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.
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.