Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Siena Poll: NY Voters Favor Wilderness for Boreas Ponds

Photo by Phil Brown 2016. View of Gothics from Boreas Ponds.An overwhelming majority of New York voters want Gov. Andrew Cuomo to protect the newly purchased Boreas Ponds tract in the Adirondack Park by classifying it as a Wilderness Area where motorized vehicles and bicycles are prohibited, according to a poll by the Siena College Research Institute.

Those who favor a wilderness classification for Boreas Ponds outnumbered opponents of wilderness by 4.5-to-1 (67 percent to 15 percent), the poll found. Support came from all geographic areas and from across the entire political spectrum.

These are extremely positive results for wilderness advocates. They look even better when you consider that the state didn’t hold a single public hearing south of the Catskills on the classification of Boreas Ponds. Everyone in New York City, the lower Hudson Valley and Long Island had to make a special effort to learn about this issue.

The poll shows very clear voter support for wilderness at Boreas Ponds that goes far beyond the membership of environmental organizations. The law and the science were already on our side. Now we have an independent confirmation of strong public support too.

The poll of 791 registered voters was conducted from March 19 to 23. It had a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percent. The 20,500-acre Boreas Ponds tract is adjacent to the Adirondack Park’s High Peaks Wilderness Area in the towns of Newcomb and North Hudson in Essex County.

In addition, when asked whether a seasonal dirt road leading to the ponds should remain open to motor vehicles, voters polled by Siena sought closure of at least one mile of the road by a 2-to-1 margin. A third of those who expressed an opinion supported closing the entire road.

The Adirondack Council and Adirondack Mountain Club are leading a broad coalition of Adirondack, New York and national organizations, together representing millions of people, who have been urging Governor Cuomo’s Adirondack Park Agency to expand the High Peaks Wilderness by 30,000 acres. The BeWildNY Coalition’s plan would protect the Boreas Ponds and other adjacent lands and waters as Wilderness.

In addition, 12 editorials from upstate daily newspapers and magazines have urged the Governor to choose the wilderness classification compromise supported by these organizations and the BeWildNY campaign. Other advocates for Wilderness support an even larger wilderness. Advocates for new pubic motorized access oppose Wilderness protections for the Boreas Ponds.

Poll Details

The Siena Poll found that 64 percent of Republicans supported wilderness for Boreas Ponds with only 21 percent opposed – a 3-to-1 margin. Seventy percent of Democrats and “Independents/Others” support wilderness, with fewer than 18 percent opposed.

In terms of political views, conservative voters supported wilderness at a rate of 60 percent, while moderates showed 69 percent support and liberals 76 percent.

Geographically speaking, the Siena poll found that suburban voters supported wilderness by the widest margin, with 74 percent in favor and only 11 percent opposed. Upstate voters supported wilderness by 66 to 18 percent. New York City voters supported a wilderness classification by 64 percent, with 18 percent opposed to wilderness. Slightly more NYC voters had no opinion, at 19 percent.

Support was strong among younger age groups, with the 18-to-34 group and the 35-to-54 group supporting vs opposing wilderness at a rate of 73 to 16 percent and 72 to 14 percent respectively. Support for Wilderness including the Ponds and a buffer among voters age 55 and older was 63 to 18 percent.

In terms of overall engagement on Adirondack issues, 60 percent of voters said they pay “a great deal of attention,” or “some attention,” or “not very much” attention to laws and regulations affecting the Adirondack Park, with 39 percent stating they paid “none at all” to Adirondack issues.

We are very proud of our fight for Adirondack Wilderness, and how we’ve respected and made efforts to address the concerns of all while holding firm to our principles and the protection of the legacy of the Adirondacks. The Governor has been a national leader on environmental issues. If on this decision the Governor’s Adirondack Park Agency follows the science and law and the vast majority of public opinion as confirmed by the Sienna Poll, the state will do what is right and protect the Boreas Ponds inside an expanded High Peaks Wilderness. The alternative is unthinkable, and would forever compromise the integrity and wild character of this nationally significant landscape.

Photo of Gothics from Boreas Ponds by Phil Brown.

Related Stories

Willie Janeway is the Executive Director of the Adirondack Council, a privately funded, not-for-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park.

The Council envisions a park composed of large wilderness areas, surrounded by working farms and forests and vibrant, local communities.

The Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action. Council members and supporters live in all 50 United States.

75 Responses

  1. Scott says:

    Two thirds favor wilderness but only one third support closing the road. Confusing numbers. Is there any chance you can post what questions were asked ?

  2. Jim S says:

    I can’t believe that many people would oppose wilderness classification. Even with the strictest protection allowed this parcel of land is going to see more use than it has in history.

    • ScottyB says:

      Really? 100 years of industrial forest use some are light use?

      • Jim S says:

        They log an area and then it is left alone for years at a time. As forest preserve open to the public the number of people visiting will be and are already constant. Without strict protection I believe there is going to be a lot of opportunity for invasives and abuse.

        • ski doo says:

          left alone ?? are u kidding how many 4 wheelers and trucks from club members ,2,500 members in the polaris club. Left alone ,that land has NEVER been left alone false news .clubs ,camps ,clug houses , roads ,bridges

          • Paul says:

            This is absolutely true. It will be interesting to see if the number of visitors could surpass the traditional use even with a less restrictive classification.

  3. Bruce says:

    Polls, even when they agree with your own thinking, have to be taken with a grain of salt. I don’t believe political affiliation had any place in a poll about making Boreas Wilderness or not. The issue concerning road closure illustrates what Scott said: ‘we want motor accessible wilderness”.

    Is that an indication the folks who were polled, don’t really understand what is meant by the term Wilderness as defined by both state and federal statutes? If so, then that raises a question about the validity of the poll.

  4. Todd says:

    The article is very misleading, the author chooses to lump the response of “not very much attention” in with a “great deal” and “some”. The not very much attention is a nicer way to “none at all” or “don’t know”. The final question is confusing at best. If I was asked it on a cold call survey I would think they were asking if one mile around the ponds there should be no automobiles or bicycles, not really the same as a total wilderness classification. The article also mentions the state not holding a public hearing on classification south of the Catskills. I am almost certain I attended one at Bear Mountain State Park in Rockland County in December. I remember seeing Wilderness T-shirts so I had to be in the right place

    • John Sheehan says:

      No, you are mixing yes and no answers. Clearly, 60 percent of voters said yes when asked if they paid some attention to Adirondack issues.

      I would wager than even some of the “don’t know” answers were simply uncertain if the place they care about is inside the park or not.

      • Paul says:

        John, that is not accurate. Specifically 25% said that they paid “some” attention to Adirondack land use issues. It was specifically asked in the poll. And the largest portion – 39% – said none at all. Folks who answered “not very much” did not say that they paid “some” attention to these issues. Because apparently they didn’t. Why do you want to conflate that anyway? People need too start paying more attention or the park is in trouble.

        • John Sheehan says:

          “Not very much” and “some” are both yeses.

          The “yes” answers ranged from “a great deal” to “not very much,” but they were all affirmative responses. They pay some attention. Those three add up to 60 percent.

          Only “none at all” said they didn’t pay any attention. There were zero responses for “I don’t know.”

          • Paul says:


            “None at all” are yeses as well.

            Some is some and not very much is not very much.

            • John Sheehan says:

              No. The answer “none at all” is the only “no” category. If the question had been a simple yes or no answer, the response would have been 60 percent yes, 39 percent no.

              The “yes” answers were divided into shades of intensity, but none of them could be counted as a “no.”

              NCPR made the same mistake in its reporting on this.

  5. Ethan says:

    I am surprised at the nitpicking of the survey. Yes it could have been better–surveys always can– but it demonstrated the crucial point: broad public support for preservation of these lands. That is what we should all be focusing on–pressuring the governor to do the right thing here.

    • Bruce says:


      The headline was, “New York voters favor Wilderness for Boreas Ponds.”

      Few have suggested that the ponds not be protected; the controversy is over how much protection and how far out should that protection extend. if the purpose of the poll was to provide an ad-hoc answer to that question, it did not do that.

      Wilderness with a capital W by definition, is NO vehicular use. If the results of the survey had indicated just that, then there would have been a clear message. However, a majority of those surveyed also said to close the road a mile from the ponds, meaning we can drive or ride in to within a mile. That’s the Wild Forest part, and some of both is an option.

      I don’t understand what political affiliation had to do with Boreas Ponds at all.

  6. Tim-Brunswick says:

    I believe the “Sienna Pollsters”, among many others, also predicted that Hillary Clinton would win the Presidential election!

    I knew we were over- due for another “Wilderness” cheerleading session……

    Thank you

  7. Smity says:

    Accessible wilderness. I love it. Clearly, people don’t want the placed trashed with motorized recreation, but most want to be able to enjoy the experience with a reasonable amount of effort. A one-mile carry strikes me as about right. Wilderness purists may complain but really, only a very few very fit people with lots of time would make the seven mile carry. It’s good to see that the survey results cut across political divides. We need more of that.

  8. Jim Huss says:

    791 people were called? WOW!! stop the presses!

    What were the questions?

    “Do you want to protect this area or allow developers to come in and bulldoze all the trees and kill the baby deer?

    • ethan says:

      791 voters is more than enough for a statistically significant sampling; in this case with a margin of error of +/- 3.9%

      The questions are available on a link another commenter posted. The relevant question for your purposes:

      Q38. Do you support or oppose the state designating the part of the Tract including the ponds and a minimum one-mile buffer to the south of the ponds as a Wilderness area, where no public motorized uses or bicycles would be allowed?

      That seems pretty clear and unbiased to me. It clearly states one of the key impacts of Wilderness designation on public use (no motors or bikes).

      • Boreas says:


        Regarding question 38, I feel it is fair and unbiased for someone already familiar with the area. If this was a phone poll without the aid of maps and details, I would be hard pressed to answer with any conviction. It would be nice to see more details on how the poll was conducted.

  9. Paul says:

    Why does it say “Adirondack Council” at the top of the PDF with the poll results:

    That way that question is worded is kind of strange. It sound like 67% like the idea of designating “part” of the tract as wilderness. So they approve of the idea of the ponds being designated as a Wilderness and that it have reasonable access via a pretty long dirt road. In the end that is pretty close to what they are going to get.

    The road question was especially confusing. “six or fewer miles open”? Looks like the largest group of people “don’t know” or had no opinion. Most people didn’t want to close the whole road that is for sure.

    So I think in the end you get motor free ponds that are not too difficult to access and all the other fun stuff that comes with the tract.

  10. Paul says:

    It’s interesting. They asked people how much attention they pay to land use issues in the Adirondacks. The largest percentage in total (and across all income levels) answered – None at all. That is important context for the other questions.

    • Jim S says:

      Even people who don’t think much about it realize that there is a shortage of protected wilderness

      • Paul says:

        If you took some of those people to a place like the Saranac Lakes Wild forest or on a canoe trip down the East Branch of the St. Regis river in the Debar Mt. Wild Forest they would probably all think of that as well protected wilderness (with a small w).

        • Jim S says:

          Those areas certainly have a wilderness character, but I am afraid that however Boreas Ponds gets classified it is destined to be a much more visited area. That is why most people I know want Wilderness.

          • Paul says:

            More visited than the Saranac Lakes Wild Forest? No. The SLWF probably has more people in a weekend than BP’s would have in a year.

            • Jim S. says:

              Sorry, I haven’t been there.

              • Paul says:

                Never been to the SLWF? Man you gotta check it out its beautiful – 80,000 acres.

                • Jim S. says:

                  It’s now officially on the bucket list, thank you!

                • Jim S says:

                  Is the trail through the virgin forest on the way to Ampersand in the SLWF? If so, I have been and you are right. Absolutely pristine old growth!

                  • Paul says:

                    It is. I think that is probably just very old trees, maybe not virgin since there was a lot of logging in that area and a fire (that is why the top has such good 360 degree views). You should check out the big old hemlocks on the other side of the road on the trail out to the beach on Middle Saranac.

                    • Jim S says:

                      My favorite tree guru, the late Bruce Kershner labeled it virgin forest in his book “Ancient Forests of the Northeast ” published by the Sirr Club. It has more of a wilderness feel thn any place I have visited in the park.

          • ScottB says:

            “Afraid” …….Another one of these fake scare stories. See Essex ponds. I am getting really tired of fake scare politics. Made up stuff.

            • Boreas says:


              Are you saying the poll was made up?? Who are they trying to scare? Cuomo? I don’t think he scares easily.

              If you have any facts to support your claims, we would all like to see them.

  11. John Sheehan says:

    Keep in mind that 67 percent of 12.5 million registered voters supporting wilderness equates to 8.4 million voters overall.

    No candidate for statewide public office in any recent election has received more than 5.2 million votes (US Sen. Schumer’s total in 2016).

  12. James Marco says:

    Close the bloody road and hope everyone will forget about it. That is what it means to be wilderness, unused, untouched and unexploited. Leave it to our children. If you visit, leave no trace.

    • Paul says:

      You can do that but it may go a long way toward making this the last large addition to the Forest Preserve. If you want to do that – the right way to go about it is to be clear with the local towns when the state asked for their approval of the transaction.

      Say to them: NYS plans to classify all this land as Wilderness and close all road access to the property. Do you approve of the sale? My guess is the towns vote it down.

  13. Jim Huss says:

    YES, no access to handicapped or older citizens!

  14. Ben says:

    You polled 791 people & you make it seem like all of NY State wants wilderness. No a majority of a SMALL SMALL SMALL SMALL sample group want wilderness. Nothing more nothing less. And of theose 791 how many live in NYC or the surrounding counties?

    • aaargh says:

      It is, obviously, impossible to poll the entire state. Statistically, this is accurate to a margin of error of +/- 3.9%. If you want greater accuracy than that, you do have to poll more people. But in this case, you can extract plenty of meaning from within that margin of error. So you can safely say that were you to poll the whole state, somewhere between 63 and 71% of respondents would support a Wilderness designation.

      A random telephone survey like this you would expect NYC and the surrounding areas to account for the same proportion of poll respondents as their proportion of the state’s population.

      Finally, last time I checked, the vote of someone from NYC counts just as much as the vote of someone from upstate. It’s EVERYONE’S state. And we all share in matters such as this. I don’t see upstate residents arguing that they themselves shouldn’t get a vote on, say, a ballot measure to support downstate mass transportation — of course they should, it’s their state too. So downstaters too get to vote on matters affecting them upstate. And Boreas Ponds affects everyone. Let’s hope Cuomo has the guts to do what’s right and make it Wilderness

      • Ben says:

        I doubt many NYC residents can even identify where the Adirondacks are. Go ask a NY’er what they did for the weekend & they may say they went upstate, when you ask where, they’ll tell you Westchester County! Yep NYC folks really know a lot about the upstate area.

    • Jim Huss says:

      Ben you have it exactly. People that lie within the blue line should be able to control their own neighborhood.

      I like it when people call me names, it indicates that they have acknowledged they lost the argument/discussion.

      • Boreas says:

        “People that lie within the blue line should be able to control their own neighborhood.”

        Can’t disagree there, but neighborhoods are not state land. On public land paid for by NYS taxpayers, it is a different matter.

    • Paul says:

      40% from NYC and 25% from the NYC suburbs and 35% “upstate”. Ben to answer your question 65%.

  15. Paul says:

    It’s a fair sample size but can you extrapolate this form these results?

    “An overwhelming majority of New York voters”

    Anyone remember what some of the polls were telling us last fall?

    This is a pretty good deal. Not sure how much some of this polling costs the Council but Sienna College then gives you some good links from the college website to the Councils website.

    I can only find information on the last three questions. What were the first 35 questions.

    • John Sheehan says:

      They are political questions Siena was asking voters on topics unrelated to the Adirondacks. This poll was a three-question survey completed at the same time as the college’s monthly political polling.

      • Paul says:

        Thanks. Since 67% of the people pay little or no attention (mostly no) to Adirondack land use issues I don’t think that I would correlate the answer to these other questions with 12.5 million NYS voters.

        The fact that so many people pay no attention to land use issues in the Adirondacks does not bode well for the future preservation of the forest preserve.

  16. Paul says:

    This one is a classic from the Council’s site:

    “In terms of overall engagement on Adirondack issues, 60 percent of voters said they pay “a great deal of attention,” or “some attention,” or “not very much” attention to laws and regulations affecting the Adirondack Park, with 39 percent stating they paid “none at all” to Adirondack issues.”

    Lumping the folks who “pay a great deal of attention” in with those that pay “not much attention”. Is that supposed to make the fact that most people pay little or no attention to land use issues in the Adirondacks look like a good thing. Come on, that’s a ridiculous way to look at poll numbers.

    That would be like saying there is one group who love, like, or hate -insert your favorite political character – and the other group despises the person.

  17. Dan says:

    Do those polled who said they want wilderness know there’s plenty of it by some folk’s standards in all of the APA’s plans, including Alt 1 & 2? There just happens to be some Wild Forest too. Something tells me that most who answered this survey don’t know the difference. That should’ve been the first question. It would be interesting to see if there would be any variation of opinions among those who do know the difference compared to those who don’t. I say this not out of criticism, but out of curiosity.

    • Boreas says:


      I agree. I think the methodology was flawed since it would seem that the language used requires the respondents to know a fair amount about geographic location of the tract and knowledge of APA definitions and requirements.

      10 people can look at statistics or polling data and come up with 10 different conclusions.

      • Paul says:

        The questions are wacky. The “six or fewer” one is bizarre. What does that even mean? On 38 I bet the vast majority had no idea what they were even being asked.

        • Boreas says:

          Agreed. I think it should have been kept simpler. Especially if it was cold-calling on the phone.

  18. Justin Farrell says:

    Just curious…Did this survey happen to ask anyone how they felt about the current existing gates as a potential Wilderness boundary?

  19. Terry says:

    I fish in Deer flow off Rt 30 and see 1 car at the access
    I fish in Osgood pond in Paul Smiths and really see more than 2 cars in the lot
    Moose pond in Bloomingdale will have up to 6 cars in the lot but you rarely see anyone else on the water as they are at a campsite or have walked in.
    The ponds will see little use even if you can drive up to them

    • Boreas says:

      Add a snowmobile connector trail, access trails to the High Peaks, handicap accessibility, camping areas, biking opportunities, paddling, fishing, sightseeing, hut-to-hut hiking and infrastructure, and a new state-supported campground visitor center nearby – then you will see why some of us are concerned.

  20. Robert Corbett says:

    I am all for prohibiting motorized vehicles and I guess bicycles, but I wonder just what use will be allowed in this area. Will a wall/ fence be put around it and nobody will be allowed in except the DEC police? I have lived up here, Schuyler Falls, for over 50 years. My family has used the Adirondacks for skiing, hiking, camping etc. for many years. My children are now taking their children into the Adirondacks to enjoy what it has to offer. As an amateur radio operator I still get out providing health and welfare radio coverage for the 90 mile canoe race and other activities. Am I to belive that all outdoor activities in the Adirondacks will curtailed or even stopped in the future?

    • Boreas says:


      I don’t really now what you are getting at. Has the state put up barriers on any state land? If they did, it wouldn’t be public land. A barrier to motor vehicles is not a barrier to the activities you have enjoyed for years.

  21. Chuck Parker says:

    Along the line of thinking that the ends do not justify the means, much has been stated in this article that are an opinion at best and not based on facts as the author would like us to believe. A Siena survey paid for by The Adirondack Council with questions asked that would seem to support a desired results rather than true public opinion, is of little value. Many comments already stated by others seem to question the real value of the Siena Survey. May I recommend that you read a Press Release Dated April 11th by the Adirondack Towns and Villages and Access the Adirondacks for a different point of view on the survey.
    At best as the April 11th press release states the Siena Survey does seem to be a misguided survey

    • Todd Eastman says:

      Chuck, I assume you distrust proven polling techniques and perhaps science in general…

      … unless it fits your agenda…

      • Chuck Parker says:

        There is the old saying garbage in = garbage out. Proper polling methods will yield valid results. This survey left a lot of base information out. I do not believe proven polling techniques were used here. If you read the initial release from the Adirondack Council from a objective point of view you should see obvious flaws from the Adirondacks Councils own publication. Couple that with the press release mentioned in my initial comment, you would be kidding yourself to say there were no flaws in this survey I don’t care what side of the fence you are on. Believe me, I would question the validity of any survey or poll, even the ones I highly support, if the information, similar to the Siena Survey we are talking about, was left out or the information included was cherry pick from other relevant information.

    • Boreas says:

      I would agree there are some issues with the wording and methodology used looking at these two questions within the survey. But I don’t think I can comment on how “misguided” the poll was without reviewing the entire list of questions and methodology. It appears to me that the questions relating to Boreas Pond were only a small part of the poll. My understanding is that the poll asked a variety of questions about state lands and usage, but I have not been able to find a complete list of all of the questions polled. Anybody have a link to this info? Willie – any help here?

      • John Sheehan says:

        The polling link is all over this comments section. There were only 3 questions asked on behalf of the Adirondack Council. The rest were part of Siena Research Institute’s normal monthly polling on political and social issues. We have no idea what the topics were that Siena asked voters about before or after the three questions we asked them to poll.
        Here is the link to the three questions:

        • Boreas says:


          Yes, I read that the first time it was posted. But it says nothing of methodology, which was my point. To pass scientific scrutiny, more about the methodology of the entire poll. Simply teasing out the Council’s 3 specific questions doesn’t show us how the entire poll was conducted, hence the statistical results are subject to this type of criticism. That’s all I am trying to say.

    • Boreas says:

      “A Siena survey paid for by The Adirondack Council with questions asked that would seem to support a desired results rather than true public opinion, is of little value.”

      True. But so far, it is the only attempt at a public poll I have seen. It is tough to do a public poll without first educating the public thoroughly on the subject being polled. But then, who does the ‘educating’?

      Polls are inherently biased based on the understanding of the population being polled. Most of us here are extremely familiar with BP and the politics surrounding the classification controversy. We are the exceptions. I doubt most people in NYS know ANYTHING about the BP acquisition. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have an opinion or a say in the outcome. Indeed, they may answer poll questions based more on ideology than practicality, but their answers are just as valid in a democracy. But if a person in Jamestown or Staten Island feels the state should be charged with protecting the land they helped pay for by limiting motor vehicle access, then why not hear them out? Public comment meetings on BP were somewhat restricted to people in the area and not statewide. But the email/mail-in comments to the APA were not restricted. This type of poll is just another tool, not a solution.

      • Paul says:

        I think this kind is also biased toward people who use land lines and are crazy enough to answer the phone when they don’t know who is calling! And also are willing to answer 38 questions! “This will just take a few minutes of your time!”.. right!

  22. Jim Huss says:

    “An overwhelming majority of New York voters want Gov. A….”

    This is the issue, it is biased writer using one limited poll to write a dramatic introduction to capture readers.

    This happened recently in the social media area, an article where they say “President Trump was going to allow bear cubs to be shot in the den”.

    NO, it was that the Alaskan dept of fish and game would be able to regulate hunting on federal lands.

    This is how fake news starts.

    • John Sheehan says:

      I don’t see what Trump or Alaska’s game laws have to do with this.

      Polls like this are used routinely to understand what voters want.

      Calling it fake or biased — because you don’t like the answers — doesn’t make it fake or biased.

    • Boreas says:

      Jim Huss,

      This is why we all must be critical readers of media. The sentence you refer to ends with the qualifier “… according to a poll by the Siena College Research Institute.” It is no different than any small print on an advertisement or a contract. According to the poll, the statement is technically correct, based on what the author deems an “overwhelming majority”.

      Polls are merely a statistical tool. How the data is used is up to the person or persons interpreting it. There is no fake news (intentional lies) going on here – it is simply an interpretation of the data that shows bias toward wilderness just as Access’s retort was biased in a different direction refuting it. Biased reporting has gone on as long as humans have been able to speak. We all need to keep or BS detectors turned on at all times.

  23. Jim Huss says:

    Yup it’s about sensationalizing to gather a headline. One small poll asking people about something they know absolutely nothing about.

    The Alaska reference is because it got a whole bunch of people upset about the slaughter of the baby bears, headline created to get clicks and readers.

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