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.
Fifty springs ago, the Upper Hudson River was conserved as a wild, free flowing river. The Schenectady Gazette’s writer Pete Jacobs reported the news in the April 17, 1969 edition of that newspaper:
“Without opposition, the Assembly gave swift approval to legislation prohibiting the construction of the Gooley Dam on the Upper Hudson River, branded by conservationists as a threat to the wild river country.”
In addition to Gooley, the bill blocks construction of any reservoirs on the river from Luzerne to its source in the Adirondack Park.» Continue Reading.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced the completion of three new bridges in the Essex Chain Lakes Complex in the towns of Newcomb and Minerva, Essex County.
The bridges provide safer public motor vehicle access to the Essex Chain Lakes Primitive Area and sections of the Blue Mountain Wild Forest, and are accessible from the end of mud season to first snowfall. » Continue Reading.
All of the buildings of the Gooley Club hunting camp on Third Lake on the Essex Chain Lakes have been removed. The site is cleared. The dozen or so cabins, the shower building, the main lodge clubhouse, the various storage buildings, and the network of docks are all gone.
Under the terms of the state’s purchase from The Nature Conservancy in 2012, the hunting camps and clubs on these lands were allowed to remain until the end of September 2018. Their last exclusive big game season was 2017. The Essex Chain Lakes Complex Unit Management Plan (UMP) called for the removal of the Gooley Club buildings once their term of exclusive use was up, but some members of the Gooley Club, along with allies at Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) and local government leaders, made a last stand to keep these buildings. They argued that the Gooley Club should stay and be preserved and maintained by the state as a kind of living museum of Adirondack hunting and fishing camp culture. » Continue Reading.
The Essex Chain Lakes Complex contains 18 water bodies totaling 785 acres that range in size from 3-acre Chub Pond to 216-acre Third Lake. Paddlers can carry their canoe or kayak 0.25 miles to Deer Pond from the Deer Pond Parking Area at the end of the Cornell/Deer Pond Road. The 0.5-mile carry from Deer Pond to Third Lake is located directly across the pond on its southern shore.
Once in Third Lake, paddlers can access Second Lake by water and from there travel to First Lake using a 0.1-mile carry trail. On the northern shore of First Lake near its western end is the 0.4-mile carry to Grassy Pond. » Continue Reading.
The State of New York continues to face the challenge of managing buildings on the Forest Preserve in the Adirondack Park.
This has been an issue for decades and is now an even bigger issue at the inner Gooley Club, a complex of more than a dozen buildings, on Third Lake in the heart of the Essex Chain Lakes Primitive area. » Continue Reading.
Beginning August 15th, campers planning to camp on one of the 11 tent sites on the shores of the Essex Chain Lakes will no longer be required to reserve a site before camping, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced.
While tent sites will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, campers will need to complete self-issued camping permits year-round at the trailhead register at the Deer Pond Parking Area. This will allow DEC to continue to monitor usage levels of the tent sites. » Continue Reading.
The acquisitions of former Finch, Pruyn lands have created a plethora of paddling opportunities ranging from whitewater dashes to pristine lakes and ponds.
A group of paddling enthusiasts, brought together by the magic of an internet forum, took my suggestions and joined me to paddle the outflow of the Essex Chain Lakes, or more simply, the Chain Drain.
We booked campsites at nearby Lake Harris for the sake of convenience and the size of our group. Groups of us began trickling in to the campsite on a Friday, the first day of the 2016 camping season at Lake Harris campground. All were greeted by warm, sunny skies and a multitude of black flies.
New York State has partnered with the Five Towns of the Upper Hudson Recreation Hub expected to help develop tourist destinations that rely on the extensive trail network of the Adirondack Park and existing and new lodging options.
The Concept Plan for a Hut-to-Hut Destination-based Trail System for the Five Towns of Long Lake, Newcomb, Indian Lake, Minerva, and North Hudson presents 26 trail or “traverse” trips involving overnight stays and multi-day hike opportunities for visitors to the Upper Hudson region. » Continue Reading.
The Essex Chain Lakes and Boreas Ponds have been hogging much of the publicity over the state’s acquisition of the former Finch, Pruyn lands. That’s understandable, for both waterways are jewels that are sure to become popular paddling and hiking destinations.
Lost in all the hoopla is Pine Lake, another handsome body of water located a little south of the Essex Chain. In another time, Pine Lake by itself would have been a celebrated acquisition.
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 have heard from many who have gone into the Essex Chain Lakes area and encountered relatively few other people. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has stated that public use has been very high but provided no numbers. When I rode my bicycle from Newcomb to Blue Mountain Lake on a beautiful 75 degree Saturday of Labor Day weekend last year there were two cars at the Deer Pond parking lot to the Essex Chain Lakes area. This contrasted with the fairly heavy use of people hiking into OK Slip Falls, which is part of the Hudson Gorge Wilderness area.
Through a freedom of Information letter, I requested trailhead logbooks from the DEC to look at the use of other flatwater canoeing locations in the Adirondack Forest Preserve – Little Tupper Lake, Low’s Lake and Lake Lila. These are all wonderful motorless areas that provide incredible flatwater canoeing and overnight opportunities. I had certainly envisioned that the Essex Chain Lakes would become another such vaunted Wilderness destination where visitors were guaranteed a wild experience, away from motor vehicles.
Two of the Adirondack Park’s major environmental groups are suing the state over the management plan for the Essex Chain Lakes region—a large tract of forest, ponds, and streams that the state acquired from the Nature Conservancy as part of the blockbuster Finch, Pruyn deal.
Protect the Adirondacks and Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court in Albany contending that the management plan violates the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, the state Wild, Scenic, and Recreational Rivers System Act, and state snowmobile-trail policy. » Continue Reading.
Two of the Adirondack Park’s four major environmental organizations filed a legal challenge to the Essex Chain management plan, but the two others have legal questions as well.
Protect the Adirondacks and Adirondack Wild filed a lawsuit today in State Supreme Court in Albany, claiming the management plan violates the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, the state Wild, Scenic, and Recreational Rivers Act, and state snowmobile-trail policy.
Named as defendants are the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which drafted the management plan, and the Adirondack Park Agency, which approved it. Both agencies refused to comment on the suit.
Christopher Amato, a former assistant commissioner at DEC, told the Almanack that the Essex Chain plan is “blatantly illegal.” Amato is now an attorney at Earthjustice, a nonprofit organization that is representing Protect and Adirondack Wild in the lawsuit.
Amato said Earthjustice will file a motion to prevent DEC from implementing the management plan until the lawsuit is resolved.
Note: This article is the third of three that looks at the widespread violations of public process, state policies, and state laws in the recent approval of the Essex Chain Plan. Part one can be found here and part two here.
In many ways the Forest Preserve defines the Adirondack Park experience. The trails, mountains, lean-tos, campsite and deep beauty of the forests are what the Adirondacks is all about. The Forest Preserve provides the dramatic scenic backdrop across the Park and brings millions of visitors to the Adirondacks. The Forest Preserve also generates tens of millions in school and local tax revenues. » Continue Reading.
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