The Adirondack Forest Preserve has largely been divided between motorized and non-motorized lands, mechanized and non-mechanized areas. Primarily, these dividing lines separate where automobiles, snowmobiles, and bicycles are allowed and where they are prohibited. On one side, people walk, run, cross country ski or paddle a canoe. On the other side people can use motor vehicles and ride bikes. By and large, the separation of uses has worked well. It’s coherent and there’s virtue in its simplicity. As one long-time local government leader often quipped referring to Forest Preserve advocates, “Wilderness is yours and Wild Forest is ours.”
By this stage the NYS APA, DEC, and DOT may feel justified that they have adequately addressed public comments about the future of the Remsen-Lake Placid Railroad Travel Corridor. Having hosted listening sessions in 2013-14 and several public comment periods in 2015, the last one concluding in December, the DEC’s unit management plan amendment goes on, page after page, responding to questions and comment. The DEC responses justify the preferred alternative of separate corridor segments; segment one with rail from Remsen terminating at Tupper Lake, the other, an all-recreational segment two between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid, without rail. The underlying economic studies doubtless contributed to the result, as do the physical obstacles to rail with trail, but the compromise seems almost unavoidable in light of the often clamorous, divided public point and counterpoint.
Still, one would have hoped that in its mailing to Agency members this month APA staff would have gone the extra mile in describing and analyzing the public comments in explaining why the Travel Corridor UMP amendment, and the creation of the two corridor segments (and much else in the UMP) complies with the State Land Master Plan. That was the purpose of the public comment period ending in mid-December. That is the decision APA Members will have to make next week in Ray Brook. The case for compliance, the major policy issues facing the APA, and staff’s assessment of public comment letters visa vi those important policy questions should form the basis of an informed decision, right? » Continue Reading.
In 1936, the conservationist Bob Marshall made a list of forty-eight forested areas in the United States that exceeded three hundred thousand acres and that remained roadless — that is, relatively pristine. Evidently, he considered three hundred thousand acres to be the minimal size of a true wilderness.
“We would like to point out that the 300,000 acres is not a roadless area in any pioneering sense,” Marshall wrote in the magazine Living Wilderness (with co-author Althea Dobbins). “Actually, a 300,000-acre tract is only about 21½ by 21½ miles, something which a reasonably good walker could traverse readily in a day if there were a trail.”
Although the Adirondack Park boasts more than a million acres of officially designated Wilderness, where motorized use is forbidden, no single Wilderness Area comes close to Marshall’s criterion. The High Peaks Wilderness — the largest in the Park — covers only 204,000 acres. » Continue Reading.
The former chief of publications at The Smithsonian Institution Paul Oehser once joked that “You’ve never experienced wilderness until you’ve driven through Iowa on Interstate 70 in a heavy rainstorm!” His quip reveals one of many connotations of the inextricably entwined words wilderness and wildness.
Paul Oehser’s use of wilderness to evoke chaos harks back to Europe when urban areas began to be seen as a high earthly expression of order. By contrast, wilderness was unordered landscape outside the pale of humankind. Watch TV news today however, and our modern unordered wilds seem to be big cities. Their seeming disorder makes the wilds of the Adirondacks places of cooperation and restoration. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) are holding a joint public comment period to solicit comments regarding proposed guidance on best management practices for primitive camp sites in the Adirondack Forest Preserve.
Guidance addresses roadside camping as it pertains to walk-in sites, and walk-in sites with a single lane parking area. It also includes recommendations for large groups at primitive camp sites, camping permits, tent site size limits, campsite improvements and regulation changes. The APA and DEC will accept comments on these issues until January 29, 2016. No public hearings are scheduled to be held on these changes. » Continue Reading.
The 2015 report Adirondack Park at a Crossroad: A Road Map for Action begins this way:
“We document recent permit decisions and management practices by the NYS Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) which we believe are inconsistent with the constitutional and statutory requirements designed to ensure long term protection of the Park’s integrity and which are irreconcilable with the agencies’ obligations as the public’s trustees of the Adirondack Park…We illustrate how this significant shift in priorities at APA and DEC…are part of a larger pattern of allowing increasingly destructive development to proceed with little or no environmental baseline data, only cursory environmental review, and little in the way of avoidance or mitigation of negative impacts.”
As the year ends, we see the pattern described in our report of favoring recreational use over the State Land Master Plan’s “paramount” purpose of natural resource and wilderness protection continuing. Several of the State Land Master Plan (SLMP) amendment alternatives sent by the APA in December to public hearing in January would, if selected as the preferred alternative, fundamentally alter wilderness protection policies in place since 1972. » Continue Reading.
Two environmental groups disagree on whether a state proposal to remove 34 miles of train tracks between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid complies with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.
In a news release last week, the Adirondack Council praised the proposal, calling it “a good compromise” that protects natural resources and addresses the economic and cultural needs of the region.
Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, however, contends that the proposal violates the State Land Master Plan. The proposal would amend the corridor’s unit management plan (UMP) from 1996. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its monthly meeting at its headquarters in Ray Brook, NY on Thursday, December 10, 2015. The Full Agency will come to order at 9:00 a.m. for Executive Director Terry Martino’s monthly report.
At 9:30 a.m., the State Land Committee will convene to deliberate the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for proposed amendments to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. If accepted, the committee will authorize public hearings to solicit comments regarding the proposed amendments. The committee will also consider authorizing a public comment period for proposed Primitive Tent Site Guidance. The committee meeting will conclude with an informational presentation on proposed amendments to the Wilmington Wild Forest Unit Management Plan. » Continue Reading.
A proposal to expand the High Peaks Wilderness has received the endorsement of two of the Adirondack Park Agency’s founding figures.
The High Peaks Wilderness already is by far the largest Wilderness Area in the Park, but the Adirondack Council and seven other environmental groups are urging the state to add 80,000 acres, expanding it to 284,000 acres.
Enlarging the Wilderness Area “will place New York State and the Adirondack Park in a position of national leadership for creation and maintenance of Wilderness lands equal to any in the Continental United States,” Peter Paine and William Kissel declared in a joint letter. The council intends to use the letter in its campaign for the Wilderness proposal and sent a copy to Adirondack Almanack on Friday.» Continue Reading.
At its November meeting, the Adirondack Park Agency voted 8-2 to approve a controversial management plan for the Essex Chain Lakes Complex, finding that it conforms to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.
Some observers contend that the plan violates both the State Land Master Plan and the state Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act. Three major issues are:
Retention of the Polaris Bridge over the Hudson River for use by snowmobiles.
Construction of a new bridge over the Cedar River.
Allowing bicycles in the Essex Chain Lakes Primitive Area.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Environmental advocates, sportsmen, and members of the general public have raised many more issues, such as the appropriateness of creating a new snowmobile trail between Indian Lake and Newcomb, the appropriateness of allowing floatplanes to land on certain lakes, and whether historical buildings should be preserved or torn down.
I wish to recognize Adirondack Park Agency board member Art Lussi for his insistence over the past several months that the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) provide a legal rationale for allowing expanded motorized uses in the Forest Preserve’s protected river corridors. When DEC failed again last week to provide that legal explanation, Lussi joined Richard Booth in voting no on DEC’s plans for the Essex Chain area because they fail to comply with the State Land Master Plan. » Continue Reading.
This will be the APA’s “first read,” having completed on October 16th its public hearing on the final draft ECCUMP submitted by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The DEC held its own public hearing in July on this UMP. The APA is expected to approve the ECCUMP in December. » Continue Reading.
This week, Adirondack Park Agency (APA) Member Richard Booth continued his efforts to get his Agency to focus on its policy and legal obligations.
The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which has a seat on the APA, presented its Final Draft Unit Management Plan (UMP) for the Essex Chain of Lakes Primitive Area. Mr. Booth, who chairs the APA’s State Land Committee, has repeatedly advised the DEC that drafts of the controversial UMP are not ready for APA public comment because they violate key sections of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, which has the force and effect of law.
The DEC, apparently prodded by Governor Andrew Cuomo, bulldozes ahead irrespective of the law. » Continue Reading.
This piece first appeared in Adirondack Life in 1989 at the time of the appointment of Governor Mario Cuomo’s ill-fated Commission on the Adirondacks in the 21st Century (the Berle Commission).
The six-million acre area for which the Adirondack Park Agency was charged in 1971 to design and enforce a land-use master plan was filled with a potential for conflict in direct proportion to its vast size. To some, the APA was Big Brother, set up by downstate interests to turn their homeland into a wilderness for the pleasure of the rich. To others it was a bold stroke of vision, a stab at preserving the character of the Adirondacks before it was overrun by development that would forever subdivide Forever Wild. » Continue Reading.
A few weeks back there was quite a kerfuffle here at the Almanack over this post by Dan Crane, concerning illegal trails he came upon along the border of the Five Ponds and Pepperbox Wilderness areas.
Comments, accusations and counter-accusations flew back and forth over whether illegal trials in the Wilderness constituted a big deal or not, who knew they were there and whether they were in fact a common and accepted part of the back country. » Continue Reading.
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