Thursday, June 28, 2018

Adirondack Wild Calls For Wilderness Permit Systems

adirondack wildAdirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve is calling on the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and NYS Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to institute wilderness permit systems for the Eastern High Peaks and the new Boreas Ponds gateway to the Wilderness “in order to reduce and prevent human recreational overuse of a highly vulnerable and limited Wilderness resource.”

A press release issued by Adirondack Wild follows:

In a Comment Letter [pdf]  about the DEC’s proposed amendments to unit management plans (UMP) for the High Peaks Wilderness and adjoining Vanderwhacker Wild Forest, the group noted that the 1999 High Peaks Wilderness UMP, approved by the APA, called on the DEC to work with stakeholders and “develop the structure and implementation process” for a permit system. That management directive was never carried out.

Adirondack Wild also notes that the DEC and APA have been recommending use of permits to slow or avoid destruction of the area’s wilderness resources and character for over forty years.

A Wilderness permit system similar to ones used in places within the National Wilderness Preservation System would institute controls on the number of hikers per day and/or overnight in specific, heavily impacted areas. To do otherwise, says Adirondack Wild, would violate the State Land Master Plan’s requirements that Wilderness have “outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation,” and that Wilderness be managed to “preserve, enhance and restore…natural conditions.”

DEC is familiar with permit systems, notes the group, as the agency has just instituted a permit system to better control public use at a popular but heavily impacted part of the Catskill Forest Preserve known as the “blue hole” on Roundout Creek.

“There is little question that indirect measures and educational efforts, while helpful, have failed to stop the overwhelming impacts of crowding and overuse that we see everywhere in the eastern High Peaks, “said Adirondack Wild’s Dan Plumley, a resident of Keene. “Direct controls on hiker numbers have to be instituted through a wilderness permit system. “Moreover, the new wild lands in the Boreas Wilderness especially need to be protected from overuse due to their well-documented ecological sensitivity and vulnerability. The time to institute these controls is now, before there is irreparable damage to the current high degree of wildness at the Ponds and beyond them.”

With respect to the Boreas Ponds, the group calls on DEC to close public motorized access at the current Fly Pond parking area and to limit further motorized access to persons with disabilities in order to avoid actual and potential adverse impacts from bringing trash, human waste, and spreading invasive aquatic and terrestrial species into the Boreas Ponds. The entirety of the Boreas Ponds is now classified Wilderness. DEC is proposing that even the able-bodied be allowed to park cars and trucks within 500 feet of the Ponds and that snowmobiles be permitted to ride right up to the Wilderness boundary.

“The bottom line here is that these amendments encourage a lot of new public motorized uses within a sensitive area and a gateway to Wilderness in direct contradiction of legal guidelines in the State Land Master Plan,” said Adirondack Wild’s David Gibson. “The potential adverse impacts of that new road access on sensitive natural resources and on human safety are not being properly analyzed in advance. Such studies are being promised only after the roads and many parking areas are built. That is not using the precautionary principle. DEC’s legal responsibilities for care of the Forest Preserve demands that these studies be conducted in advance of significant recreational facilities development within a presently wild and remote area.“

“Permitting snowmobiles all the way to Boreas Ponds would destroy the winter solitude there and would be within ear shot of the State’s highest peaks. That is also wholly inconsistent with protecting wilderness values,” Gibson added.

For all of these reasons, Adirondack Wild is asking the APA to find that the amendments do not comply with the State Land Master Plan and the State Environmental Quality Review Act. APA should take several additional months to work with the DEC to bring the management recommendations up to approvable standards, the group writes.

Permit systems are effectively used to protect many national wilderness areas. With their use there is the added benefit of increasing the chance to actually experience wilderness conditions through avoidance of overcrowding. Permit systems also provide invaluable information about visitors, their preferences, and provide opportunities to educate users to be better stewards through techniques such as Leave-No-Trace (LNT).

“We believe that the escalating use numbers regionally demand that a wilderness permit system be put in place if we are to protect the High Peaks and the Boreas Ponds for future generations,” stated Chris Amato, board vice president of Adirondack Wild.

You can read Adirondack Wild’s Comment Letter here.

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27 Responses

  1. Rob Gdyk says:

    I already have been issued a permit…
    a Motor Vehicle Access for People with Disabilities, TPR # 10348 permit…
    which I intend to use extensively once Gulf Brook Road is repaired so I can drive my 4X4 motorized vehicle beyond the current P8 parking area, hopefully all the way to within 500 feet of the Ponds.

  2. Terry says:

    Everyone bitches and moans about kids not going outside anymore.
    So we want to limit the ones who will be the stewards of the future.
    Issuing permits in western national parks have created situations where scalpers and (outfitters) get the tickets and sell them to the wealthy.
    Only an elitist would want to limit the park too the wealthy.
    Terry V.

    • Boreas says:

      Stewards of the future will need to learn the difference between preservation and exploitation of resources before they can decide how to manage those resources. OUR responsibility as stewards is to pass existing wilderness resources along to them with as little damage as possible.

  3. Patrick says:

    Maybe we ban all 46ers since they already had their turn?

  4. Rich Frischmann says:

    Great article. I am currently living in NC. but have been following the Boreas Pond issue very closely. This is an opportunity that comes once in a lifetime. I am witnessing in NC the mass destruction of the woodlands in the name of progress. As our population continues to escalate it becomes more important that we initiate a permit system, NOW, to protect the integrity, beauty and uniqueness of this all important landscape” The Boreas Pond”. In my 82 years I have come to realize that my desires often have to take a back seat to the decisions made when such result in saving such a magnificent wilderness. I pray that most will see it in this light.

    • geogymn says:

      Unfortunately, for most, wisdom only develops with age.

    • Dave says:

      You say ” I am witnessing in NC the mass destruction of the woodlands in the name of progress.”

      Gee, where? I’ve been here 65 years and the forest is better than ever. Many farm fields have regrown. There is far less logging than there used to be. I don’t see any ‘mass destruction’. Indeed, the Boreas lands were cut regularly before, but now that will never happen again.

      Point me to the areas of concern.

      • Boreas says:

        I believe NC is North Carolina in this case.

        • Rich Frischmann says:

          Right on,thanks for clearing that up.I am currently in Cary NC. I am well aware that other areas , especially Western NC, are being protected but if you visit the more populated areas you will see uncontrolled development.

  5. Kathy says:

    Imagine how disappointed people would be after driving 2-5 hours to see the ponds and have no access because of the lack of parking even at the Fly pond area or be unable to hike that 3.5 miles. Perhaps permits are a wiser solution than finding vehicles parked roadside inhibiting travel.

  6. Naj Wikoff says:

    We have to get permits on-line to use the camping spots on the Saranac Lakes and that system seems to work well. There are other camping spots of lakes and waterways not as popular as the Saranac Lakes where permits are not required. Basically Adk Wild is suggesting the same approach to high use areas as the High Peaks and Boreas Ponds, which has been recognized as environmentally sensitive. The prices are reasonable and the process is not complex, and as the sites don’t ask for one’s tax returns, I don’t think they can be described as favoring the rich. With that in mind, I think Adk Wild’s proposal makes sense insight of the overuse and dangerous parking situation along the Cascades and other high use areas.\, plus it will generated needed income for trail maintenance and ranger salaries.

    • mike says:

      Reserving a camp site, like in the Saranac Lakes, is something that may be welcome in the High Peaks too. Those campsite permits are only needed in July/August and there is staff present to enforce the system.

      But camping permits are different from getting a permit to go walk in the woods for a few hours on a nice day. I don’t think that will go over well. Nor would it be enforceable.

      There is also the matter of Article 14 which calls for ‘untrammeled’ access, that means unhindered, ungated, unrestrained. A ‘trammel is a gate or other restriction to unimpeded travel.

      So, I think ADK Wild should be careful what it wishes for. An Article 14 lawsuit to enforce ‘untrammeled’ access would likely win, and that would create a whole different set of problems.

      I realize many people confuse the word untrammeled with the word untrampled, which suggests undisturbed. But it means quite the opposite, it mean open easy access.

      • Paul says:

        ” A ‘trammel is a gate or other restriction to unimpeded travel.”

        There are no shortage of DEC constructed and closed gates on the Forest Preserve in the Adirondacks. Even if they keep this one road open in the Boreas Ponds area they will still need to install many other gates if they haven’t already.

  7. Paul says:

    Why not just stop letting people park all over the place illegally.

  8. mike says:

    Free camping permits were needed for Essex Ponds when they opened a few years ago. Crowds were feared. But almost no one came to use the sites. So the permit system was dropped.

    • Paul says:

      This seems to argue for easier access and Wild Forest classifications over less access and Wilderness classifications for resource protection. Maybe the key to protecting the Boreas ponds is to make them too easy to access then few people will want to come? Many have been clamoring that what everybody wants is Wilderness. Keep the road open at Boreas, enforce the parking limits for the HPW, problem solved. I am heading up the lake have a good weekend. Keep cool!

  9. Paul says:

    Why not drop the speed limit around the Giant and Cascade trailheads to 35 for safety’s sake and hire more rangers to get out there and educate these hikers so they can become advocates for the wilderness? Too much of a ranger’s job is enforcement or rescues and they have little time to educate and volunteer groups can only do so much!

  10. Big Burly says:

    Dan and Dave … you are brave souls indeed. For the better part of the past 40 years I have raised the use permit concept, not just for the territory you outline, but for the entire Park. Run out of town was the result. Something for nothing, especially for as spectacular a venue as our DAKs, breeds contempt over time and hastens the neglect and abuse we are witnessing. It is indeed unfortunate that those in the DEC leadership of Lands and Forests Division are so conflicted by their personal interests in snowmobiles, amongst other issues. Keep bringing this up — it is in the best longer term interest of this special place on the planet.

  11. Terry V. says:

    Adirondack Wild is probably 1 or 2 people,as is the Adirondack Council..
    Those hikers are jobs for hundreds if not thousands of full time residents.
    Those hikers are also a mix of people living the American dream, not who you would see on the trails 20 years ago.
    As a long time fly fisher I recall the 90s and aughts as a time our rivers were over run.
    My friends would say what a disaster it was and I would argue that it was an affirmation of what we found so special.
    The “Good Old Days” are usually described as such by rich white people.

    • Rob Gdyk says:

      All I know is, my white nowhere rich ass was the one working 60 hours a week when I was still in the workforce while all those other “mix of people” [SIC] were the ones reaping the rewards. Every free opportunity of the remaining 48 hours I spent on hiking, boating and fishing in the Adirondacks during those “Good Old Days.” Must be all that white privilege I keep hearing about….

      • terry v says:

        Tell me Mr Trump
        Why would you think they were reaping the benefits of your work week, maybe they were working 108 hours a week with no time for leisure.

  12. Boreas says:

    Doesn’t take long for a Comments thread to turn ugly anymore.

  13. Todd Eastman says:

    Demanding permits is a fools’ mission…

    … the costs and infrastructure for developing and managing such a program would offset any gains in resource preservation as the funds would go not go to actually doing the trail and parking improvements that have been ignored for decades.

    Limiting the public’s access to the High Peaks, is to turn off the educational and experiential process that gives the public the basis to give a damn about nature and wild places.

    Short sighted view by AW.

  14. I just tried to get one of those no-fee permits for a site in the Catskills. DEC directs you to Reserve America site. The RA site indicates that this Catskill location is unavailable through January 11 (as far ahead as I checked). Not one day available.

    Yes, it’s claiming that a SWIMMING HOLE is booked solid in November, December and January.

    I doubt this is actually accurate but that’s what the website is telling me.

    Although this permitting idea makes sense in principle, this kind of implementation doesn’t inspire confidence about DEC expanding it to the High Peaks.

  15. Todd Eastman says:

    A brief note:

    My experience of the current status of the trails in the High Peaks is that the DEC’s level of trail maintenance is far below that of the early-1980s. Erosion, failing water bars, downed trees, and brush growing across the treadways are the signs of a lack of focus on basic resource management.

    Before setting up a permit system, at least maintain the resource at levels that were commonly found decades earlier….

    … take away the rangers sidearms and give them back their axes and crosscuts!