The Adirondack Park Agency is considering a compromise that would protect the Boreas Ponds as “forever wild” Adirondack wilderness, along with other source waters of the Hudson River in the heart of the Adirondacks. The plan would also provide economic benefits to gateway communities.
If it is approved in its current form, and the buffer to the south of the Boreas Ponds is managed in a way that protects the ponds, this plan will respect the integrity and legacy of legal protections in the Adirondack Park while benefiting both wilderness and communities.
The Park Agency released the compromise plan on Thursday, for consideration at a special meeting scheduled for Feb. 1 and 2. The recommendation must first be approved by the agency’s board and then by the Governor.
National, statewide and local environmental advocates for the Adirondacks support adding the Boreas Ponds to the High Peaks Wilderness Area to realize a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create 280,000 acres of contiguous Wilderness. The Adirondack Council has been a co-leader of the BeWildNY Coalition’s Adirondack Wilderness Campaign, which began in 2015. This plan gets us most of the way to that goal.
We support Governor Cuomo’s goal to “leave (the Adirondack Park) even better than before for our children.” A wilderness plan for the Boreas Ponds protects pure waters, wild rivers and rare fragile wildlife habitat for future generations as part of the adjacent High Peaks Wilderness Area, as long as the approach to the ponds is managed properly.
Wilderness will provide the biggest economic boost for struggling gateway communities, and complement other state economic development initiatives focused on town centers and at the Northway’s Exit 29.
The Trump administration is attacking national parks, environmental laws, wilderness, and science. Governor Cuomo has stood up to the Trump administration. We stand with the Governor, his Department of Environmental Conservation, the Park Agency, local government officials, and other stakeholders on the right side of history, in support of Wilderness, the law, and communities.
The Adirondack Council’s goal in this effort was to stand up for science, and for the laws that require natural resource protections to be prioritized over recreational uses, and for honoring New York’s progressive tradition as a national leader.
This compromise, if approved, respects public opinion and most of what 12 upstate editorials support: a classification of Wilderness for the Boreas Ponds and careful controls of public use in a one-mile corridor to the south.
The compromise, which is widely supported by towns and some green groups, includes snowmobile, motorized and mechanized recreational opportunities on other new state lands that are less sensitive, less remote and more resilient.
National, state and Adirondack environmental advocates, representing millions of citizens, support the strongest Wilderness protections available for the Boreas Ponds. The Adirondack Council and a coalition of Adirondack, state, and national organizations under the banner of BeWildNY called for the Boreas Ponds, a full one-mile buffer to the south and thousands of acres along the Boreas River to the South to be included in a 30,000-acre expansion of the High Peaks Wilderness.
The proposal put forward Thursday is a compromise, with something for everyone to be happy with, and something for everyone to not like.
More than 80 percent of those who weighed in during the public comment process on the Boreas Ponds classification proposals advocated for wilderness, starting at least a mile from the ponds. More than 30,000 people of all backgrounds and political affiliations wrote the Governor and/or the APA or signed petitions, in support of a Wilderness classification for the Boreas Ponds.
The future of the state’s 20,500-acre Boreas Ponds tract has been the most hotly contested of more than 80 parcels and an estimated 54,418 acres that the state is classifying. It is a process that will determine the level of protection and types of recreation that will be permitted. Rejection of “forever wild” wilderness protections would endanger the Boreas Ponds and some of the state’s most important high-elevation forests and wetlands.
At times it had appeared that the debate would negatively impact other efforts in the Adirondacks to bring together stakeholders to work together as part of an Adirondack Common Ground movement. This compromise should reinforce efforts to build and sustain common ground.
The Adirondack Council joins with other stakeholders, including the towns, in calling on the Governor’s and Park Agency to approve the proposed classification compromise and protect the landscape’s rare and fragile features as wilderness, declaring it off-limits to motorized or mechanized recreation or other intensive uses. If approved by the Park Agency the proposal will go to the Governor.
Once approved by the Governor the Department of Environmental Conservation would prepare an amendment to the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest Unit Management Plan for the acres classified as Wild Forest, and an amendment to the High Peaks Wilderness Unit Management Plan to detail future management, parking lot locations, camp sites, trails and other details for all the new Wilderness lands included in the contiguous High Peaks/Dix Mountain Wilderness.
New York has a strong history of wilderness protection dating back to 1885 when it created the Adirondack Forest Preserve. For 45 years, the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan has guided how those wilderness areas will be managed. For more than a century, New York has protected its Adirondack and Catskill public lands under the Forever Wild Clause of the NYS Constitution. The clause bans logging, lease, sale or appropriation of public forests, or the destruction of their timber.
All Forest Preserve is “forever wild.” A small portion of the park’s most sensitive lands and waters are granted additional protection as wilderness, where motorized and mechanized travel is limited to powered wheelchairs only.
Photo: Willie at White Lily Pond, with Allen Mountain in background.