I write in praise of the scope and content of Adirondack Explorer’s current lead article “The Future of Open Space” by Phil Brown, but wish to add emphasis to one very important aspect. The article rightly notes that “it is vital to have an APA staff and board willing to use their authority to protect the backcountry.”
Attempts to strengthen or change APA laws and regulations that protect the open spaces of the park are for naught if APA lacks the will to use the legal tools available to it. That was the case with Adirondack Club and Resort (ACR), where APA had plenty of legal authority, but lacked the courage to deny ACR, greatly modify the project, or reopen the hearing to obtain evidence missing in the hearing. » Continue Reading.
At the 40th Anniversary of the State Land Master Plan (SLMP), Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve has issued a report that calls upon Governor Andrew Cuomo and state agencies “to advance and expand upon the many positive values of wild lands in our Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserve.”
“The Forest Preserve was placed into state laws and its Constitution. It is where wilderness preservation began,” said Adirondack Wild’s David Gibson in a prepared statement (Gibson is a regular contributor at Adirondack Almanack). “However, government often approaches such an important landscape with a muddied sense of mission, and in an uncoordinated and shallow way. We are urging parties to venture deeper, and with greater purpose.” » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold its regularly scheduled monthly meeting at its Headquarters in Ray Brook, NY on Thursday, June 14 and Friday, June 15, 2012. The meeting will be webcast live (click webcasting from the contents list).
The meeting will include presentations highlighting the 40th Anniversary of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan and recreational use statistics. On Friday, the board will determine approvability for a Ticonderoga meat processing facility and the Local Government Services Committee will hear a status report on local land use controls in the Park and review implemented APA-approved Local Land Use Programs. » Continue Reading.
The other day at a recreation planning meeting in Lake Placid, I participated in a time-honored Adirondack meeting ritual. It goes like this: someone at the table brings up the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP), the document that defines land classifications (wilderness, wild forest, etc.) and lists the guidelines for their use. Next, nearly every stakeholder at the table agrees that the SLMP is outdated and that a major review is long overdue. The ritual concludes with everyone agreeing that meaningful review of the SLMP is unlikely, and probably not worth pursuing. The conversation then moves on to other topics.
The SLMP states “Major reviews of the master plan will take place every five years by the [Adirondack Park] Agency in consultation with the Department of Environmental Conservation, as required by statute…” but the last review was in 1987. I wondered how implementation of the relatively static SLMP has evolved over the years, and how these changes have manifested themselves on maps. » Continue Reading.
Facts are stubborn things. So are traditions, and patterns of use. These all lay at the heart of the recent Lows Lake court decision in Albany County Supreme Court which upheld a Wilderness classification for Lows Lake and the Bog River Flow.
Verplanck Colvin, the great Adirondack explorer and surveyor, came to what is now Lows Lake in the late 1890s, just before inventor A.A. Low dammed the Bog River in two places as part of extensive industrial enterprises that lasted less than 15 years. Colvin’s survey of 1898-1899 was his last (published by the Adirondack Research Center of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks in 1989). » Continue Reading.
What follows is a guest essay from the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership (AFPEP).
The state owned lands of the Adirondacks are identified in the New York State Constitution as forest preserve lands and protected by the State constitution to “be forever kept as wild forest lands.” Currently, there are 2.7 million acres of forest preserve lands in the Adirondacks. The Department of Environmental Conservation, under State law, has “care, custody and control” of the forest preserve lands.
Further, the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, overseen by the Adirondack Park Agency, identifies the various management units of the forest preserve, assigns each of the units a land classification category and provides the guidelines for management and recreation for each classification. While there are nine lands classes, the majority of the state lands in the Adirondacks are included in one of the four classification categories below. Wilderness – 18 forest preserve units, containing approximately 1.1 million acres of land, are classified as “Wilderness”. Recreational activities on wilderness lands and waters is limited to non-motorized recreation such as hiking, hunting, fishing, primitive camping, rock climbing, swimming, skiing, snowshoeing, canoeing and kayaking. Motorized vehicles, motorized boats and mountain biking are prohibited on wilderness lands. Except in very rare cases, the only structures or facilities permitted on these lands are leantos, primitive tent sites, trails, foot bridges and pit privies.
Wild Forest – 20 forest preserve units, containing approximately 1.3 million acres of land, are classified as “Wild Forest”. A wider variety of recreational activities are allowed on the lands and waters in wild forest areas. In addition to the recreational activities allowed on wilderness lands and waters, some forms of motorized recreation are allowed with restrictions. Cars and trucks may only drive on designated roads; snowmobiles may only use designated trails and roads; mountain bikes can use any trails or roads unless prohibited by signs and some specific waters have restrictions on the horsepower of a boat’s motor, allow the use of electric motors only or may be prohibit any motors. Drive up camp sites are provided along some roadways in wild forests areas.
Primitive Areas – 11 forest preserve units larger than 1000 acres, and more than 20 corridors or other small pieces, totaling approximately 66,000 acres, are classified as “Primitive”. Primitive areas are managed the same as wilderness areas and recreational activities are restricted to those allowed on lands and waters classified as wilderness. (The tracts classified “Primitive rather than “Wilderness” because of substantial privately owned “in-holdings” or structures that don’t conform with wilderness guidelines.) The primitive corridors are typically public or private roads within a wilderness area, if it is public road, cars and trucks are allowed on them.
Canoe Area – Only one forest preserve unit, the 18,000 acre St. Regis Canoe Area, is classified as a “Canoe Area”. Canoe areas are managed as wilderness areas, with a focus on non-motorized, water-based activities such as canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. Primitive camping is allowed at sites accessible only by water. Mountain biking is allowed on the administrative roads.
Intensive Use Areas – These areas are limited in size but provide facilities such as bathrooms, developed beaches, boat launches, paved roadways, and other amenities for the recreating public. There are 42 campgrounds, 25 boat launches, 6 day use areas and 2 ski centers owned by the state in the Adirondack Park. These areas provide for recreational activities like group camping (though without utility hookups), swimming, boating, picnicking, and skiing.
Conservation Easement – Currently there are more than 580,000 acres of privately owned lands in the Adirondack Park which the State owns development rights, and often public recreation rights, called “Conservation Easement Lands”. Typically, these lands are owned and/or managed by timber companies, but the ability to subdivide and build structures on these lands are prohibited or severely limited. The public recreation rights on these lands range from no public access, to access limited to specific corridors or locations, to full public recreation rights. The recreation activities on these lands can be restricted by type, location and season. Check with the Department of Environmental Conservation to learn what recreational activities are allowed on specific parcels. DEC State land regulations apply on any conservation easement land that has public recreational rights.
Other than on intensive use areas, the forest preserve lands are designed and managed to emphasize the self-sufficiency of the recreational users. When recreating on the forest preserve you must assume a high degree of responsibility for environmentally-sound use of such areas and for your own health, safety and welfare.
Be sure to know the laws and regulations governing a recreational activity before participating in that activity.
Horseback riding is allowed on roads open for public use, trails that are marked for horse use, and trails marked for skiing or snowmobiling when there is no snow or ice on the ground.
All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) are prohibited on all forest preserve lands.
Recreational activities on the approximately 2.4 million acres of private lands within the Adirondack Park, not under a conservation easement, are not restricted any more than activities on private lands throughout the rest of the state. The public is prohibited from entering private lands without permission of the landowner.
Contact the Department of Environmental Conservation Lands & Forests office for more information: Region 5 – 518-897-1291 or Region 6 – 315-785-2261
This guest essay was contributed by the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership, a coalition of Adirondack organizations building on the Leave No Trace philosophy. Their goal is to provide public education about the Forest Preserve and Conservation Easements with an emphasis on how to safely enjoy, share, and protect these unique lands. To learn more about AFPEP visit www.adirondackoutdoors.org.
The Adirondack Council will file comments with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) this week objecting to serious flaws in the Unit Management Plan (UMP) for the Independence River Wild Forest.
The Independence River Wild Forest is an area of public land and waters west of Stillwater Reservoir in Herkimer and Lewis counties, extending to the park’s western border. It is bounded by the Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness to the south, Pepperbox Wilderness to the north, and Pigeon Lake Wilderness to the east. Comments on the unit management plan are due to DEC by July 29.
There are two main problems with the plan, both of which involve the DEC’s decisions to ignore current legal protections for the Forest Preserve. Both problems seem to be caused by the DEC’s rush to accommodate the wishes of snowmobile clubs and boosters who are applying local political pressure. » Continue Reading.
Last weekend, the Mountaineer sponsored an annual footrace that passes through the Giant Mountain Wilderness Area in Keene. It’s a popular event that benefits local charities.
This year, as in the past, I received an e-mail at the Adirondack Explorer from Jim Close contending that the race is illegal.
Close argues that competitive races violate the letter and spirit of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, which defines Wilderness as “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man” and which offers “outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation.”
“It is no more appropriate to hold competitive running events in the wilderness than it is to play baseball in the Sistine Chapel,” Close wrote the Explorer.
Since the state Department of Environmental Conservation issues permits each year for the Great Adirondack Trail Run, it obviously disagrees with Close (who, incidentally, works at DEC). The department also has issued a permit for the Wakely Dam Ultra in July, a 32.6-mile race through the West Canada Lake Wilderness.
Close may be something of a gadfly, but he is not alone in his criticism. Earlier this year, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve called on DEC to prohibit such events in Wilderness Areas as well as in Primitive and Canoe Areas. And several years ago, the historian Philip Terrie published a piece in the Adirondack Explorer contending that races violate management guidelines for Wilderness Areas.
“The spirit, the ethos, of the State Land Master Plan makes it clear from the outset that the state seeks to protect a certain kind of experience, one that involves serenity, getting away from the life of city and suburb, and a personal engagement with nature,” Terrie wrote. “All of these are fundamentally disrupted when an erratic procession of runners comes barreling down the trail.”
Apart from the interpretation of the State Land Master Plan, there are two basic concerns: (1) Do these competitions damage the environment? (2) Do they detract from the wilderness experience of hikers and other recreationists?
In a letter to DEC, Adirondack Wild asserts that “organized events which concentrate human use on the Forest Preserve demonstrably do a lot of damage to natural resources.”
However, DEC says there is no evidence that the Great Adirondack Trail Run or the Wakely Dam Ultra inflicts lasting damage on the Forest Preserve.
As to the second question, it’s true that some hikers might be annoyed by passing runners. The fact is, though, that DEC has received no complaints from hikers in the years it has permitted the trail runs. It’s possible that hikers were annoyed but didn’t lodge a complaint. Still, the lack of an outcry suggests that the annoyance to hikers is more hypothetical than actual. And it must must be weighed against the real benefits that races bring to the community and to the competitors.
Judging by the evidence, then, it appears that trail races do no harm and bother no one (in the field, at least). If the evidence turns out to be wrong, DEC should reconsider its position. Otherwise, the argument against these races relies on the interpretation of the State Land Master Plan, which is not explicit on the matter.
Some people might object to trail races—or even solo trail running—on aesthetic grounds. How can a person appreciate nature while dashing through the forest? This question was asked in 2002 when Ted “Cave Dog” Keizer, in a highly publicized effort, set a speed record (later broken) for climbing all the High Peaks. Last week, Sheryl Wheeler set a record by completing the 122-mile Northville-Placid Trail in 35 hours 15 minutes. After we posted a link about her feat on the Explorer’s Facebook page, one person commented, “Wow way to enjoy nature.”
As someone who occasionally runs on trails (though not for 122 miles), I can address this point. First, running through the forest is a way to enjoy nature. It’s just different from hiking, say, or birding. Second, if I am at all typical, most trail runners are also hikers, paddlers, cross-country skiers, etc. Running is just one way they enjoy nature, not the only way. The suggestion that trail runners don’t appreciate nature is a canard. Third, if someone wants to run on a trail, as opposed to walk, skip, or ride a bike, so what?
Those of you who do enjoy trail running may be interested in a new online venture called Xoona (ZOO-na), begun by Peter Fish and Allan Rego, two outdoors enthusiasts from Lake Placid. The Xoona website contains a number of routes for trail running (as well as other outdoor pursuits). Participants run the routes at their convenience— alone or with friends — and post their times. It’s a way of competing without the hassle or expense of organized races. And without the legal questions.
You can learn more about Xoona in an article by Susan Bibeau in the July/August issue of the Adirondack Explorer. Click here to read it online.
Photo by Susan Bibeau: a trail runner on a Xoona course.
Of all the recent press about the State’s attempted sale of 92-acre former minimum security prison known as Camp Gabriels in the town of Brighton, nothing has yet been written about the small problem of the NYS Constitution which says that the lands of the state now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve, as now fixed by law…shall not be leased, sold or exchanged” (Article 14, Section 1).
Are the 92-acres of Camp Gabriels, in fact, Forest Preserve lands which the State unconstitutionally used for purposes of a minimum security prison? And, despite their developed condition, can the State now simply dispose of them like any other “surplus” property? » Continue Reading.
Earlier this year, the state Department of Environmental Conservation proposed reclassifying the main road in the Moose River Plains as an Intensive Use Area to permit roadside campsites to remain.
In doing so, DEC recognized that the proximity of many of the campsites to each other violated the rules governing primitive tent sites set forth in Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. Those rules require that primitive sites be at least a quarter-mile apart. Many of the sites in the Plains also have fireplaces and picnic tables, both of which are not allowed at primitive tent sites.
But the campsites in the Plains are just the tip of the iceberg. A new study [pdf] by the State College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) has found that there are 508 roadside campsites on Forest Preserve lands throughout the Park.
Under DEC regulations, a primitive tent site must be at least 150 feet from roads, trails, and water bodies unless DEC has designated the site (with a yellow disk) as an official campsite. The study found that at least 149 of the roadside campsites on the Forest Preserve lack a DEC disk. Presumably, most of these are illegal.
There are other problems as well. Some sites are denuded from overuse. Some are situated close to the road, the water, or other tent sites. They often lack screening. And many have amenities such as fireplaces and picnic tables that are not allowed at primitive tent sites.
Jim Connolly, deputy director of the Adirondack Park Agency, said at last week’s APA meeting that the agency faces some hard choices regarding roadside sites.
Some argue that roadside sites should be brought into compliance with the primitive-site guidelines — a policy that would require closing or moving sites or taking away amenities. Others argue that the State Land Master Plan should be amended to recognize roadside camping as its own activity, with its own set of regultions.
Closing roadside campsites would be controversial. Chad Dawson, the main author of the ESF study, said roadside camping has evolved into an Adirondack tradition—a free, more rustic alternative to DEC campgrounds. Some families return to the same sites year after year.
“People love their roadside camping,” Dawson told the APA board. Yet most people probably don’t know about the opportunities for road-side camping. “It’s one of those well-kept secrets of the Adirondacks,” Dawson said. “You get initiated into it, but you can’t find a brochure about it.”
Dawson said the great majority of roadside sites—459 out of 508—are located in Wild Forest Areas. They include 163 in the Moose River Plains region. Other Wild Forest sites can be found, among other places, on Floodwood Road, on the Powley-Piseco Road, and along the shores of North Lake and Horseshoe Lake.
The other forty-nine sites are in Wilderness, Canoe, and Primitive Areas, where motorized access is generally prohibited. These include eight sites along Coreys Road in the High Peaks Wilderness and thirteen sites along West River Road in the Silver Lake Wilderness.
Connolly said roadside camping evolved from the 1920s, when DEC began establishing formal campgrounds. Some people question the legality of the campgrounds. How do you square the crowds and noise at Fish Creek with the forever-wild mandate of the state constitution? Legal objections aside, the campgrounds are recognized by the State Land Master Plan. Roadside campsites are not.
The car-camping tradition may be well-established, but it often appears to flout the law. Should it be more tightly regulated?
Photo: A well-used roadside campsite. From the ESF report.
The New York State Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced three public hearings to discuss changes proposed for the Moose River Plains Wild Forest.
Located in the central and southwestern portion of the Adirondack Park, the Moose River Plains Wild Forest offers many year-round recreational opportunities including hiking, fishing, canoeing, skiing, mountain biking, snowmobiling, horseback riding, hunting and camping, making it an ideal destination for recreationists with varied interests and abilities. You can read more a short history of the Plains by the Almanack’s John Warren here; all our coverage is located here. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) has extended the public comment period for the Jessup River Wild Forest Unit Management Plan (UMP) amendment. The APA will continue to accept public comments on Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (APSLMP) compliance for the Jessup River Wild Forest unit management plan (UMP) amendment until August 2, 2010. A proposed final UMP amendment was completed by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). It was subject to a series of public meetings and public input. The Agency will accept public comments on the proposals contained in the UMP amendment until 12:00 PM on August 2, 2010. This amendment addresses changes to the Jessup River Wild Forest snowmobile trail system. Proposals are in accordance with DEC and APA adopted snowmobile trail guidance and the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. Jointly adopted guidance established a “community connector” snowmobile trail class. Community connector trails can be 9-feet in width which is one foot wider than previously allowed under DEC snowmobile trail maintenance policy. The new guidance also calls for the elimination of trails that lead onto ice-covered water bodies and dead-end trails while promoting snowmobile trails near the periphery of Wild Forest units.
The Jessup River Wild Forest lies in the south-central Adirondack Park. It sits entirely within Hamilton County in the Towns of Arietta, Wells, Indian Lake, Lake Pleasant and the Village of Speculator. The DEC estimates the size of the planning area at 47,350 acres. The area includes Snowy Mountain, the highest peak in the southern Adirondacks – elevation 3,899 feet, more than 24 ponds and lakes – the largest being Fawn Lake and approximately 73 miles of rivers including parts of the Cedar, Indian, Jessup, Miami and Sacandaga rivers.
The UMP amendment is available for viewing or downloading from the Adirondack Park Agency website.
All written comments pertaining to State Land Master Plan compliance should be addressed to:
Richard Weber, Assistant Director, Planning Planning Division, Adirondack Park Agency P.O. Box 99 Ray Brook, NY 12977
Or e-mail: email@example.com.
The Adirondack Park Agency Board is currently scheduled to consider a compliance determination on the Jessup River Wild Forest UMP amendment at the August 12 and 13 Agency meeting. Any written comments received by 12:00 PM on August 2, 2010 will become part of the public record. Written comments received after 12:00 PM on August 2, 2010, will be provided to Agency Board members on meeting day but will not be part of the Agency meeting materials mailed to the members or posted on the APA website.
The Adirondack Park Agency is accepting public comments on Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (APSLMP) compliance for the Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area and Jay Mountain Wilderness unit management plans (UMP) and also for the Jessup River Wild Forest UMP amendment. The final draft plans and the proposed final UMP amendment have been completed by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and was subject to a series of public meetings and public input during the planning process.
The Adirondack Park Agency will now consider compliance of each of these plans with the State Land Master Plan prior to final adoption by DEC. The Agency will accept public comments on the UMP proposals for the Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area and the Jay Mountain Wilderness until 12:00 PM on June 2, 2010; public comments on the Jessup River Wild Forest UMP amendment are due by 12:00 PM on June 16, 2010. Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area The Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area (HMPA) is located in the northeast portion of the Adirondack Park in the towns of Elizabethtown, Jay, Keene and Lewis in Essex County. The unit is comprised of one Forest Preserve parcel covering approximately 13,784 acres in area and has approximately 34.3 miles of boundary line.
The area is bounded on the North by the Jay Mountain Wilderness Area, on the south by the Giant Mountain Wilderness Area, and on the east and west by private lands. Other nearby Forest Preserve units include the Sentinel Range Wilderness Area, The High Peaks Wilderness Area, the Taylor Pond Wild Forest and the Wilmington Wild Forest.
The namesake of the unit, Hurricane Mountain, is the highest and most conspicuous peak in the unit. The summit of Hurricane Mountain offers stunning 360 degree views and is a popular destination.
Jay Mountain Wilderness Area The Jay Mountain Wilderness Area (JMWA) is located in the northeast portion of the Adirondack Park within the Towns of Jay and Lewis in Essex County. The area contains remote, rugged mountains affording spectacular views and is similar in character to the neighboring Hurricane Mountain.
The area is bounded on the north and west by private lands, on the east by the Taylor Pond Wild Forest Planning Area, and on the south by the Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area. Other nearby Forest Preserve units include the Sentinel Range Wilderness Area and the Wilmington Wild Forest.
Jessup River Wild Forest The Jessup River Wild Forest lies in the south-central Adirondack Park. It sits entirely within Hamilton County in the Towns of Arietta, Wells, Indian Lake, Lake Pleasant and the Village of Speculator. The DEC estimates the size of the planning area at 47,350 acres. The area includes Snowy Mountain, the highest peak in the southern Adirondacks – elevation 3,899 feet, more than 24 ponds and lakes – the largest being Fawn Lake and approximately 73 miles of named watercourses including parts of the Cedar, Indian, Jessup, Miami and Sacandaga rivers.
All the UMPs are available for viewing or downloading from the Adirondack Park Agency website.
Written comments should be sent to:
Richard Weber, Supervisor Regional Planning Planning Division, Adirondack Park Agency P.O. Box 99 Ray Brook, NY 12977
Or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Depending on the level of public comment received, the Adirondack Park Agency Board may consider Jay Mountain Wilderness Area and the Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area at the June or July 2010 Agency meeting. The Jessup River Wild Forest may be considered at the July 8 and 9 Agency meeting.
Any written comments received after the comment deadline will be provided to board members on meeting day but will not be part of the official record.
The staff of the Adirondack Park Agency has raised several objections to the Local Government Review Board’s proposal to reclassify the tops of Hurricane Mountain and St. Regis Mountain as Historic Areas so that fire towers on the summits could remain.
APA spokesman Keith McKeever said the staff is not making a recommendation. However, the staff comments submitted to the APA commissioners are more negative than positive. » Continue Reading.
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