The Adirondack Park Agency today approved the Boreas Ponds as the State’s newest Wilderness lands in the Adirondack Forest Preserve. The APA approved the classification of 11,400 acres around Boreas Ponds, and nearly 15,000 acres of other lands bordering the High Peaks as Wilderness. The Governor issued a statement following the decision saying he would sign the classification package.
Public motor vehicle use could be as close as .1 mile to the shoreline of Boreas Ponds. Under this classification, the Gulf Brook Road may be retained as a Forest Preserve road open to bicycles and motor vehicles and used as a snowmobile trail. The Wilderness area around the Boreas Ponds limits public uses to canoes, kayaks or rowboats, hiking, cross-country skiing and camping.
A plan for public uses on these newly classified lands will be determined through Unit Management Plans (UMPs). The Wilderness lands around the Boreas Ponds will be added to the High Peaks Wilderness and the Wild Forest lands will be added to the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest area.
Both UMPs are expected to be revised in the summer of 2018 and there has already been widespread discussion of merging the Dix and High Peaks Wilderness Areas to create a single, more than quarter-million acre Wilderness Area.
The decision caps a process that started with the State’s purchase of 69,000 acres of lands, from 2012-2016, from The Nature Conservancy. The lands the State purchased were part of 161,000 acres of Finch, Pruyn & Company lands (and others) purchased by the Conservancy in 2007. About 90,000 acres of the original 161,000 was sold with conservation easements to timber management companies and other buyers, including some local towns.
APA’s decisions today affected 33 State Land classifications (50,827 acres), 11 State Land reclassifications (132 acres), and 56 map corrections (1,949 acres). The Agency Board voted 8-1 to accept the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and to recommend the Boreas Ponds Tract Preferred Alternative 2B to Governor Cuomo for his final consideration. The Board voted 10-0 in a separate resolution to recommend classification of 99 other parcels of State Land.
What follows is APA’s description of the Boreas Ponds Tract classifications:
The Boreas Ponds parcel, located in the Towns of Newcomb and North Hudson, Essex County, include a vast diversity of low and high elevation habitats. These habitats support an exceptional array of plants and animals and include boreal habitats which are critical to several species of northern birds at the southern extent of their range, found nowhere else in the State.
The centerpiece of the tract is the Boreas Ponds. Other outstanding ecological features include seven unspoiled waterbodies, 27 miles of pristine streams, 1,800 acres of high value wetlands including the State’s largest high elevation peatland – the 1,200 acre Marcy Swamp. There are three named peaks over 2,000 feet: Boreas Mountain (3,776 feet), Moose Mountain (2,700 feet), and Ragged Mountain (2,677 feet). Based on its natural resources the Boreas Ponds Tract has the potential for strong resiliency to climate change impacts and is a key parcel on the local and regional scale for ecological connectivity.
The Boreas Ponds classification includes:
11,412 acres of Wilderness
9,118 acres of Wild Forest
11 acres of Primitive
2 acres of State Administrative
The 11,412-acre Wilderness Area will protect the pristine water bodies, intact fishery, high value wetlands, and the rare, threatened and endangered plants. Three rare, threatened or endangered species are present. Species of Special Concern including the Bicknell’s Thrush, Common Loon, Moose and Northern Bog Aster depend on the critical habitat of this special area.
The Boreas Wilderness Area will also establish a new remote paddling experience that is within reasonable access to the general public. In addition, it abuts to the north the High Peaks Wilderness Areas. These newly classified wilderness lands will create a contiguous wilderness zone in the heart of the Adirondack Park which will rival in size national parks such as Rocky Mountain National Park, Mount Rainier National Park and Zion National Park. In addition, this new southern access will help disperse visitation within the High Peaks Wilderness Area. It will also enhance the Park’s appeal across the United States, as well as internationally.
The 11-acre Primitive Area will allow the Department of Environmental Conservation to reach and maintain the dam on the southern end of the Boreas Ponds.
The 9,118-acre Wild Forest area includes lands 500 feet north of Gulf Brook and Boreas Ponds Roads, the roads themselves, and the land south of the roads. These lands will be added to the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest. This area will extend east to Elk Lake Road, encompassing Gulf Brook, Ragged Mountain and The Branch River, a designated study river under the Wild Scenic and Recreational Rivers System Act. Given the land’s ability to withstand a higher degree of recreational use, these areas are appropriate for a wider array of recreational activities including motorized and mechanized use.
The Wild Forest Corridor includes Boreas Ponds Road north of the Four Corners and an abandoned landing 0.1 of a mile from the Boreas Ponds dam. The classification will allow for dam maintenance by the Department of Environmental Conservation.
Reactions to the decision will be posted here as they come in:
“The High Peaks Wilderness was expanded by 25,000 acres today. That’s a historic accomplishment. The Boreas Ponds and 11,000 acres around them was classified as Wilderness and that too is a great accomplishment,” said Peter Bauer, Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks. “Since 1970, the Adirondack Forest Preserve has seen an expansion of lands classified as Wilderness, Primitive and Canoe from 1,072,000 acres to 1,210,000 acres, roughly a growth of 138,000 acres in nearly 50 years. Over 25,000 acres was added by the Adirondack Park today at its meeting. Clearly, gaining new Wilderness lands in the Adirondacks is always challenging, always difficult, always hard. This puts into perspective the accomplishment of the APA to expand Wilderness in the Adirondack Forest Preserve by 25,000 acres,” said Peter Bauer.
APA Chairman Chairman Craig said, “The Boreas Ponds classification is a generational opportunity to find harmony for wilderness solitude, backcountry recreation and appropriate public access to a stunningly wild place. Our action prioritized natural resource protection and ensures people of all abilities and interests may experience the sense of wonder and discovery which are the defining characteristics of the Adirondack Park. We respectfully extend our utmost appreciation to Governor Cuomo for his efforts to secure this historic acquisition. The Finch transaction, in its entirety, reflects a careful and thoughtful balance of many different points of view. These interests were well-represented throughout the public discourse on this momentous classification which protects the environment and supports the economy of the Park. We now welcome this opportunity to forward our recommendations to Governor Cuomo for his concurrence.”
“The classification of the Boreas Ponds demonstrates Governor Cuomo’s continuing commitment to protect New York’s peerless natural resources while making these resources available to the public and linking public lands to enhance the economies of local communities,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “DEC is poised to take the next step in managing the Boreas Ponds in a manner that protects and preserves the solitude and sensitive natural resources while ensuring Adirondack Park communities and visitors can enjoy the premier recreation opportunities offered by these lands. I applaud the APA and DEC teams who worked tirelessly to get this done and sincerely appreciate the efforts of communities in the Five Town region and our environmental partners who came together to help achieve the balance demonstrated in this classification.”
APA Executive Director Terry Martino said, “I extend a sincere thank you to everyone who participated in this monumental State land classification process. The public engagement was inspirational and informative to Agency staff who worked diligently on this transformational classification package. We eagerly look forward to working with our colleagues at the Department in their development of unit management plans that will ultimately implement Governor Cuomo’s vision of natural resource protection, community connectivity and recreational access.”
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo released the following statement: “The Adirondack Park is a national treasure, and the acquisition of the Boreas Ponds tract represented a landmark expansion to conserve the region’s natural beauty and create new economic opportunities for communities in the park. I applaud the Adirondack Park Agency for approving a classification for the Boreas Ponds Tract that strikes the right balance between preservation and access, and I commend the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and The Nature Conservancy for their efforts to protect this critical area. The classification allows for multiple access points and recreational opportunities while preserving the unparalleled natural resources of the Park, something for which local governments and advocates can be proud. I look forward to signing this classification in the coming weeks, and I encourage visitors from around the world to travel to the region and enjoy all that it has to offer.”
Photo: LaBier Flow in the Boreas Ponds Tract by Gerry Lemmo.