Dave Gibson, who writes about issues of wilderness, wild lands, public policy, and more, has been involved in Adirondack conservation for over 30 years as executive director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks and currently as managing partner with Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve
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.
Late last year, our NYS DEC removed a cabin atop Thomas Mountain in the Lake George Wild Forest. The cabin, dating to the mountain’s former private ownership, had been vandalized and had become a public hazard. Its presence was also a violation of Article XIV, Section 1 of our NYS Constitution. DEC did the right thing to remove it.
As noted in stories in Adirondack Explorer and Almanack, the Inner Gooley Club buildings on the shores of Third Lake in the Essex Chain, were nominated for inclusion in the State and National Register of Historic Places.
The nomination is controversial because the lake and lands around it, including the Gooley Club footprint, is publicly-owned Adirondack Forest Preserve classified Primitive, and managed as closely as possible to Wilderness guidelines. » Continue Reading.
This past week, the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court ruled that the Old Mountain Road that runs through the public’s Sentinel Wilderness between Keene and North Elba remains a town road and is not abandoned by either town. The court thus overturned a decision by former Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens in 2016 and affirms an enforcement proceeding decision by former DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis in 2009.
It’s been a long, bumpy and controversial legal ride to this point. What is so perplexing about it is that the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation could have prevented it from ever happening if the DEC had asserted certain legal authority it has been wary of asserting. In a few places where it’s obviously warranted, DEC should start to employ that legal authority again. » Continue Reading.
Recent Adirondack Almanack posts by Anthony Hall and Peter Bauer broke the news that Governor Andrew Cuomo has stuck a provision in his 2018-19 State budget to cap the annual State Land taxes we all share with towns and school districts in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks. Furthermore, the Governor proposes to convert the long tradition of full payment of taxes on the Forest Preserve into (capped) payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT).
The approximately three-million acre, publicly-owned and “forever wild” NYS Forest Preserve in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks (and a small amount outside the Parks) is taxable for all purposes. Since 1886 the law has required that Forest Preserve lands must be valued for tax purposes as if privately owned (today’s Section 532a of the Real Property Tax Law, or RPTL). » Continue Reading.
One could almost hear the exhalation of relief by environmentalists when they learned this week that the Governor’s DEC and APA had decided on “Alternative 2 B” for the Boreas Ponds State Land classification.
Large, obvious violations of law were to be avoided, so they learned. Fears held over the past year were apparently allayed. There would be no unclassified area reserved for a future glamorous camping (“glamping”) in the interior, and no bicycle route on vanishing old roads cloaked by balsam fir leading north towards White Lily Pond and the High Peaks Wilderness. Under “2B” the Boreas Ponds themselves at 1200 feet elevation would be incorporated in that Wilderness, as would the boreal forest stretching north to 3,700 feet and the existing High Peaks Wilderness border. Motorized and mechanized access would end at the Boreas Ponds Dam, eight miles in from county highway, or Blue Ridge Road.
I confess I exhaled as well. After all, one year ago the Governor had declared in his State of the State that there would be infrastructure developed and a Hut to Hut program installed in the Boreas Ponds tract. Rumors of a long “Wild Forest corridor” to allow biking far to the north of the Ponds abounded. Wilderness advocates had dodged a bullet, it seemed. A Solomon-like compromise of Wilderness and Wild Forest access to the Ponds had been reached, or so it seemed. » Continue Reading.
In 1988, large commercial forest owners began to sell their enormous holdings in the Adirondack Park. DEC entered a new era of acquiring conservation easements and public recreational rights. The first large easement acquisition occurred in the part of Park in question. There was a disagreement over who would maintain the miles of industrial haul roads — nearly twenty miles. As a result, the public has been blocked from this easement ever since. Only leaseholders and private owners have access. The new road, paired with negotiations to gain more public rights, would finally open year-round motorized access for the public. » Continue Reading.
Along the banks of the Hudson at North River, and further south on highway pull-offs from Route 28, are some of the Adirondack Park’s best interpretive stops.
Sturdy, visually appealing and informative exhibits coupled with well-designed DOT parking along the Hudson River have attracted visitors and residents for years to turn off the engine, breathe deeply, eat lunch, listen to the river and learn from the exhibits. » Continue Reading.
On November 22, we lost one of the finest legislators in my lifetime, U.S. Congressman and former chair of the NYS Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee, Maurice Hinchey of Saugerties.
He was, no doubt, flawed like any human being. But he had remarkable qualities and political skills that allowed him to reach many of his public goals benefiting the Adirondacks, the Catskills and beyond.
My Adirondack career started in 1987. By that time, Assemblyman Hinchey had been a champion for the environment for well over a dozen years. All environmental legislation, including New York’s first-in-the-nation acid rain law of 1984 as well as our state’s leading wetland and stream protection laws passed the previous decade bore his influential stamp, as all sprung from and had to pass through his committee. » Continue Reading.
Previously I wrote in the Almanack about “a notice for public comment about what seems a relatively innocuous, relatively short (1.25 mile) road construction… has been circulated by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, or DEC… This is actually not a small deal at all.”
Indeed it is not a small deal. I wanted to follow up my earlier post with one that examines whether the State DEC has properly applied the law in its initial review of this project affecting more than 20,000 acres of private land easement, as well as State Land near the border of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties. All of this area is part of a low-elevation boreal ecosystem identified for its significance by State and private ecologists since the 1970s. » Continue Reading.
“They own the track so they believe they have the right to store their trains on their track in the Adirondacks. It is unsightly. It’s out of character with the Adirondacks. We don’t own the tracks. There’s a question as to what legal right we have to oppose it. But we oppose it one hundred percent and we are going to do everything we can do to stop the owner from storing the trains on those tracks.” – Governor Andrew Cuomo
So said Governor Andrew Cuomo to media gathered in Glens Falls last week concerning Iowa Pacific/Saratoga-North Creek Railroad (SNCRR) storage of old, supposedly cleaned tanker cars on rails in Minerva, Essex County, close to the designated “Scenic” Boreas River. The underlying land below and on either side of the tracks where tanker cars are being stored is “forever wild” Forest Preserve (Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest). » Continue Reading.
A notice inviting public comment about what seems a relatively innocuous, relatively short (1.25 mile) road construction has been circulated by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, or DEC.
The Adirondack Almanack headlined the matter as “DEC planning new road east of Carry Falls Reservoir.”
This is not a small deal. In fact, the 1.25 miles of new road cut through the forest will result in nearly 20 miles of new public motorized access within a sensitive low-elevation boreal ecosystem. For many years, our DEC has been badly conflicted about balancing resource protection and motorized access to this area. » Continue Reading.
A friend and fellow founder of Adirondack Wild first urged me to read Wallace Stegner’s Beyond the Hundredth Meridian (Houghton Mifflin, 1954). Perhaps my friend sensed connections between the “second opening of the west” and the Adirondacks. Regardless, it remains a fascinating work, to be read and re-read. Although never part of my schooling, it should be on anyone’s lifetime reading list.
Stegner chronicles the explorer of the Colorado River, John Wesley Powell, who spent his middle life and health attempting to teach our late 19th century politicians (and those moving west) that only scientifically-based land use planning and restrictions would save us from the disaster of letting Americans willy-nilly settle, break sod, and farm the arid west under the 1862 Homestead Act.
As head of brand new scientific agencies in Washington DC, the Geological and Irrigation Surveys, Powell acted for the “common interest” through his dry-eyed assessment that 160-acres, a mule and a plow on either side of the 100th meridian were irrational and pitiable against prairie and desert wind, snow, sun, drought and loneliness. Rain, it turned out, did not follow the plow in the 1880s and 90s, or during the 1930s Dust Bowl. Powell fought tenaciously against scientific misconceptions, false prophets, personal gain, corrupt practice, and speculative acquisitiveness – whereby a handful of individuals could and did gobble up millions of acres of the public’s dry lands and whatever little water existed there, for their own use. » Continue Reading.
Wilderness preservationist Louis Marshall would have not only commented about the extremism, murder and related tragic loss of life in Charlottesville, VA. He would have been outspoken against the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazi followers that caused it. Further, he would have responded vigorously and explicitly against President Trump’s persistent equivocation about who caused the violence and loss of life. To the lawyer and civil rights advocate Louis Marshall, love of justice and love of nature bubbled up from the same headwaters.
We continue to live in a time of specialists where our humanity is defined and constrained as lanes we live and practice within. The messages we receive daily are to stay in our separate lanes, interests and specialties. By dint of his and world history and by force of personality, Louis Marshall (1856-1929) would not stay in any lane. Nor did Martin Luther King. Nor do young people today. Nor should any of us. » Continue Reading.
There has been detailed documentation in the Adirondack Almanack about ongoing recreational pressures and resulting damage to parts of the High Peaks Wilderness Area, the largest Wilderness unit in the NYS Forest Preserve (and in most of the country).
Severe impacts have resulted to some adjacent trailheads, highways, roads, and parking areas, and certain areas of the interior. NYS DEC personnel, Summit Stewards, and town governments, indeed all of us, feel the pressure from large numbers of us enjoying the Eastern High Peaks, and in some cases requiring search and rescue. What to do about it all has been debated in this space by various stakeholders, including DEC Forest Rangers, with much good information exchanged and good comments and suggestions.
However, current comments and conditions feel like déjà vu all over again. I refer to the 17 year-old document that very specifically guides our public land manager, the NYS DEC, in addressing recreational user pressure on the High Peaks and how to keep the High Peaks as wilderness.
The 1999 High Peaks Wilderness Complex Unit Management Plan (UMP) is that guiding document. I propose that we spend more time addressing this plan, its management recommendations and actions to date, and how the UMP might be updated to reflect the era, conditions and user pressures we are now encountering. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Almanack's contributors include veteran local writers, historians, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from around the Adirondack region. The Almanack is the online news journal of Adirondack Explorer. Both are nonprofits supported by contributors, readers, and advertisers, and devoted to exploring, protecting, and unifying the Adirondack Park.
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