Almanack Contributor Phil Brown

Phil Brown is the former Editor of Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack. Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing. He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

When ‘Primitive’ Is More Protective Than ‘Wilderness’

FULL SIZE - APA Essex Chain Lakes Recommendation MapWilderness is the most restrictive and most protective of the Adirondack Park Agency’s seven classifications for Forest Preserve lands, so perhaps it’s no surprise that environmental groups pushed for a Wilderness designation for the Essex Chain Lakes.

The APA staff instead recommended a Primitive classification. Ordinarily, this might be seen as a slight downgrade in protection, but in this case an argument can be made that natural resources are actually better protected under the Primitive classification. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Proposed Snowmobile Trail Raises Questions

FULL SIZE - APA Essex Chain Lakes Recommendation MapTown leaders lobbied hard for a snowmobile trail through the Essex Chain Tract that would connect the hamlets of Indian Lake and Newcomb, and it appears they may get their wish.

Although the Adirondack Park Agency staff has recommended keeping most of the 18,230-acre tract motor-free, it would allow a snowmobile trail to traverse the property.

Fred Monroe, executive director of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, praised the staff’s proposal. “It was an attempt to protect the natural resources and make some reasonable compromises for the economy and the local communities,” he said.

Monroe said the towns need the trail to spur the winter economy. “It’s one thing to have a business and survive in the summer, but it’s very different in winter, and snowmobiling is huge,” he said.

Yet the proposed trail raises a number of legal and policy issues that the APA board likely will grapple with this week as it deliberates on the classification of the Essex Chain Tract and three smaller parcels acquired by the state over the past year.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, December 9, 2013

How The APA Analyzed The Essex Chain Classification

FULL SIZE - APA Essex Chain Lakes Recommendation MapEnvironmentalists wanted the Essex Chain Lakes region classified as Wilderness. Local government leaders wanted it classified as Wild Forest. And the state Department of Environmental Conservation proposed classifying it as Wild Forest with special regulations.

Yet the staff of the Adirondack Park Agency rejected all three options in favor of a Primitive designation. The APA board is scheduled to discuss and vote on the staff’s recommendation this week.

Why did the staff opt for Primitive? The answers—or some answers—can be found in the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement that the board has been asked to adopt.

» Continue Reading.


Friday, December 6, 2013

APA Staff Proposes Motorless Essex Chain

FULL SIZE - APA Essex Chain Lakes Recommendation MapAfter months of negotiations and deliberation, the Adirondack Park Agency staff has come up with a proposal to designate the Essex Chain Lakes a Primitive Area, a classification that would preclude the use of motorboats.

In addition, the APA staff recommends establishing a 23,774-acre Hudson Gorge Wilderness Area, which would encompass about fifteen miles of the upper Hudson River.

The APA developed the proposal in collaboration with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The APA board is scheduled to vote on it next week. The final plan will require the approval of Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Joe Martens, the head of DEC, described the proposal as an attempt to satisfy all stakeholders, including environmental activists and local officials.

“What it reflects to me is a universal desire to provide a high degree of protection to the Essex Chain itself—the lakes and ponds—and the potential for diverse recreational opportunities and to connect the towns around the tract,” Martens said. “I think the plan does this very well.”

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

ESF Students Have Their Own Ideas For Essex Chain

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Adirondack Park Agency is weighing seven options for the classification of the 17,320-acre Essex Chain Tract. Perhaps they should consider an eighth.

Three college students have studied the various issues pertaining to classification and come up with their own recommendation: designate the tract Wild Forest with special restrictions.

The students—Azaria Bower, Kayla Bartheleme, and Erin Ulcickas—collaborated on the project this fall during their semester at the Newcomb campus of the State University College of Environmental Science and Forestry. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 2, 2013

APA Refuses To Release Essex Chain Memo

Essex ChainThe Adirondack Park Agency says it won’t release a legal analysis by one of the agency’s commissioners who concluded that classifying the Essex Chain Lakes as Wild Forest would violate the State Land Master Plan.

The Adirondack Explorer had asked for the document under the state’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), but the request was denied.

In an email last week, Brian Ford, the APA’s records-access officer, described the twenty-one-page legal analysis, written by Commissioner Dick Booth, as an intra-agency document that is not subject to disclosure under FOIL. » Continue Reading.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Martens Discusses Classification Process For Finch Lands

Essex ChainState officials are considering a variety of possible recreational uses, both motorized and non-motorized, for the former Finch, Pruyn lands, according to Joe Martens, the commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Martens said officials from DEC and the Adirondack Park Agency have been in discussions with various stakeholders, including environmental groups and local officials, on what types of recreation would be appropriate on the 21,200 acres acquired in the past year from the Nature Conservancy.

Martens told Adirondack Almanack that he believes the lands, which are split among three tracts, can accommodate a wide variety of recreation, including snowmobiling, without putting natural resources at risk. He declined to say where he thought snowmobiling might be allowed.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

State Nears Decision In Railroad Debate

MAPUPDATEState officials are nearing a decision on whether to open the management plan for a railroad corridor that runs through Adirondack wilderness.

The future of the corridor has been the subject of public debate for a few years. At issue is whether the rails should be removed to create a multi-use recreational trail.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Transportation held meetings in September to gather input from the public. On Wednesday, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said staff at both agencies have been reviewing and evaluating hundreds of comments.

Martens said a decision is not too far off.  “It’s weeks, not months away, I’m hoping,” he told Adirondack Almanack. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

State To Fix Whiteface Highway, Invest in Trudeau Institute

Cuomo mediaGovernor Andrew Cuomo announced this afternoon that the state will spend $12 million to repair the Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway.

“It’s a great tourist attraction, but it needs a lot of work,” Cuomo told a crowd gathered at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid.

Some 28,500 vehicles drive up the mountain each year. The eight-mile road also is used by hikers, bicyclists, and skiers. It ends just short of the 4,867-foot summit, the fifth-highest in the state.

The state will pick up the entire cost of rebuilding crumbling walls, repaving the road, and repairing the tollhouse, the stone castle at the end of the road, and the elevator that takes people to the summit.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Essex Chain Classification: Legal Memo Rejects Wild Forest

Essex ChainAn Adirondack Park Agency commissioner has written a twenty-one-page legal analysis that concludes that the Essex Chain Lakes cannot be classified Wild Forest under the State Land Master Plan.

Dick Booth, a lawyer who teaches at Cornell University, has distributed the memo to his ten fellow commissioners, but it has not been made public.

Booth declined to discuss the memo in detail, but he told Adirondack Almanack that it focuses on the Essex Chain, a string of seven linked lakes at the heart of a 17,320-acre tract that the state purchased from the Nature Conservancy, along with two smaller tracts.

Basically, he contends that the nearly pristine condition, remoteness, and interconnectivity of the lakes make the Essex Chain “a very, very special resource” where motorized use and motorized access would be inappropriate.

» Continue Reading.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Mining Official Explains What’s Next For Wilderness Area

800px-2013_Adirondack_Land_Exchange_MapNow that NYCO Minerals has won the right to purchase a 200-acre parcel in the Jay Mountain Wilderness, the company must decide whether it wants the land.

Starting in January, NYCO will drill a series of test bores to determine whether the bedrock under the parcel, known as Lot 8, contains enough wollastonite to make mining worthwhile.

Mark Buckley, NYCO’s environmental manager, said the company expects to drill eight to twelve holes over a few months. Each hole will be two inches in diameter and perhaps 200 to 250 feet deep. » Continue Reading.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Kolbert Discusses Climate Change At Paul Smith’s

KolbertYou can’t prove that global warming caused Typhoon Haiyan (or made it worse). Just as you can’t prove that global warming caused Hurricane Irene or Hurricane Sandy.

And that’s the frustrating thing about climate change. It’s difficult, perhaps impossible, to trace the origin of any given weather event to the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the oceans.

Skeptics point to this gap in our knowledge and ask how we can know whether intense storms and rising temperatures are the result of natural variations in climate or the result of mankind’s activity. Given that climate does naturally fluctuate, isn’t it possible that we just happen to be living in a time of unusual heat and violent storms?

» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Backcountry Skiers Continue Push For Glades

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI overslept yesterday, so rather than cheat my employer out of a few hours of labor, I decided to take the day off and ski the Whiteface Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway.

It was my first ski of the season. November 12th isn’t my earliest start to the ski season, but I was feeling pretty good about it.

Not surprisingly, I ran into Ron Konowitz, president of the Adirondack Powder Skier Association. It was Ron’s thirteenth day on skis.

We talked for several minutes about the association’s campaign to maintain ski glades in the Forest Preserve. Adirondack Almanack reported on this initiative back in May. Since then, the association has been meeting with environmental activists and government officials to drum up support.

» Continue Reading.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Essex Chain Lakes Video ‘Day One of Forever’ Released

YouTube video
When Susan Bibeau and I paddled the   Essex Chain Lakes on October 1, the  day it opened to the public, we ran into a crew on the shore of Third Lake who were recording a video for the Nature Conservancy, which had sold the Essex Chain Tract to the state, making it part of the forever-wild Forest Preserve.

I asked Connie Prickett, the conservancy’s spokeswoman, to send me a link to the video when it was done, and now she has. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Essex Chain Classification On Hold

Essex ChainWhen the Adirondack Park Agency board meets next week, it will not be voting on a question that has been the subject of public controversy for months: the classification of 21,200 acres of former Finch, Pruyn & Company lands.

“There will be no action on Finch at this month’s meeting,” APA spokesman Keith McKeever told Adirondack Almanack. » Continue Reading.