Friday, February 2, 2018

APA Decision Leaves Road To Boreas Ponds

labier flow

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.

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39 Responses

  1. Summertop says:

    ATV’s and Snowmobiles within a quarter mile of the ponds will ruin the wilderness aspect. Anyone who has had to share the woods with these noise (and air) polluters knows this. It’s a shame to see Protect the Adirondacks and the ADK support this decision. There are plenty of other places in the Adirondack Park to recreate with motors, this is a real missed opportunity. I could have supported a plan where southern portion of the parcel be Wild Forest but motorized access should have been limited to a further distance from the ponds themselves.

    • Jim S. says:

      I donate to both groups you mention and I must add that I am extremely disappointed with their apparent lack of commitment to protect the ponds

    • Aaron says:

      Yeah, it’s a real shame people who recreate differently than you can now find enjoyment there, too. The ponds themselves are protected but OF COURSE that’s not enough for some.

      • Jamie says:

        The ponds themselves aren’t protected from the garbage that will surely follow the snowmobilers and car campers who carry in their cases of beer. It’s like having a 10 foot square non-smoking area in a bar that is surrounded by people smoking.

      • Summertop says:

        I guess you like the sounds of ATV’s and snowmobiles when you’re out in the woods? If so, there are lots of pretty places to go in the Park where you can hear them as you enjoy whatever it is you like to do. I admit that I prefer to be in the woods or on the water without the noise. The APA had an opportunity to truly protect the ponds but chose to ignore public input which is a shame.

      • Bob Meyer says:

        There is WAY MORE Forest Preserve in the Adirondacks where you can recreate with all your legal motorized equipment. But, heaven forbid those of us who want to recreate without the noise, exhaust and omnipotent presence of the internal combustion engine get at least the compromise the APA approved. I bet if it were up to you, there would be motorized access everywhere possible on all Forest Preserve lands. That’s why wilderness advocates have to be constantly vigilant.

    • Scott says:

      Where did ATVs come from ? Despite that DEC will not remove ATVs from their definition of motor vehicle in their regulations, as a result of case law, and since 2004, DEC does not have UMPs permitting ATV operation on DEC roads or trails.

  2. Paul says:

    25,000 acres – enough for even two new Wilderness areas if it wasn’t contiguous with the HPW. The McKenzie Mt Wilderness has big roads right next to it and you really never see all these “keg parties” and other such nonsense going on there. Maybe this will be more raucous?

  3. Michael Ames nys licensed guide says:

    I think this the right decision because the ponds will be able to be accessed by everyone and not just the pyhsicially fit. I live in the Adirondacks and I am a senior citizen and will be able to use ponds for recreation

    • Balian the Cat says:

      This is a general comment, Michael and I am not taking aim at you or your post:

      I think it very interesting that local (adks) and national wild lands dialog has (d)evolved to where “physically fit” is a subgroup – often with a negative connotation.

      • Aaron says:

        I think it’s obvious why the label is starting to stick when it comes to matters of interest group overreach that directly impacts the economic health of areas of the Park outside the NYS 73/9 corridor. I would argue YOU guys have more than enough “wilderness” (whatever that actually means) to enjoy and it’s high time other forms of recreation be folded into the mix. The demographics are not favorable to communities in this area and we need to countenance the idea that appealing to a wider demographic who might not be interested in lung-busting traverses, rock/ice climbing, skiing, or multi-day treks is necessary in the High Peaks region and its foothills.

        • Boreas says:

          Since when did walking become a special interest? I maintain people who wish to drive anywhere they wish would be the special interest group. And we wonder why the rest of the world calls us ‘lazy Americans’. It is no wonder you don’t know the actual meaning of “wilderness”.

    • Westernedge says:

      Michael,I agree! I am deeply passionate about our Adirondack Park, have summered there for close to forty years, have instilled the capacity for “awe and wonder” in the next generation, but am now approaching my mid-Seventies. How grateful I am for the notion that the the ponds (whose story I followed diligently) will now be accessible to my senior friends and me after all! Thank you to all who made this “fair and just decision” possible.

  4. Bob Meyer says:

    In my opinion, having been to the ponds and surrounding lands, there should at least be a bigger buffer between permitted motorized use and the ponds themselves.
    Even the dam at the outlet of the flow would be a better place.

    • Paul says:

      They can set it up any way they want with the UMP. Including what you suggest.

      I, not like many commenters here, trust the folks at the DEC that are actually trained and experienced in wild lands management (including all the scientists that they have on staff and that work with them through the TNC via the natural heritage program, who have studied these parcels for years), to manage the parcels including access under the restrictions laid out by the classification.

      People that are lobbying here for this or that tend to leave out details like the fact that the TNC (via this program I describe above with the DEC) have done many of the scientific surveys that people, including some of these environmental groups, are asking for. The DEC is well informed on what these parcels can and cannot withstand as far as impact.

      If the TNC isn’t critical of these decisions that probably tells you something. Pretty much everyone else on the outside is just speculating without any facts.

  5. geogymn says:

    Missed opportunity by some short sighted individuals.

  6. Charlie S says:

    Paul says: “…the DEC that are actually trained and experienced in wild lands management (including all the scientists that they have on staff and that work with them through the TNC via the natural heritage program, who have studied these parcels for years)”

    Like the new head of the EPA Scott Pruitt is trained and experienced in protecting the environment hey Paul!

    • Paul says:

      Yes Charles we can’t trust the government to do anything? Or should we only trust them when they agree with us?

  7. Jim S. says:

    There were very few outstanding remote lakeside campsites in the High Peaks Wilderness before this decision. There are very few outstanding remote lakeside campsites in the High Peaks Wilderness since this decison. I believe the area would be a much bigger lure of people and money from outside of the immediate area if the road wasn’t there.

  8. Kathy says:

    Well this senior is happy to have visited with a canoe to these ponds before it becomes a popular tourist destination. A big part of the attraction and beauty was the remote location and near absence of people. Not sure it will have the same appeal for me if there is to be a flurry of bikes ,tents,and boats, people and noise. I was for the interim gate at 3.5,5 miles and special permit to drive closer for those who were physically unable to make the hike only.

  9. Bob D. says:

    The demographic fact of life is that baby boomers are now approaching their 70s and represent a large voting and spending block. But only a small percentage of them will be interested in long distance mountainous hikes.
    So if this area is not to become another lightly-used country club, access for this growing demographic is logical.

    • geogymn says:

      I’m not so sure about baby boomers desiring access over legacy. Age engenders wisdom, which alters perspective and foments transcendence. Methinks.

  10. Boreas says:

    I feel that an important note that is often overlooked in these discussions is NOT the comparison of Wilderness vs. Wild Forest acreages, but the number of forests, ponds, lakes, rivers, etc. that are available throughout the Park, let alone throughout all state lands in NYS. There is no real comparison to the NUMBER of state assests that are available to vehicles vs. assets that are not.

    Look at a Google Maps view of the state or the Park and look at the huge number of assets that ARE available to vehicles, then look at areas designated as Wilderness where vehicles simply aren’t allowed. You can zoom out even further to look at the entire eastern part of the country. Those wilderness areas start to really shrink – barely visible. Now you will begin to see why people advocating for Wilderness classification, or at least, motorless areas, fight with such tenacity to obtain more. Wilderness is a very rare commodity – becoming rarer around the planet as our population continues to explode.

  11. Boreas says:

    On a separate note:

    What I would like based on the new classification scheme, would be for the DEC to adopt an UMP protocol for BP similar to this: Using the existing MAPPWD policy, keep the gate at the current interim point or even closer to the highway. Keep the roads on both side of the gate reasonably well maintained (seasonal?). Allow vehicle access past the gate only for people with disabilities and veterans with disabilities – including PTSD.

    Why only this group? This allows an EXTREMELY rare opportunity for these individuals to actually visit, camp, and enjoy an experience that is as close as you can get to ‘wilderness’ on state lands. Call it a Veterans Appreciation Retreat if you wish. They wouldn’t have the place to themselves, but they would have reserved, accessible tent platforms, or possibly some sort of (gasp) leanto structure accessed from the remote parking area by the boardwalks and ramps already suggested by the state. Another possibility would be reserved motorless watercraft available for these individuals who may be able to use them. What they wouldn’t have is a diluted wilderness experience that full vehicular access would allow. I would think the citizens of NYS would be happy to grant these individuals this unique opportunity.

  12. Tim-Brunswick says:

    Hooray for more access!

    By now it’s more than obvious that the “wilderness only” folks could never be satisfied and it’s a wonder to me that there was even an effort by the APA/Governor to do so. Disabled Vets and mobility handicapped people and all the other groups that aren’t as healthy/physically fit to hike the miles to actually see the ponds will now get a shot at enjoying “their” Adirondacks…this can’t be bad.

    The above baloney about people trashing the ponds, etc., etc., ATV use and blah, blah. blah is way overplayed for dramatic effect. For crying out loud the High Peaks “Wilderness” Trails and peripheral areas are trashed daily during the summer season. Before long you’ll need to make a reservation to hike up Marcy!

    The 11,412 acres classified as “wilderness” by the APA is simply a well intentioned effort to “create” wilderness from acreage that for over a 100 years has been criss-crossed with logging roads, heavy equipment various support structures and will take another 100 years to somewhat recover and resemble true wilderness.

    • Adirondack Gal says:

      Thank you Tim, we’ll said.

    • Boreas says:

      “For crying out loud the High Peaks “Wilderness” Trails and peripheral areas are trashed daily during the summer season.”

      And they are only hiking – no vehicles. What will be the outcome at BP when people don’t have to haul stuff in & out by foot? “Dramatic effect”? I think you made our point for us.

      • Tim-Brunswick says:

        I rarely “look back” or engage in endless debate after I’ve commented, but I made a bet with my wife that “Boreas” would have something to say, as he does about everything…… thank you very much Boreas….I just won $5.00!

        Have a gracious good day!!

    • James Marco says:

      Tim-Brunswick: The 100 years of “The 11,412 acres classified as “wilderness” by the APA is simply a well intentioned effort to “create” wilderness from acreage that for over a 100 years has been criss-crossed with logging roads, heavy equipment various support structures and will take another 100 years to somewhat recover and resemble true wilderness.” is only the start. It will likely take 200 years to repair all the damage caused by ” logging roads, heavy equipment various support structures.” This is NO, I repeat NO REASON for not beginning this long term multi generational process.

      “For crying out loud the High Peaks “Wilderness” Trails and peripheral areas are trashed daily during the summer season.” Point made. This is exactly why people and the amount of visitation are such a real problem in the ADKs. But, this only applies to the High Peaks.

      ” Before long you’ll need to make a reservation to hike up Marcy!” A GOOD idea for any wilderness area. Maine (the state) practices reservation only camping at Baxter Park…it works.

      ” Disabled Vets and mobility handicapped people and all the other groups that aren’t as healthy/physically fit …” Well I am semi-disabled. I have back injuries that required a year, flat on my back to correct to “usability.” I am a bit on the fat side and have poor physical fitness. Yet I manage to get out 60 nights per year, somewhere in the ADKs. Do NOT presume to speak for ME. I am also of the elderly crowd and manage to drag my canoe over long distances, even if it requires a short nap between points A and B because I am weak.

      “Hooray for more access!” I agree 100%. As long as that access does not include roads, mechanized vehicles(wheelchairs, HC access excepted,) bikes, ATVs, and assorted other cheats. You want a true wilderness experience? WORK for it. Not ride your Cady onto a dirt road and camp at some “deep woods” access site where you can dump garbage in the local garbage pit. NOT COOL!

  13. James Marco says:

    Having been to Lake Lila, Low’s Lake and several others that provide access by motorized vehicles (especially snowmobiles/hunting parties,) I have learned to really dislike any sort of mechanized traffic. The garbage I have hauled out, the state of the camps after I get there, and the disrespect of the lands (chopped down trees for example) only scratches the surface. But, I agree with Boreas. Close the gate at the current parking area and only let disabled people access the road beyond it with any type of mechanized traffic. For some, this is sort of a cop-out to good wilderness practices, but I don’t care.

    Almost anyone can access wilderness areas. My father walked into a lake at age 78 for some canoeing. Age, being a bit weak, only means slowing down. Instead of 20mi/day we did about 5-7. It takes more time.

    Time is what all the people are worried about. If it takes an extra hour or two to hike into someplace, that is far enough to keep them from hauling in stuff they will NOT haul out. ALL glass in Wilderness, Primitive and Wild Forests really needs to be outlawed. I am sure the DEC is fairly disappointed with this crap, too. Rangers are a bit stricter of course, but figure the odds for running into an actual ranger. I have run into 2 outside of the High Peaks in the past 50 years.

  14. Mary Kuykendall says:

    My concern is keeping motorized vehicles out of the Boreas Ponds area…not just ATV’s and motorcyles in the summer but also during the winter with snowmobiles and dirt bikes with spikes on them having easy access (it may be illegal but that doesn’t seem to stop them from trespassing). I live on Ballston Lake and those with noisy vehicles spilling fumes in the lake seem to not care that others can’t enjoy peaceful uses of the lake like swimming and paddling which disturbs no one. In fact, a couple of the idiotic winter dirt bikers even set fire to a beaver lodge here. There is no excuse for such a lack of respect for fellow man and nature.

    • Tom Payne says:

      Oh the lack of respect runs through all user groups. Beer parties and keggers in Wilderness designated areas. Trash and human waste left along hiking trails. Trail destruction and illegal trail development of hiking trails. Yes, disrespect runs through all user groups.

  15. common sense says:

    Best hope now is that road is gated near its current summer location and access to ponds for all physical fitness levels provided by horse, horse and wagon, and bicycle. Access using this model has worked well for Santanoni. It would be a win win for all concerned, keeping the ponds remote and quiet but accessible to all. I hope that is the DEC plan.

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