Posts Tagged ‘Forest Preserve’

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cool Map: Proposed State Land Classifications

Much has been written about the Adirondack Park Agency in the past two weeks, none of it by the Almanack. But we’ll add this: the agency’s cartographers continue to make handy maps. The latest is an interactive online map of new state land classification proposals. (Click here to see and use.)

There are 91 points on the map, each one describing a proposed category for new state lands (from most restrictive to least: wilderness, primitive, wild forest, intensive use, state administrative—definitions here, current acreages here.) Collectively the parcels amount to 31,000 acres.

The smallest are fractions of an acre, some of them little pieces of land that never got classified because the state wasn’t aware of them until improvements to tax maps. Some parcels are for DOT garages or adjacent to prisons. Others are recent state Forest Preserve acquisitions. The largest is 17,000 acres of former Domtar land surrounding Lyon Mountain, in Clinton County, which the APA is proposing to classify as Wild Forest, where motorized recreation is permitted on designated roads and trails.

Five public hearings are scheduled on the classifications in the next two weeks. The APA is also proposing to reclassify four parcels (468 acres) of existing state land. The APA makes these recommendations in concert with the Department of Environmental Conservation; they must ultimately be approved by the APA board and the governor. Here’s the public notice for more information.

Hearing schedule:
January 25, 2010
Fire Hall
5635 Route 28N
Newcomb, NY
7:00 pm

January 27, 2010
Park Avenue Building
183 Park Ave
Old Forge, NY
7:00 pm

January 28, 2010
Town Hall, 3662 Route 3
Saranac, NY
7:00 pm

February 2, 2010
St. Lawrence County Human Services Center
80 SH 310
Canton, NY
7:00 pm

February 5, 2010
NYDEC, 625 Broadway
Albany, NY
1:00 pm


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Groups Sue To Protect SLMP, Wilderness Water Routes

The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) and Protect the Adirondacks! (PROTECT), filed a lawsuit Tuesday in state Supreme Court in Albany to force the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to classify the state-owned Lows Lake-Bog River-Oswegatchie wilderness canoe route in the heart of the Adirondacks.

The move comes on the heels of Governor David Paterson’s signing off on the classification and reclassification of about 8,000 acres (the Lows Lake Primitive Area, a portion of the Hitchins Pond Primitive Area, and additional acres south of Lows Lake) to wilderness their addition to the Five Ponds and Round Lake wilderness areas and also creating a new Eastern Five Ponds Access Primitive Area. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Guilty Pleasures: Skiing Adirondack Backcountry Glades

There’s plenty of good powder in the woods these days. It’s an ideal time for skiing glades.

Good luck finding one. Most backcountry skiers would sooner give out their bank PINs than reveal the locations of their favorite glades.

In the decade I’ve lived here, I’ve stumbled upon a few glades while exploring the woods and learned about others through word of mouth. I ski three or four glades fairly regularly.

It’s a guilty pleasure, though. Many glades are surreptitiously maintained by skiers who cut saplings and underbrush—which is illegal in the forever-wild Forest Preserve.

I’ve talked to skiers who insist that the grooming doesn’t harm the forest. As much as I enjoy skiing glades, I am a tad skeptical. Certainly, it changes the natural environment. Then again, so does just about everything we do in the wild—whether it’s cutting a hiking trail, driving a polluting snowmobile over a marsh, or stocking a stream with hatchery fish. The question is how much alteration of the environment is acceptable.

Recently, I happened to meet a well-respected environmental scientist at a trailhead, and I asked him if thinning glades damaged the forest. His off-the-cuff answer: not much.

An article in Vermont Life takes a hard look at the issue of cutting bootleg trails and thinning glades. One critic argues that cutting saplings creates a forest of even-aged trees and when these trees die, gaps in the forest will emerge. Yet the article also quotes an expert suggesting that glades can be managed to minimize the environmental impact.

Many resorts, including state-run facilities at Whiteface and Gore, have created glades to satisfy their patrons’ desire to ski in a more natural environment. Some backcountry skiers would like to see the state authorize the creation of managed glades in wild portions of the Forest Preserve. Frankly, I see that as a long shot, but it’d be neat if Paul Smith’s College or the state College of Environmental Science and Forestry looked at the impact of ski glades. As a long-term experiment, students could thin a glade on their own, study it over the years, and come up with suggestions for glade management. This information could be useful to resorts and perhaps to backcountry outlaws as well.

Backcountry skiers need to watch what they wish for. If the state did permit maintained glades in the Forest Preserve, everyone would know their locations.

I have a feeling, though, that hard-core enthusiasts would be skiing elsewhere.

Photo by Phil Brown: A skier in an Adirondack glade.

For more stories about backcountry skiing and snowshoeing, visit the Adirondack Explorer website.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cool Map: Lakes and Ponds in Forest Preserve

An Almanack reader who likes maps called our attention to one posted last week in the Adirondack Park Agency’s online map room. It shows lakes and ponds encompassed entirely by Forest Preserve. (Click here to see larger map.)

The tally of those lakes and ponds is 1,838, and a series of clickable sidebar charts sorts them by variables. The largest? Lake Lila, at 1,461 acres. (Little Tupper Lake at 2,305 acres would’ve been the largest but there are a couple of small private inholdings. Follensby Pond, at 1,000 acres, would become third largest when New York State acquires it.) But most Forest Preserve waters are little: 1,728 of them are between 1 and 250 acres in surface area. A pie chart shows that there are almost exactly the same number of lakes fully within Wild Forest (862) as Wilderness (860) state land classifications. » Continue Reading.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Clarence Petty’s Last Words of Wisdom

As editor of the Adirondack Explorer, I interviewed Clarence Petty before every issue over the past five years for our “Questions for Clarence” feature. Several times before his death, at age 104, I asked what piece of wisdom he would like to impart to future generations.

His answer: Let the people vote. He argued that since the Adirondack Park is a state treasure, the residents of the whole state should vote on matters of importance to the Park. He had no doubt that the statewide electorate would favor preservation of the Park’s natural beauty and wild character.

We didn’t discuss the nuts and bolts of how these referendums would work, but it’s an interesting idea. Surely Clarence is right that people in Buffalo, Syracuse, Long Island, and other distant places would be inclined to favor state land acquisition and other measures intended protect the Park’s natural resources.

Of course, in-Park officials would fight tooth and nail to prevent such outside influence on the region. But Clarence often found himself at odds with his fellow Adirondackers.

I got to know Clarence only in the last decade of his life. The Explorer’s founder and erstwhile publisher, Dick Beamish, knew him for nearly forty years. For the newsmagazine’s January/February issue, Dick wrote a lengthy article about Clarence’s life and contributions to the Park. It’s the most comprehensive piece on Clarence I’ve seen since his death in November. You can read it here. You’ll also find a selection of Questions for Clarence.

Photo of Clarence on top of Giant Mountain, at age 70, courtesy of the Adirondack Council.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Pharaoh Lake Wilderness: The Battle of Crane Pond Road

Two decades ago, some Adirondackers forced the state to back down from a decision to close Crane Pond Road inside the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness.

A few weeks ago, I went to Crane Pond Road to take photos for a story that will run in the next issue of the Adirondack Explorer.

The dirt lane became a cause celebre two decades ago when the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) tried to close it. » Continue Reading.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Commentary: Monetizing the Forest Preserve

Ever since 1894, when delegates to a New York State Constitutional Convention voted to keep the Adirondack Forest Preserve “forever wild,” conservationists have come up with any number of arguments in defense of wilderness. Some have been utilitarian, some populist, some historical, some spiritual. Those arguments have always been necessary, because the opponents of maintaining the Forest Preserve as lands forever wild have been many, and at times powerful.

In fact, one of the few valid reasons to oppose another constitutional convention is the political fragility of the state constitution’s Article XIV, the clause that prohibits the destruction of the Forest Preserve. The more astute politicians among the conservationists have always understood that it is the better part of prudence to avoid endorsing a single defense of wilderness, thereby retaining the support of proponents of all other possible arguments.

In part because of that catholic perspective, the Adirondack Park has been able to support “a multiplicity of visions,” as Dr. Ross Whaley, the co-editor of “The Great Experiment in Conservation: Voices from the Adirondack Park,” puts it. But new arguments in defense of wilderness can only buttress the cause, and here’s one that’s beginning to emerge: forests offset greenhouse gas emissions and thus play a valuable role in slowing climate change.

In a 2008 issue of BioScience, the journal of the American Society of Biological Sciences, researchers quantified the amount of carbon that Midwestern forests keep out of the atmosphere. They concluded that the forests could offset the greenhouse gas emissions of almost two thirds of nearby populations. While deciduous forests are very good at storing carbon, boreal forests are even better, says John Sheehan of the Adirondack Council, and, he adds, the Adirondack Park contains approximately 800,000 acres of those boreal forests. That’s reason enough for New Yorkers to support the preservation of even more land, if not by New York State, than by conservancies and land trusts.

But if the Adirondack Park has value as carbon storage, we asked Sheehan, could a price be attached to that value? Could the Adirondack Park, for instance, be awarded pollution credits that could be sold for the economic benefit of its residents? Here’s Sheehan’s response: “We are working with a few people right now to see what value could be placed on the global ecological benefits of lands on which we know the trees will continue to grow for centuries to come, that is to say, in the Forest Preserve and in wilderness lands on which New York State holds easements.”

As to whether the Adirondack Park could be awarded credits for storing carbon that would otherwise be sent into the atmosphere, Sheehan said, that’s conceivable. “We think we can seek and win federal credit for those Adirondack communities as part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or in a carbon trading program adopted by Congress.”

While our thought was that any funds derived from the sale of credits should somehow be apportioned among local governments to offset property taxes or to create jobs, Sheehan said, “We think the state should direct the money it receives into the Environmental Protection Fund, and the communities could use the money for planning or for grants to residents and businesses for energy conservation.” But however the funds were used, local governments might now have some financial incentive to support (or at least not oppose too loudly) the preservation of the Adirondacks.

Of greater importance, understanding the role that the Adirondack Park plays in slowing climate change can only deepen our appreciation of these woods – and of those who fought to make and keep them forever wild.

For more news and commentary from Lake George, read the Lake George Mirror http://www.lakegeorgemirror.com


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Adirondack Council Opposes Snowmobile Trails Plan

The Adirondack Council is asking the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to reject a NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) proposed snowmobile trail plan saying that it would allow mechanical groomers on Forest Preserve land and also what the council called the “illegal widening of snowmobile trails on state owned land.”

The APA is considering today and tomorrow in Ray Brook whether the plan, known officially as Management Guidance: Snowmobile Trail Siting, Construction and Maintenance on Forest Preserve Lands in the Adirondack Park, is consistent with provisions of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. The proposed changes include the building of mechanically groomed “Community Connector” trails nine feet wide (12 at curves). » Continue Reading.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Adirondack Park Re-emerging on Google Maps

The Adirondack Park has not quite returned to Google Maps, but something is taking shape: the Adirondack Forest Preserve.

On October 8 we noticed that the green shape representing “Adirondack State Park” was reduced to a little slice over the Cranberry Lake area. Users let Google know about the error through its “Report a Problem” link. As it incorporates user data, Google is apparently trying to restore the park, but it’s not all there yet.

One commenter suggested that the map distinguish between public and private land, which Google is now doing. It’s good to see state land shaded green, though not all tracts are labeled and Google apparently can’t tell Wilderness from Wild Forest. Also missing is the park boundary and the words “Adirondack Park.” (The boundary in the image above was drawn by Adirondack Almanack for context.)

This is a complicated place. Some private landowners and Adirondackers say the “park” label makes the uninitiated think that nobody lives here, or that all land is open to the public. Niki Kourofsky of Adirondack Life had some funny anecdotes in this fall’s Collector’s Issue (“Your Place or Mine?”) about residents who’ve found people picnicking on their lawns, and visitors who ask rangers, “What time does the park close?” Even though it’s not all government land like Yellowstone, this region is still distinct and has been designated a park for 117 years. Tourism-dependent businesses that promote the Adirondack name and conservationists who have invested more than a century in the ecological integrity of both private and public lands would surely like to see “Adirondack” somewhere over this part of the map.

It was also suggested that Google show conservation easements, as this Adirondack Park Agency map does. Conservation easements are voluntary restrictions on use of private land, usually preventing development to retain natural conditions. But since every easement is different and public access is determined tract by tract, another land designation might just confuse things even more. The state and private conservation organizations have acquired hundreds of thousands of acres of easements in the Adirondacks over the past three decades. While so far the legal agreements seem to be keeping timberlands intact and are working well for landowners, from a public recreation standpoint they are a tangle. The writer Neal Burdick put it well a few years ago when he said that instead of the old metaphor of a “patchwork quilt” of public and private lands, the Adirondack Park might better be called a “bowl of spaghetti.”

Map from a Google screen capture; park boundary drawn by the Almanack


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Two Adirondack Almanack Debates You May Be Missing

We often have some outstanding discussions here at Adirondack Almanack, debates that carry on long after the story has left the main page. I thought I’d take a moment to point readers to two active and interesting debates that have recently slipped off the main page.

The first involves Mary Thill’ s October 8 post “Posted Signs Do’s And Don’ts” which has 21 insightful comments on navigation law, trespass, private property and paddlers.

A second post also generating a lot of discussion is the recent announcement I made about a planned North Creek to Tahawus Rail Trail on October 14. There you’ll find nearly a dozen comments on the subject of abandoned railway easements and the Forest Preserve. Both discussion are enlightening—take a moment to check them out.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A 2017 Constitutional Convention And The Adirondacks

There has been a lot of public discussion about the potential for a constitutional convention in 2017 (as allowed by the current state constitution every 20 years), one that could influence the future of the Adirondack Forest Preserve and the Adirondack Park.

The New York State Constitutional Convention of 1967 (the last State Constitutional Convention) was held in Albany April 4 – September 26, 1967 and the revisions submitted to the voters that November; all of the convention’s proposals were rejected. Among the proposals that failed during the process were those to establish the forerunner of the Department of Conservation and to make it easier for the legislature to take land from the Forest Preserve (with voter referendum).

Wilderness preservation issues are likely to be hotly debated in the run-up to a constitutional convention—in fact, former Governor Mario Cuomo recently called for a chance to revise the constitution using, in part, these words:

A constitutional convention is a peoples’ meeting to design or redesign the peoples’ government. The legislature has traditionally not favored calling such a body to life. It feared that a convention might take steps to diminish the legislature’s institutional power or incumbents’ chances of re-election.

Others with particular interests to protect have also been skeptical. For example, environmentalists worry—needlessly, we think—about a convention altering the present constitution’s commitment to keeping our parks in the Adirondacks and Catskills ‘forever wild.’

This is short-sighted. Environmentalists might make gains at a convention by convincing us to constitutionalize positive rights to clean air and clean water.

Sure, it seems a long way off, but the idea that a new constitution might either abolish the forever wild clause, or “constitutionalize positive rights to clean air and clean water” is something Adirondack residents take seriously.

The New York State Library has recently digitized and made available online a treasure trove of documents relating to the 1967 convention. The current NYS Constitution can be found in pdf form here.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Odd Outposts in the Forest

In keeping with yesterday’s noontime post on cairns, today a word on other random structures in the woods, what for lack of a better term I’ve come to call hider huts.

People who spend time off-trail in the Adirondacks occasionally stumble across signs that others have walked there before them: old bottles, fire rings, chewing gum wrappers. Maybe a hunter kept watch in that spot years ago or as recently as last fall. A few people I know have also found simple structures in the middle of nowhere, usually on Forest Preserve. Maybe some of these were left by hunters too and used as shelters or blinds. Some are clearly kids’ forts constructed of downed branches. But others have more permanence.

The cabin in this picture is on Blood Hill, within earshot of downtown Saranac Lake traffic. The ground is littered with beer cans and a mildewed old blanket. As hidden huts go, this is one is detailed, with planed floorboards and a glassed door, easily imported because of its proximity to town. Probably just a party spot, but a sturdy one and startling to come across on a bushwhack.

On nearby Dewey Mountain a freshly built cabana, I guess, appeared this spring, walled and camouflaged with logs and balsam. The door was a bedspring woven with evergreen branches. The structure was notable for its size (big enough to garage a truck) and for a David Lynchian sparsity of amenities: a blue tarp, two tubs of Vaseline, and a fire ring beneath a central ceiling hole. It’s falling down now.

Last summer between Blood and Dewey there was a bivouac next to a log in the forest where some poor guy (?) was sleeping out nightly. He kept his sleeping bag and clothes in a trash bag and hung other accessories on a tree. He got up early each morning, maybe to go to a job, and I never saw him. He’s not there this year.

Here is a Flickr photo album of the Blood Hill and Dewey Mountain huts, shot this summer.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ross Whaley on ‘Private Lands in a Park’ at Adk Museum

On Monday, August 17, 2009, Ross Whaley, past Chairman of the Adirondack Park Agency, will present a program entitled “Private Lands in a Park: An Historical Accident, A Mistake, or an Asset” at the Adirondack Museum. Whaley will discuss the importance of private land stewardship in defining the character of the Adirondack Park, as well as the challenges of maintaining a park that is unique in the world.

Part of the museum’s Monday Evening Lecture series, the presentation will be held in the Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. There is no charge for museum members. Admission is $5.00 for non-members.

Ross S. Whaley is President Emeritus, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Since October of 2007 Dr. Whaley has served as Senior Advisor to the Adirondack Land Owners Association. He assumed this post after serving as Chairman of the Adirondack Park Agency for four years. He brought to these positions more than 30 years experience as a university teacher, researcher and administrator. He also served as Director of Economics Research for the US Forest Service for six years. Whaley holds a bachelor’s degree in forestry and a PhD in natural resource economics from the University of Michigan.

From 1984-2005 Dr. Whaley was associated with the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, 16 years as its President and subsequently as University Professor. As Professor his interest focused on the political economy of sustainable development.

Ross Whaley has served as a consultant to or member of several state, national, and international commissions devoted to natural resource and environmental issues. In recognition of these activities he has been awarded the Pinchot Medallion by the Pinchot Institute for Conservation, the Professional Conservationist Award by the New York Conservation Council, the Heiberg Memorial Award by the New York Forest Owners Association, and is an Honor Alumnus of Colorado State University.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What’s On Your Adirondack Stimulus Money Wish List?

The Herkimer County Progressive blog’s post A Local Stimulus Wish List got me wondering what folks in the Adirondacks would want to do with stimulus money. It’s a question our politicians didn’t bother to really ask – so here’s your opportunity to sound off.

New or improved trails?
Light rail?
Sewer system installations or upgrades?
Educational upgrades?
Rooftop highway?
Invasive eradication?
Property tax relief?
Additions to the Forest Preserve?
Energy projects?

The question is basically if you had unlimited money, but had to prioritize, where would you put it?


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

UPDATED: Constitutional Amendment for Power Line

One story has been lost in the drama coming out of the New York State Legislature lately: the Constitutional amendment. In May, before it became completely dysfunctional, the NYS Senate passed a bill that would give after-the-fact permission for a new power line from Stark Falls Reservoir to the Village of Tupper Lake. The Constitutional Amendment is necessary to provide an exception to the Forever Wild clause of the Constitution (Article 14, Section 1). The Forever Wild clause forbids logging or development on the Adirondack Forest Preserve, and that includes power lines. The Amendment requires passage by two separately elected legislatures, which is now complete, and then approval by voters on a statewide ballot this fall. » Continue Reading.