The stress of our sheer numbers on wild lands, other hikers, summit stewards, forest and assistant rangers and local communities and volunteers bordering Routes 73 and 86 this hiking season – and many before this – easily disconnects and untethers us from the historical and philosophical roots of wilderness preservation and management.
None of what gets debated weekly about the High Peaks is truly untethered from these historical roots. As Almanack contributor Ed Zahniser has written, “take courage for your own work for visitor use management in wilderness. It has a history, a history set in concern for the common good, a history stemming from the American people’s long-standing concern to protect some remnant of our public lands in their wild, natural state. “
On this 2020 Columbus Day weekend, peak use of parts of the High Peaks and Giant Mountain Wilderness areas in the Adirondack Park were again exceeded. Now is the time to consider a permit reservation or limited entry system for key points of entry into these wilderness areas as necessary, helpful, practical, and practicable.
Adirondack Wild is concerned with a spate of recent comments made to North Country Public Radio that our NYS DEC is not ready to launch a limited entry or permit reservation system. Of course, DEC is not ready right now. They have not been given any direction from the Governor and the DEC Commissioner to get and be ready. Given such a direction and expectation, DEC could be ready in summer and fall of 2021. DEC is fully capable of studying, gaining public input, designing, and implementing with partners a fair and effective limited entry pilot program next year.
Yesterday’s announcement by landowner John Hendrickson of his intent to sell the remaining 36,000 acres of Whitney Park in Long Lake ought to command the immediate attention of state and private land conservation and planning organizations, says the non-profit advocate Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve.
The following is commentary from Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve
Recognizing the initial efforts of the High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group, which issued an interim report last week, Adirondack Wild’s David Gibson had this to say: “An advisory body of diverse stakeholders, all volunteers, has been meeting distantly during the pandemic but nonetheless has reached consensus on recommendations to address some key existing pressure points in the High Peaks Wilderness region. During these tough times, that is an impressive accomplishment.”
However, Adirondack Wild is concerned that the group’s recommendations should be connected to the 335-page, approved 1999 DEC High Peaks Wilderness Complex Unit Management Plan, or UMP. “Almost every one of the advisory group’s interim recommendations, including expanded use of Leave No Trace, Human Waste, Education and Messaging, Trail Inventory and Assessment, Data Collection and Visitor Information, and Limits on Use can be traced back to policies and actions in the adopted Wilderness UMP. Yet the interim report makes no mention of the UMP and that’s a worry,” Gibson added.
Adirondack Wild believes that ignoring the High Peaks Unit Management Plan invites management and user conflicts. “The UMP, which took years of stakeholder efforts and was adopted by the Adirondack Park Agency and DEC, is the coordinating document that ties otherwise disparate management activities together to benefit an enduring Wilderness resource. We know the UMP may need to be updated to meet current challenges. The Advisory Group ought to be devoting part of its time to recommend specific parts of the UMP that require updating,” he continued.
To quote from the DEC’s High Peaks UMP, “without a UMP, wilderness area management can easily become as series of uncoordinated reactions to immediate problems. When this happens, unplanned management actions often cause a shift in focus that is inconsistent and often in conflict with wilderness preservation goals and objectives. A prime objective of wilderness planning is to use environmental and social science to replace nostalgia and politics. Comprehensive planning allows for the exchange of ideas and information before actions, that can have long-term effects, are taken.”
“One concern we have is that the task force has recommended that the Limits On Use pilot study be conducted on private land adjacent to the High Peaks when, in fact, it is the overused eastern High Peaks Wilderness – public land – that is in need of a well-designed pilot program limiting use. The 1999 UMP called for a working group to develop a camping permit system, with any decision to implement based upon public input and UMP amendment. That was never done. A pilot program on private land over the next three years further deflects time and attention away from a critical High Peaks management tool that ought to be tested on public land.”
Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve is a not-for-profit, membership organization which acts on behalf of wilderness and wild land values and stewardship. More on the web at www.adirondackwild.org.
Photo: Crowding on Cascade Mountain, eastern High Peaks Wilderness by Dan Plumley/Almanack archive
At its May 2020 board meeting, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve elected Richard L. (Rick) Hoffman of Easton, Washington County, to join its board of directors and Sunita Halasz of Saranac Lake to join its advisory council.
The meeting was conducted via Zoom due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Ravens, crows and jays make up the corvid family, arguably the most intelligent of birds. We may honor the bald eagle as our national symbol, but compared to any corvid, the eagle is definitely a bird brain. Ravens in particular, based on their omnivorous adaptability to almost any environment, their fascination with colorful toys and glittery objects, their use of natural tools, and their remarkably diverse repertoire of sounds and vocalizations, appear to be exceptionally intelligent. In fact, ravens remind me of us humans, with no formidable anatomical weapons, but large brains to help us figure out how to get whatever we need.
Every day is Earth Day. That’s what folks knew and said to each other on April 23, 1970 – and ever since. Fifty years on, April 22, 2020, it’s obvious as well as vital to act accordingly since life support systems on our fragile earth have been torn and rendered by human activity and population growth since 4/22/70. This Coronavirus COVID-19 is novel to human beings. Today’s atmospheric carbon concentrations are novel for all life on earth – and only existed some 3.5 million years ago.
While applauding large portions of Governor Cuomo’s proposed environmental budget, including support for the Governor’s Restore Mother Nature Bond Act, the nonprofit Adirondack Forest Preserve advocates Adirondack Wild submitted testimony to the State Legislature which calls for additional DEC Forest Rangers and trail crews and the testing of a pilot reservation system to reduce congestion and damage to the High Peaks Wilderness. » Continue Reading.
In a December 2019 letter to NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos, six non-governmental organizations from the Adirondacks and Catskills announced their firm opposition to any future merger of the DEC Forest Rangers with the DEC Environmental Conservation Officers.
“Each time the issue has arisen, a diverse coalition has made the case why such a move would trigger a firestorm of protest and prove a disaster for the State’s public lands and the outdoor recreating public,” the letter states. “We continue to feel this way – and felt it was timely to write to you as we have to prior commissioners.” Signing the letter (See Letter to Basil Seggos) were the Adirondack Council, Adirondack Mountain Club, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, Catskill Center, Catskill Mountainkeeper and Protect the Adirondacks! » Continue Reading.
New York State’s expedient evasion of its own State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR), has no better recent example than the Cedar River Snowmobile Bridge. The new bridge is being built north of Indian Lake, six miles inside the Adirondack Forest Preserve across a river designated by the State as Scenic.
A Supreme Court just rubber-stamped DEC’s actions in a ruling against Adirondack Wild and Protect the Adirondacks. There is plenty to say about how the Court’s decision (and DEC’s self-issuing Permit and Variance) sets a negative precedent for protection of Scenic Rivers under the State’s Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act, but for the present let’s address the SEQR evasion. » Continue Reading.
Alternative snowmobile corridors proposed in the Remsen – Lake Placid Travel Corridor Draft Amendment violate the law and the “forever wild” mandate of the NYS Constitution and should be immediately removed from the draft according to Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve.
“The Department of Environmental Conservation’s inclusion of highly controversial alternative snowmobile routes which violate the law and a July 2019 court decision in a document dedicated to a Travel Corridor makes no sense to us,” the group’s managing partner David Gibson said in a statement sent to the press.
“This plan should stick to its topic, meaning the future of linear Rail and Recreational Trail segments from Big Moose to Lake Placid, and avoid mapping snowmobile community connectors outside of the Corridor on Forest Preserve which needlessly raise red flags and which blatantly violate wilderness law and a recent court decision.” » Continue Reading.
Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve will make free hard copies of its guidebook Pathways to a Connected Adirondack Park available during its Keene Valley meeting on Saturday, October 12, 2019 at the Keene Valley Congregational Church.
The illustrated guidebook, authored by conservation biologist Dr. Michael Klemens, was written to de-mystify the process of ecologically-informed land use and development for a general audience. It defines and describes the threat to people and wildlife of fragmentation of large contiguous areas in the Adirondack Park by being broken up into ever smaller, isolated patches of land. The publications describes ten strategies for localities and for regional entities like the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to adopt which can lead to better land use decisions that avoid or minimize fragmentation, reduce the ecological footprint of development and still accommodate vibrant human communities, working forests and outdoor recreation. » Continue Reading.
On Tuesday New York Supreme Court Judge Robert Muller granted a motion by two Adirondack environmental groups to preliminarily enjoin the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) from constructing of a new snowmobile bridge over the Cedar River until a decision is reached in an ongoing lawsuit.
The river is designated as a Scenic River under New York’s Wild, Scenic, and Recreational Rivers System Act.
The preliminary injunction was issued in response to a lawsuit brought by Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve and Protect the Adirondacks! The court decision halts construction of the trail at the banks of the Cedar River for now. » Continue Reading.
Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve is set to hold its 2019 Annual Meeting of Members and Friends on Saturday, October 12 at the Keene Valley Congregational Church in Keene Valley. The meeting begins with program news, elections and announcements at 11 am. » Continue Reading.
In order to cut a lot more trees on the Forest Preserve for new snowmobile corridors, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation and the Attorney General’s Office have announced that they will appeal July’s court ruling against the State and in favor of Protect the Adirondacks.
That ruling by a 4-1 court majority declared that the extent of tree cutting for snowmobile trail construction, when considered cumulatively, violated our state’s constitutional limit on destruction of timber on the Forest Preserve “to a material degree” (Article XIV, Section 1, NYS Constitution, and court interpretations). » Continue Reading.
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