Dave Gibson, who writes about issues of wilderness, wild lands, public policy, and more, has been involved in Adirondack conservation for nearly 25 years, much of that time as Executive Director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks and then as first Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks.
During Dave's tenure at the Association, the organization completed the Center for the Forest Preserve including the Adirondack Research Library at Paul Schaefer’s home. The library has the finest Adirondack collection outside the Blue Line, specializing in Adirondack conservation and recreation history.
In the recent news and comments about ongoing crowding in the High Peaks there are few references to the document which ostensibly is guiding the state’s management actions there: the 1999 Highs Wilderness Complex Unit Management Plan, or UMP. That management plan is downloadable from the DEC website.
It has a lot of important things to say about applying wilderness management and carrying capacity concepts to the very practical problems of managing the widely varying human use pressures over the great distances and very different environments of the High Peaks. » Continue Reading.
One of the world’s most prolific advocacy journalists and a courageous spokesman for America’s natural heritage, Michael Frome, died this month at the age of 96. His last Portogram arrived this week.
Mike Frome’s Portogram arrived in many inboxes as regular commentary about life, current events, wild nature as soul food, and people he admired fighting the good fight against the cold -hearted, the purely corporate, the vested interest, the greedy, and against the dispassionate, “objective” nature writer when a point of view was called for. » Continue Reading.
One who participated or sat through the Adirondack Club and Resort (ACR) adjudicatory public hearing in 2011 is hard pressed not to read with interest the recent articles about the status of ACR in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. The articles appeared in the August 11-12 editions.
Michael Foxman, ACR lead developer, is quoted in one article as saying: “We’ve been bled dry for millions of dollars. We had about $10 million worth of lawyers and planners and engineering approval delay costs. I think that no one including me could’ve imagined the complexity of trying to develop in the Adirondacks with objections from the preservation groups.” » Continue Reading.
It can be an arcane field, the Forest Preserve. Article XIV, Section 1 of the State Constitution, the “forever wild” clause, is comprised of 54 words which appear clear enough. Its authors in 1894 thought it should slam the door on those late-19th century abuses of the Preserve.
The century-plus since has seen (mis)interpretations of law, purposeful evasions of law, statutes that contradict the NYS Constitution, contradictory opinions of attorneys general, contradictory rulings by our highest courts – the list goes on and on.
How to keep it all straight? For years, advocates have relied on the writings of Bob Glennon, Al Forsyth, Norman J. Van Valkenburgh, Neil Woodworth, and others to get to the heart of these inconsistencies. » Continue Reading.
Will the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and Adirondack Park Agency write to urge the U.S. Congress not to gut the federal Wilderness Act of 1964? Would Governor Cuomo allow this or encourage it?
Why should these state agencies write to Senators McConnell, Schumer and Gilllibrand to strongly oppose a bill that opens up all federal Wilderness areas to bicycling? Our Adirondack State Land Master Plan echoes the federal Wilderness Act of 1964. Bicycling in Wilderness areas is disallowed in our federal and Adirondack Wilderness (and Primitive, Canoe) areas because bikes are gear-leveraged mechanical transport, a highly complex machine, just not a motorized one. And machines – motorized or not – cancel out the values and benefits of an enduring wilderness, those very rare places where human beings exercise humility and are not allowed to dominate the landscape as we do everywhere else on earth. » Continue Reading.
I noticed this in the June 29 edition of the Environmental Notice Bulletin, a weekly publication of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation:
“Newcomb to Minerva Multi-Use Trail; Application ID 5-1599-00019/00001; Permit(s) Applied for: Article 15 Title 27 Wild, Scenic & Recreational Rivers; Project is Located: Newcomb, Essex County;
Project Description: The Department of Environmental Conservation proposes to construct a multi-use recreational trail within one-half (1/2) mile of the Boreas River, which is designated as a Scenic River by Environmental Conservation Law Title 27, Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Systems. The total acreage of the trail within the River corridor is approximately 1.1 acres, or approximately one (1) mile of trail, located within the 92,000-acre Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest.”
The notice is incomplete and misleading. Here we have the DEC applying for a permit from itself to build a 9-12 foot snowmobile route from Newcomb to Minerva through undeveloped forest preserve, a route which will intersect the Boreas River just upstream of the Route 28N bridge. At this location, the Boreas is a designated Scenic River under the state’s Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act. The DEC’s route requires a new steel bridge over the river here to safely accommodate two-way snowmobile traffic. The route also requires cutting 1,676 trees on the Forest Preserve from the river to private land in Minerva. Cutting across private lands will require landowner agreements which may or may not be in hand or forthcoming.
An incomplete, misleading notice is not the greatest problem – the project is illegal. » Continue Reading.
The Daily Gazette in Schenectady opined recently that the latest post-budget legislative session in Albany was an essentially useless, squandered opportunity that didn’t accomplish much of importance to New Yorkers. In many areas, it may be true – much more could have been accomplished. Selectively speaking though, there were some accomplishments and compromises which took significant leadership.
One legislative accomplishment was catalyzed by serious PFOA groundwater pollution in Hoosick Falls and other upstate communities. (PFOA is described as a synthetic perfluorinated carboxylic acid and fluorosurfactant.) If Governor Andrew Cuomo signs the bill it will allow someone to file a claim for personal injury due to exposure to hazardous or toxic substances up to three years after a site has been designated a state or federal Superfund area. This is a very big deal for folks from Hoosick Falls and many other polluted locations. » Continue Reading.
Legislation in the form of a constitutional amendment has been introduced in Albany this session which would “convey certain Forest Preserve that was never intended to be included in the Forest Preserve.” That land is the 92-acre former Camp Gabriels prison in the Town of Brighton, formerly part of Paul Smith’s College, and before that a tubercular sanitarium. How this property and those interested in its conversion from a prison to another use came to this stage is a bit of a long story.
Given that this legislative session has just five days remaining, this 11th hour introduction of a constitutional amendment to Article XIV, the forever wild clause, should be viewed as both very surprising and controversial. It is neither. It’s a lesson learned, I trust, for the State of New York which turned a deaf ear in 2011 to the warning and recommendation of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, Protect the Adirondacks and the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club. » Continue Reading.
Sunday’s Bird Walk at Hadley Mountain (a part of our Adirondack Forest Preserve near the Warren-Saratoga County line) was a wash-out. Linda Champagne, intrepid newsletter editor for the Hadley Firetower Committee, was the exception. As we walked up the trail a ways, the drumbeat of rain on our heads slowed, and the migratory birds breeding and raising young here could not help themselves. They sang not for our sake but for the life force that seizes and keeps a territory, and a mate in the right habitat, with the right food for that species and its nestlings.
From the parking lot we heard the incessant song of red-eyed vireo; then a veery; an ovenbird; then a hermit thrush. The rain picked-up again, all song was drowned-out, and we headed back to the parking lot. On the way down, I noticed a red eft salamander crossing the trail. These are the dramatically changed terrestrial stage of the common newt or yellow spotted salamander. Having left their natal ponds, these efts are in the forest making a living until their return to aquatic life in a year, two or three, or more. Their dramatic red-orange color warns off potential predators, and fortunately warned me from stomping on him. » Continue Reading.
DEC Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos signed the Essex Chain of Lakes Primitive Area Unit Management Plan (UMP) in late March, and issued a Findings Statement required by law.
The final UMP and the Findings do not appear to alter the basic management decisions ratified by the Adirondack Park Agency last November as being in compliance with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. Those management decisions include creation of motorized corridors within Wild and Scenic River areas and other matters which the nonprofits Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve and Protect the Adirondacks considered in serious violation of existing law and regulation. Two members of the APA voted against the UMP compliance determination because of the Environmental Conservation Department’s apparent disregard for provisions in the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act and regulations. The nonprofit organizations consequently filed a lawsuit in January. The legal matters are pending in court.
DEC has asserted from the beginning and continues to assert that as a matter of law prior uses by the private owner Finch,Pruyn and Company and its private lessees and guests, uses ending when Finch, Pruyn sold the property in 2007, justify continued uses by the public today after the land reverted to publicly- owned Forest Preserve in 2012. This is one of the several contested issues before the court. » Continue Reading.
“I never thought I’d be getting my hands dirty and planting trees in such a big forest,” said Jody last Saturday.
She had joined others from the Youth Ed-Venture and Nature Network, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation for a day of hard work along the Hudson River. YENN volunteers from tye Capital District met me at the Adirondack Mountain Club Headquarters off of Northway Exit 21 (thanks to Danielle for hosting us). After a brief orientation to the Adirondack Park, we drove to Luzerne and then up River Road into the Town of Warrensburg. » Continue Reading.
My first reaction to the announcement of the state’s acquisition of magnificent Boreas Ponds for the Forest Preserve is to celebrate, and to recall how long the Adirondack Nature Conservancy has owned this 21,000 acre tract – the last of the big Finch Pruyn tracts which the state committed to purchase. It was April 2007 when Finch Pruyn employees, then Governor Spitzer, and the rest of the world learned that Finch was selling everything – all 161,000 acres – to the Conservancy, with help from the Open Space Institute. And in the same announcement, that the mill in Glens Falls would continue operations and employment.
This news that April day nine years ago was breathtaking. Adirondack Wild’s mentor Paul Schaefer had dreamed and worked for such a result from the early 1960s until his death in 1996. That was the significance of the Finch forests even fifty years ago. George Davis of the Temporary Study Commission on the Future of the Adirondacks (1968-70) put Boreas Ponds on the cover of the Commission’s final report. » Continue Reading.
The fight to embrace wilderness and to keep designated wilderness areas free from mechanized uses is a national fight. APA weakened the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan this month by carving out two exceptions in its Primitive Area guidelines for bicycling and motorized maintenance in the Essex Chain and Pine Lake Primitive Areas.
This reflects a lack of appreciation of how sophisticated, gear-leveraged muscle-powered recreation impacts areas where the law states humans must not dominate the landscape (and where human uses are restrained to preserve, enhance and restore natural conditions). » Continue Reading.
It was a riveting 90 minutes at the APA this week. In those 90 minutes, the NYS Adirondack Park Agency amended the State Land Master Plan. In doing so, the agency contradicted and violated basic definitions and guidelines that have been protective of wilderness values since 1972.
I feel a connection with the late Justice Antonin Scalia, albeit indirect. He had strengths, but an environmental and land ethic, because they were not enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, seemed irrelevant to the Justice. Just before he died, he joined the majority in putting a stay on the the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean power regulation and thus called into question American climate commitments made in Paris. But my story is local, not global.
Some years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) was involved in determining whether small, one-eighth acre, biologically active wetlands near our home that dry up in the summer, known as vernal pools, were worth protecting under the federal Clean Water Act’s Section 404 program. A developer wanted to build 18 homes – outside of the Adirondack Park – abutting ours that would directly impact the red maple swamp forest in which the pools lay. » Continue Reading.
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