Champlain Area Trails (CATS) is partnering with the Northeast Wilderness Trust to sponsor Tyler Socash’s talk, “7,000 Miles to a Wilderness Ethic” at the Whallonsburg Grange on Friday, November 17, from 6 to 8 pm.
After years of outdoor recreation in the Adirondack Park, Tyler went on a yearlong trek across the Pacific Crest Trail, New Zealand’s Te Araroa and the Appalachian Trail. Socash says his adventure into wild lands inspired him to help defend the wildest remaining places in New York’s Forest Preserve. » Continue Reading.
There will be no decision on the classification of the Boreas Ponds at the November meeting of the Adirondack Park Agency (APA). The APA often does not meet in either December or January so it could be that there is no decision until February 2018 or after. The Governor has made it clear that he will make the final decision on Boreas Ponds and will instruct the APA on what to do. For it’s part, the APA has prepared the paperwork for the Boreas classification, but patiently awaits the decision by the Governor.
The Boreas Ponds sit as the centerpiece of a classification package of over 50,000 acres of Forest Preserve lands that the APA took to public hearing one year ago. Once the hearings concluded in mid-December a decision was supposed to be speedy with management set by the summer 2017 field season. Yet, here we are a year later with no decision in sight. » Continue Reading.
“They own the track so they believe they have the right to store their trains on their track in the Adirondacks. It is unsightly. It’s out of character with the Adirondacks. We don’t own the tracks. There’s a question as to what legal right we have to oppose it. But we oppose it one hundred percent and we are going to do everything we can do to stop the owner from storing the trains on those tracks.” – Governor Andrew Cuomo
So said Governor Andrew Cuomo to media gathered in Glens Falls last week concerning Iowa Pacific/Saratoga-North Creek Railroad (SNCRR) storage of old, supposedly cleaned tanker cars on rails in Minerva, Essex County, close to the designated “Scenic” Boreas River. The underlying land below and on either side of the tracks where tanker cars are being stored is “forever wild” Forest Preserve (Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest). » Continue Reading.
On Tuesday, November 7th, New Yorkers have an opportunity to vote on Ballot Proposition 1: whether the State will hold a constitutional convention in 2019. Many of my colleagues in the Adirondack environmental world are urging a “No” vote. Anticipating that such a convention would be heavily influenced by moneyed special interests, they are concerned with possible threats to the legendary “Forever Wild” constitutional amendment that protects the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves. They reason correctly that Forever Wild, being the gold standard in wilderness protection, cannot be improved, only weakened, and they don’t want to see State take that risk.
I share my friends’ concern about Forever Wild and I agree with their basic argument, but I do not join them in urging a “No” vote. My political DNA is too deeply imbued with grassroots, democratic activism for me to oppose this opportunity for the people of New York to directly act on the condition of their government. I also recognize that simply convening a constitutional convention does not expose the welfare to the Adirondack Park to unfettered abuse by special interests who would exploit it. No matter the goings on among the delegates to the convention, the people of New York will have the final say in the process, by virtue of their vote on any amendments in November of 2019.
What happened to the Adirondack Park Agency’s classification of the Boreas Ponds Tract? Months have passed with no sign of it on the APA’s monthly agenda. Information does seep out here and there, and it’s not encouraging. By now it’s no secret that plans are afoot for the Boreas classification that have nothing to do with the intended, legal process: namely development of the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS), public hearings and public written comments and analysis, all leading to a recommended alternative.
Instead, the State is scrambling to find a way to accommodate the wishes of Governor Cuomo, who fancies a “hut-to-hut” system in the Adirondacks that includes facilities at Boreas, a development not contemplated in any of the four currently proposed alternatives. This is not how it is supposed to work and it raises questions of who is accountable for a classification process gone wrong.
This November’s election may be an off-year, but it’s an important one for New Yorkers. The ballot will include the question of whether to hold a convention to make changes to the New York State Constitution, a chance that comes along once every twenty years.
New York State residents with ties to the Adirondacks should be conflicted: on the one hand, their state constitution is in desperate need of revision — punctuated by a string of corruption convictions against state leaders in recent years. The changes needed to fix this problem aren’t likely to come from lawmakers themselves through constitutional amendment.
But while taking back control of our constitution seems a desirable goal, opening the potential for harm to Article 14, which includes the forever-wild clause protecting the Forest Preserve in the Adirondacks and Catskills, is a proposition scarier to some than politicians lining their pockets with public money. » Continue Reading.
A friend and fellow founder of Adirondack Wild first urged me to read Wallace Stegner’s Beyond the Hundredth Meridian (Houghton Mifflin, 1954). Perhaps my friend sensed connections between the “second opening of the west” and the Adirondacks. Regardless, it remains a fascinating work, to be read and re-read. Although never part of my schooling, it should be on anyone’s lifetime reading list.
Stegner chronicles the explorer of the Colorado River, John Wesley Powell, who spent his middle life and health attempting to teach our late 19th century politicians (and those moving west) that only scientifically-based land use planning and restrictions would save us from the disaster of letting Americans willy-nilly settle, break sod, and farm the arid west under the 1862 Homestead Act.
As head of brand new scientific agencies in Washington DC, the Geological and Irrigation Surveys, Powell acted for the “common interest” through his dry-eyed assessment that 160-acres, a mule and a plow on either side of the 100th meridian were irrational and pitiable against prairie and desert wind, snow, sun, drought and loneliness. Rain, it turned out, did not follow the plow in the 1880s and 90s, or during the 1930s Dust Bowl. Powell fought tenaciously against scientific misconceptions, false prophets, personal gain, corrupt practice, and speculative acquisitiveness – whereby a handful of individuals could and did gobble up millions of acres of the public’s dry lands and whatever little water existed there, for their own use. » Continue Reading.
Chip Moeser hiked fifteen miles from Lake Placid in early July to spend the night at Duck Hole deep in the High Peaks Wilderness. He was looking for quiet, but in the late afternoon, a helicopter started descending from overhead.
“It was coming in like it was going to land,” Moeser said, adding that it got as close as ten feet to the ground before taking off.
At first, he had assumed it was a state helicopter. In fact, it was owned by Go Aviation, which this summer started flying helicopter tours out of Lake Placid and Lake Clear. » Continue Reading.
Every two decades, New Yorkers go to the polls to decide whether they want to rewrite the language in their state constitution. Historically, they take a pass on this opportunity — in more than a century, only three constitutional conventions have been called by the voters, the most recent in 1967. And even in that year, the same voters who called for the convention decided they didn’t like the result and rejected the changes proposed by the convention’s delegates.
But if last year’s presidential elections and the rise of a self-styled populist to power were reflective of anything, it was that much of the electorate is irritated with business as usual and might be willing to take chances in the name of draining the swamp. » Continue Reading.
On July 31, 2017 final papers were submitted in the trial in state Supreme Court in Albany over management of the Forest Preserve. The trial ended in early April. The trial focused on management of the public “forever wild” Forest Preserve by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and Adirondack Park Agency.
These agencies are currently building a network of 9-12 foot wide class II community connector snowmobile trails (Class II trails) on the Adirondack Forest Preserve that require cutting thousands of trees, extensive grading.
The lawsuit was filed by Protect the Adirondacks (PROTECT) against the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and Adirondack Park Agency in 2013, and alleges that these trails violate Article XIV, Section 1, the forever wild provision of the NYS Constitution. » Continue Reading.
Regular Almanack readers are used to hearing me stress the importance of perspectives from outside the Adirondack Park. Today I’ve got one from way outside the Adirondack Park, specifically Norway, where my wife Amy and I are traveling for two weeks. While here I have enjoyed the geologic kinship Norway shares with the Adirondacks. I have also enjoyed the fact that my experiences so far have reinforced the sentiments I expressed in my last Almanack column, namely that we should not overreact to busy trails in the High Peaks. If you think we have a problem in the Adirondacks, you should see the hiking traffic here. And if you think that pervasive cultural experiences of pristine, wild places can’t place their fragile value at the heart of an entire society, you should see this country.
Yesterday Amy and I climbed Preikestolen, one of Norway’s most popular hiking destinations and a national icon. In some ways Preikestolen is Norway’s answer to Indian Head: a massive, open rock slab with a spectacular view, positioned far above a narrow body of water that is set between mountain ridges. However the scale is far greater: Priekestolen’s height above the water is three times that of Indian Head and the body of water is a sizeable fjord, not a small lake. For the purposes of this article, a better comparison is our own infamous Cascade Mountain. Cascade’s trail involves several hundred feet more vertical ascent than Preikestolen, but both routes are 2.4 miles and, more important, both trails are crammed with people who want an accessible but authentic regional mountain experience. Like Cascade, Preikestolen is a challenge that a neophyte hiker or ambitious family might take, an intimidating but doable workout with major parking problems down below and a show-stopper payoff on top. The difference, once again, is scale: Preikestolen’s foot traffic makes Cascade look like Allen Mountain. » Continue Reading.
Recently, I was returning from Nubble Cliff in the Giant Mountain Wilderness when I passed a tent on the southeast shore of the Giant’s Washbowl and heard someone breaking branches or dead trees, presumably gathering wood for a campfire.
Campfires are an Adirondack tradition. Who doesn’t like a fire when sleeping under the stars? Nevertheless, I couldn’t help thinking that this was not good for the environment. Rather, it was destructive. » Continue Reading.
Last month we went to see Bill Killon’s documentary, “Colvin: Hero of the North Woods” at the Adirondack History Museum in Elizabethtown. Surveyor and forest-preserve advocate Verplanck Colvin has always been something of a hero of mine, and not because he has the funniest name associated with the Adirondacks. He doesn’t. He doesn’t even have the funniest name beginning with V, an honor that goes to — and I assume I will get no argument here — the mountain that goes by the name of Vanderwhacker.
It’s an excellent film, drawing on the observations of a veritable Mount Rushmore of contemporary Adirondack voices, and deftly and artfully edited by Killon to show Colvin’s strengths, weaknesses and complexities. In a classic touch, an Adirondack downpour lends a comforting background serenade to an interview with Tony Goodwin, symbolic, perhaps, of the waters that Colvin was so inclined to protect. » Continue Reading.
A man who allegedly flew a drone in the High Peaks Wilderness in June is headed to court in Keene next month.
The man allegedly flew and landed a drone on June 17th near the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Johns Brook Outpost. The man was issued a ticket after the incident was observed by a forest ranger.
The ticket was first of its kind for operation of a drone on the Adirondack Park Forest Preserve. It alleges the individual operated motorized equipment within land classified as wilderness. » Continue Reading.
Overuse in portions of the High Peaks is a real and growing problem, exacerbated by trends in social media and the expanding desire to count-off summits. It has been documented extensively here in the Almanack. But in the last few weeks these discussions have reached a rolling boil with a bit too much hyperbole for me. A range of ideas has been raised, a number of them falling under the general concept of limiting access to the High Peaks, including permit systems, licensing schemes, daily caps and so on. Some of these limiting suggestions have been accompanied by exclusionary rhetoric with which I strongly disagree, along the lines of “Why are we trying to get more people here?” or “I like my (town, street, access) the way it is, without all the visitors.” I agree that increasing use in parts of the High Peaks is a real issue, and I have written about various aspects of the problem for several years. But the exclusionary sentiments I’m starting to hear are where I draw the line. » Continue Reading.
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