After months of public debate and behind-the-scenes negotiations, the Adirondack Park Agency voted in December to prohibit motorized recreation on most of the former Finch, Pruyn timberlands the state purchased from the Nature Conservancy a year ago.
The unanimous decision will create a 23,494-acre Hudson Gorge Wilderness and ensure that the quiet of the remote Essex Chain Lakes will not be disturbed by motorboats. Under the APA plan, the lakes will be the centerpiece of a 9,940-acre Essex Chain Primitive Area. » Continue Reading.
For three days, the Adirondack Park Agency deliberated on a set of classifications for Forest Preserve in Newcomb, Minerva and Indian Lake that were never in doubt. The decisions were the Governor’s. APA took its direction from him, as it did with the Adirondack Club and Resort two years ago.
APA staff labored mightily over the past week to put those State Land decisions, and the maps into a format that their members might understand. The convoluted resolution was adopted unanimously but requires changes in inconvenient regulations and policies before the classifications are finalized. That is the price this Governor exacts from his state agencies in order to settle a controversial policy matter for these magnificent new parts of the Adirondack Forest Preserve. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park Agency voted unanimously today to approve a staff recommendation to create a 23,494-acre Hudson Gorge Wilderness Area and a 9,940-acre Essex Chain Primitive Area on lands once owned by the Finch, Pruyn paper company.
The vote climaxed a year of work that included public hearings, which elicited thousands of comments, and negotiations between state officials and various stakeholders.
Underscoring the importance of the decision was that Basil Seggos, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s deputy secretary for the environment, drove up from Albany to attend the APA’s meeting.
The Adirondack Park Agency began deliberations Wednesday on the classification of 21,200 acres of former Finch, Pruyn lands, with staff members explaining why the agency’s staff settled on a Primitive classification for the Essex Chain Lakes. However, some questions were left unanswered.
The staff had considered proposals to classify the Essex Chain as Wilderness, Canoe, and Wild Forest. As reported earlier on the Almanack, the staff rejected the Wilderness and Canoe designations largely because local towns own the floatplane rights to First Lake, which is part of the Essex Chain, as well as Pine Lake, which is located a mile and a half south of the chain.
“The presence of floatplanes landing and taking off would detract from the sense of wilderness,” Kathy Regan, a senior natural resource planner, told the APA board.
Wilderness 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.
Town 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.
Environmentalists 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.
After 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.”
The 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.
The 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.
State 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.
An 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 thatit 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.
As I write this, the debate is continuing to rage over how much motorized access should be allowed on former Finch, Pruyn lands sold to the state, but regardless of the decision, the age of private hunting and fishing clubs on those lands is quietly drawing to a close.
We’re in the middle of a ten-year slide to oblivion for the iconic Gooley Club, the Polaris Mountain Club, and others, but this is a significant year in that slide. As of a year ago, there were thirty-three clubs leasing land from the Nature Conservancy, which bought the Finch, Pruyn properties in 2007 in the most significant land acquisition since the creation of the Adirondack Park. Of those, twenty-three have or had camps, as in permanent structures, on their lease-holdings. A few of those have already folded operation. More will follow year by year as doomsday approaches, until, by September 30, 2018, every vestige of those camps will be gone at owner expense, all leases will end, and an Adirondack way of life will slip into history. Regardless of how the lands are classified and managed, they will become wholly public lands. » Continue Reading.
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.
When 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.
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