upon – however small or inconsequential – and build upon that. If we want polarization and bitterness to continue unabated, then maintain the same tactics.
“Motorized access via CP-3 permits have always been on the table for those with limited access.”
Two questions: What Wilderness areas are open to motorized access by CP-3 permit holders, and what is the procedure for opening gates for them?
As I understand it, CP-3 permits would not be allowed in a Wilderness area (without a SLMP amendment) as motors are prohibited. But the final classification for BP would likely be a combination of Wild Forest and Wilderness. This means Gulf Brook Road could be gated anywhere by DEC which is where the CP-3 system can come into play. You can find more info here:
I guess I really don’t understand what “elitist” is. People having to actually put out an effort for a tangible benefit seems pretty mainstream to me. IMO having everyone be consciously responsible for everything they bring to a setting we all have a stake in keeping beautiful seems just plain practical. Are we at the point where anyone challenging instant gratification is “elitist”? I missed when that happened.
Very complex issue. The author uses the piece to explain why one size fits all doesn’t work. IMHO he has succeeded in just the opposite. Any politician is going to try to balance the desires of the public…thats their job. Personally I think there’s room for everyone to have something. The ultra conservationists will ultimately hurt their own cause by being so greedy. When you come to the bargaining table understanding that other people’s needs are relevant too you’re likely to have more success getting what you want.