Posts Tagged ‘wilderness’

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Adirondack Council Seeks New Conservation Director

After five years as Director of Conservation for the Adirondack Council, John Davis will be leaving his post at the end of the year to commence a conservation project aimed at improving the wildlife habitat connections between the Atlantic, Appalachian and Adirondack landscapes.

Wildlife migration is gaining in importance as climate change alters the locations of suitable homes for many species of animals and plants.

Davis’s departure creates a job opening on the Program Team at the Adirondack Council, a leading environmental research, education and advocacy organization based in Elizabethtown. Founded in 1975, the Adirondack Council has fourteen full-time staff members. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Origins of Friends of the Forest Preserve

Today’s paddlers on the South Branch of the Moose or West Branch of the Sacandaga Rivers, or hikers, loon watchers and snowmobilers along numerous winding forest trails in the Moose River Plains or Ferris Lake Wild Forests would be fifty feet underwater if the mid-20th century dam proponents, and their state sponsors had held sway.

Citizens who valued these Adirondack valleys for their wildlife and wildness opposed them. One of those organizations was Friends of the Forest Preserve, founded in 1945 by Paul Schaefer. I write this on September 13, his birthday. This history of the founding of the organization is contained in Schaefer’s book, Defending the Wilderness: The Adirondack Writings of Paul Schaefer (1989, Syracuse University Press). » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dave Gibson: Return to the Moose River Plains

A summer day. The road to the Moose River Plains from Limekiln Lake is free of traffic this morning, the sun’s rays have not yet turned the evening dew to dust. As I drive down the shaded road I think about the work of local people from Inlet who dug and placed sand on these roads to give the heavy logging trucks enough traction on the steep sections.

Dick Payne, former Inlet Police Chief, left me memorable impressions of working the Plains in the “old days.” Since 1964 when the Gould Paper Company sold this land to the people of the State, the land is Forest Preserve. As the cicadas begin to whine from the trees, I try to remember another group who hiked in via the Red River valley to discover what was at risk from the Higley and Panther Mountain Dams on the South Branch of the Moose River. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Commentary: Firetowers and Wild Lands Management

I love fire towers – and fire wardens. They remind me of my youth and the excitement of finding a firetower and firewarden tending it, and weaving stories around the campfire about the fire warden living on the flanks of a wild mountain.

Interpreting Adirondack cultural and environmental history from a firetower is important work being undertaken by wonderful volunteers and some Forest Rangers in the Adirodnack Park. Our Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) acts in the spirit of an educational and interpretive force for the Park by participating actively in the restoration and educational use of the 20 or so firetowers in Wild Forest areas, such as the Bald Mountain Fire Tower above Old Forge and Inlet, Hadley Mountain in Saratoga County, Azure Mountain in Franklin County, Wakely Mountain firetower in Hamilton County, and many others. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

APA Sets Public Hearings on Fire Tower Plans

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) will hold three public hearings regarding the assessment of alternatives to amend the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP)related to the fire towers in the St. Regis Canoe Area and Hurricane Mountain Primitive Area. The APA is also accepting written comments on this matter until August 25, 2010.

Proposed alternatives for amending the State Land Master Plan include: » Continue Reading.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

New Adirondack Conservation Group Announced

An advocacy and educational organization with historic roots in the 1940s will re-launch on Friday according to a press release issued today.

Organizers for the group Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, originally founded in 1945 by Adirondack wilderness advocate Paul Schaefer, say it will focus on the benefits of wild lands across the state, including Forest Preserve lands in the Adirondacks and Catskills. “Adirondack Wild will advocate when wild lands are threatened, be a strong partner to protect them, and train stewards to care for them,” according to today’s announcement. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Forever Wild Outside The Adirondack Park

I recently did a paddling trip in the northern Adirondacks that had been on my bucket list for a few years. I launched my canoe in Hatch Brook and traveled downstream to the Salmon River and down the Salmon to Chasm Falls.

It’s a delightful trip, largely wild, with interesting scenery, lots of birdlife, and a great swimming hole. Click here for a detailed description, directions, and more photos.

One unusual thing about this excursion is that it begins inside the Adirondack Park and ends outside of it. Of course, there is no sign on the river–either man-made or natural–to let you know when you leave the Park. The trip reminds us that wildness does not end at the Blue Line.

As a matter of fact, two state commissions on the Adirondacks (in 1971 and 1990) recommended extending the Park’s boundary northward to include the tract that I paddled through. But that didn’t happen. Consequently, when I crossed the Blue Line I simultaneously crossed the boundary between the Debar Mountain Wild Forest (part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve) and the Titusville State Forest (not part of the Forest Preserve).

Most people familiar with Adirondack history know that Article 14 of the state constitution prohibits cutting trees in the Forest Preserve. Logging, however, is allowed on State Forest lands.

Fewer people realize that some of the Forest Preserve lies outside the Park.

Article 14 declares that “the lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands.” And an 1885 law defined the Forest Preserve as “all the lands now owned or which may hereafter be acquired by the State of New York, within the counties of Clinton, excepting the towns of Altona and Dannemora, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, Saratoga, St. Lawrence, Warren, Washington, Greene, Ulster and Sullivan.” (The lands in the last three counties are in the Catskill Forest Preserve.)

Reading Article 14 and the 1885 law together, you might reasonably conclude that nearly all the state lands in eleven northern counties belong to the Adirondack Forest Preserve.

But you’d be wrong, according to Norman Van Valkenburgh, the author of The Forest Preserve of New York State in the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains.

Van Valkenburgh tells me that a constitutional amendment in 1931 permitted the state to acquire lands outside the Park in the Forest Preserve counties for reforestation. These lands can be managed for timber and wildlife habitat.

Yet the lands outside the Blue Line that the state owned prior to the amendment are part of the Forest Preserve. The Temporary Study Commission on the Future of the Adirondacks estimated in 1971 that there were 12,867 acres of Adirondack Forest Preserve outside the Park (not including lake and river beds).

Like the Preserve inside the Park, these lands must be kept forever wild and cannot be logged. Van Valkenburgh said this requirement leads to a legal anomaly when a piece of orphan Forest Preserve lies within a State Forest tract. Even if all of the surrounding land is logged, the Forest Preserve parcel must remain untouched.

If the Adirondack Park boundary were expanded, would the State Forest lands automatically become part of the Forest Preserve?

“That’s a good question,” Van Valkenburgh said. “I don’t know, but I think not.”

Van Valkenburgh noted that the State Forest lands were purchased with a specific purpose in mind and so may be exempt from Article 14’s forever-wild mandate.

This interpretation seems to jibe with the view of the Commission on the Adirondacks in the Twenty-First Century. In its 1990 report, the commission recommended not only extending the Blue Line, but also amending the constitution to prohibit “the continued management of existing reforestation areas” added to the Park.

The commission wanted to extend the Blue Line to the north to encompass all of the towns of Bellmont, Brandon, Dickinson, Peru, and Saranac; part of the town of Malone; and Crab Island in Lake Champlain. It argued that doing so would protect extensive forestlands and farmlands on the Park’s border.

Do you think extending the Park’s boundary is a good idea?

Photo of Salmon River by Phil Brown.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Wilderness on the Raquette River:Should Motorboats Be Banned?

Ah, the ideal Adirondack day: sunny, mild, few people, no bugs. These circumstances aligned the other day when I paddled from Axton Landing to Raquette Falls.

The six-mile trip up the Raquette River is one of the more popular flatwater paddles in the Adirondacks. (Click here for a description and photos.) Meandering upriver, you see lovely silver maples overhanging grassy banks, kingfishers darting across the water, common mergansers with their young in train, inlets that lead to hidden marshes. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

APA Extends Comment Period For Jessup River UMP

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: apa_slmp@gw.dec.state.ny.us.

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.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A NYC School Group Gets a Taste of the Wild

The group of students was heading to Lake George for a barbecue, and then rafting on the Hudson River. But before that, I had volunteered to take them caving near Albany.

It was the second year I would guide a group from this school. But these kids had never been in a cave before. Nor had they been to the Adirondacks.

They were a group of nine Orthodox high-school students from Brooklyn, led by a rabbi who was a friend of a friend. The boys were a combination street-tough wise guys and Yeshiva-trained scholars. Which meant they asked a lot of questions and they wanted the answer now.

When I met them at a local rock-climbing gym and introduced myself as their guide, the first one I met said: “About time. This place sucks.”

Not a patient crowd. But at least open-minded. When we arrived at the parking lot for the cave, they milled about, asking me questions: How wet would they get? How dark was it? Could they wear Crocs? Should they bring their cell phones? Should they wear a jacket?

And what about after the caving trip? Had I ever rafted the Hudson River before? Was it dangerous? Could they fall out of the boat? How deep was the water? I tried to keep up.

One kid pulled me aside: “Do we have to go through a deep section? How deep is it? I don’t want to go. Can I go a different way?”

Their comments continued as we began our descent, crawling through the entrance hole and tramping through ankle-deep running water. They turned to screams as they felt the cold water enter their shoes. “My feet are wet!” “Watch your head!” “My flashlight is broken!” “Hurry up!” “Wait up!”

Eventually, we reached the end of the passage, at a small underground pond. There Rabbi Fischer asked everyone to turn off their flashlights and be quiet. It took a while, for teen-age boys don’t like darkness and don’t like silence, and tend to fill it with light or noise.

Eventually, though, they settled down, and the rabbi spoke. “I want you to think about where we are,” he said, to the sound of dripping water. “I want you to think about the fact that we could only be here, in this amazing place, because we did this together, as a group. In September, we didn’t know each other, and today — I mean this sincerely — each one of you has a place in my heart.”

There was silence for a moment, and then one boy spoke up: “You guys are like family to me.”

They talked some more, and then it was time to go back to the van. Each boy shook my hand and thanked me for helping to give them such a great experience.

The rabbi took me aside. “The group you took last year? They talked about that caving trip for months. They still talk about it. This is something they’ll keep with them the rest of their lives.”

I thought about that, and the power of wilderness. The kids reacted to this new situation with the only tool that teen-age boys have — big talk, questions, audacity, brashness. They used loud talk to cover up their fear, but they did what was asked of them and came out smiling, if a little wet and muddy.

And tomorrow, when asked for the first time in their lives to step into a rubber raft and paddle down the Hudson River, they would probably be the same way. Perhaps their guide would be annoyed, or perhaps merely amused.

Either way, they would take a little taste of the wilderness back with them to the city, and keep it for the rest of their lives.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Commentary: On Towers in Wilderness Areas

This month the Adirondack Park Agency board authorized its staff to solicit public comment on proposals to save the fire tower on Hurricane Mountain through a bit of legal legerdemain.

I understand the board’s motivation: the public wants the tower to stay. This has been amply demonstrated in letters, petitions, and comments at hearings.

But the solutions on the table are intellectually dishonest and make a mockery of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

APA Seeks Comments on Jessup River, Hurricane and Jay Mtns.

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: apa_slmp@gw.dec.state.ny.us.

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.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

ADK to Offer Advanced ‘Leave No Trace’ Training

The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) will soon be conducting the highest-level training under the auspices of the Leave No Trace program. Leave No Trace is an international program designed to teach hikers, campers, paddlers, climbers and other outdoor enthusiasts how to minimize their impacts on wild places. Leave No Trace is based on voluntary ethical guidelines, expressed as seven principles. The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics in Boulder, Colorado, is a nonprofit education organization dedicated to the responsible enjoyment and active stewardship of the outdoors by all people, worldwide.

“Leave No Trace’s mission is very similar to the mission of the Adirondack Mountain Club,” said Ryan Doyle, ADK’s outdoor leadership coordinator. “In fact, the late Almy Coggeshall, who was ADK president in 1980 and 1981, helped introduce the ‘pack in, pack out’ philosophy in the Adirondacks in the 1960s. These shared mission elements formed the foundation for the new partnership between ADK and Leave No Trace.”

ADK is now one of only seven organizations nationwide authorized to provide the Leave No Trace Master Educator course. This summer, ADK is offering a series of five-day training sessions designed for individuals who are actively teaching others backcountry skills or providing recreation information to the public. In other words, ADK will be teaching the Leave No Trace teachers.

The Master Educator course will be offered June 16-20, July 5-9, Aug. 18-22 and Sept. 6-10. Through classroom discussions, lectures and a four-day backpacking or canoe trip, this course will cover the seven Leave No Trace principles and wildland ethics. Participants will also be taught techniques for disseminating these low-impact skills to backcountry users.

As of January 2010, there were more than 3,500 Leave No Trace Masters worldwide, representing nine countries and all 50 U.S. states. This training is recognized throughout the world by the outdoor industry and land management agencies. Graduates include U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service rangers, outdoor retail executives, school teachers, youth group and outing club leaders, outfitters and guides. Graduates of the Master Educator course are qualified to train others in Leave No Trace skills and can offer Leave No Trace Trainer courses and Awareness Workshops (one-day or shorter).

ADK will also offer the two-day Leave No Trace Trainer course, which provides introductory training in Leave No Trace skills and ethics, on May 22-23 and Oct. 23-24. Details of both courses are available at www.adk.org/programs/Leave_No_Trace.aspx.

In fall 2008, the Leave No Trace Center sought proposals from organizations interested in providing the highest level of Leave No Trace training. ADK was selected because of its large membership base and the sizeable untapped audience in New York state and the Northeast. Last year, Ben Lawhon, Leave No Trace education director, and Dave Winter, Leave No Trace outreach manager, came from Boulder to ADK’s Heart Lake Program Center to train staff as Master Educator instructors. Six ADK staff members participated in the training and are now prepared to lead the Master Educator course.

“It is our intent to inject Leave No Trace information into everything ADK does, from education and field programs to our trails information and lodging facilities,” Doyle said.

The Adirondack Mountain Club, founded in 1922, is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to protecting the New York State Forest Preserve and other wild lands and waters through conservation and advocacy, environmental education and responsible recreation.

Leave No Trace Principles

1) Plan Ahead and Prepare
2) Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
3) Dispose of Waste Properly
4) Leave What You Find
5) Minimize Campfire Impacts
6) Respect Wildlife
7) Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Visit www.lnt.org for specifics about the principles and for more information about the organization.


Monday, April 12, 2010

APA Staff Objections to Fire Towers’ Proposal

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.


Monday, March 29, 2010

After 30 Years, Some Adirondack Rivers Are Still in Limbo

Peruse the colorful Adirondack Park Agency land-use map and you’ll notice that many of the region’s rivers are overlain by strings of big black circles, small black circles, or open triangles. These rivers are part of the state’s Wild, Scenic, and Recreational Rivers System (WSR).

And then there are the eight rivers overlain by open circles. These are “study” rivers, candidates for the WSR system.

The legislature first asked the APA to study these rivers in the 1970s—more than thirty years ago—and the APA did recommend that all eight be added to the system, but apparently for political reasons, they never were.

The rivers are the Osgood, North Branch of the Saranac, North Branch of the Boquet, part of the Oswegatchie, Main Branch of the Grass, Pleasant Lake Stream, East Stony Creek, and the Branch.

In addition, the APA identified in the 1970s at least eight other waterways as potential study rivers: the Chubb, Little, Jessup, and Miami rivers, Hays Brook, Otter Creek, and Fall Stream.

WSR rivers receive an additional measure of protection from development—something that doesn’t always sit well with local politicians and landowners. This, no doubt, is the reason that no river has been added to the system since the late eighties.

The Adirondack Explorer brought attention to this issue in a series of articles five years ago. The articles inspired the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) to deploy a team of volunteers to paddle a number of rivers in the Park to ascertain whether they should be added to the system.

ADK Executive Director Neil Woodworth told me he hasn’t given up on the WSR initiative. As a matter of fact, the club has drafted a bill to declare the Chubb—a lovely stream that winds through the High Peaks Wilderness—a Wild river. This is the most protective designation.

Yet Woodworth said this isn’t the right time to introduce the legislation, not with environmentalists fighting to restore cash to the Environmental Protection Fund and waging other battles as well. “The bill is certainly important, but we have other issues and other priorities right now,” he said.

Although WSR provides some protection against development, critics say the restrictions need to be strengthened.

Consider the Chubb. The proposed Wild stretch passes through one parcel of private land where there used to be a small hunting cabin. Several years ago, the cabin was replaced by a large house. Even if the Chubb had been in the system, that would not have prevented the construction of the house. APA regulations allow landowners to replace an existing structure with another. The new structure can be bigger, taller, and more obtrusive, as long as it’s not closer to the water.

As of today, all or parts of fifty-one rivers in the Park—totaling more than 1,200 miles—belong to the system. It looks like we’ll have to wait till next year, or longer, to see if the Chubb becomes the fifty-second.

Photo by Phil Brown: a paddler on the Osgood River.



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