The state Department of Environmental Conservation’s proposal to remove fire towers from St. Regis and Hurricane Mountains raises some difficult philosophical questions, starting with: what is wilderness?
In calling for the towers’ removal, DEC relies on the definition in the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, which is taken from the federal Wilderness Act: “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man—where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” » Continue Reading.
At 4,340 feet high, Allen is the state’s 26th tallest peak (this is a view of Marcy and Haystack from the top). Its summit is wooded, though thin enough to afford a number of tantalizing views, especially in winter. But its reputation has been formed not by its height or its aesthetic qualities, but by its remoteness: it’s considered one of the hardest of the 46 High Peaks of the Adirondacks to reach. To get there, you have to follow a trail for about five miles to Twin Brook, site of a former lean-to, from a parking lot near Upper Works. From there, you follow a herd path marked by occasional ribbons and homemade markers through the woods and up a steep slide to the top. By my reckoning, the round-trip distance is around 18 miles.
Allen appealed to me on this day because I had just read on the web site Views from the Top (a great place to learn about trail conditions) that a large group of peak-baggers had blazed a trail through deep snow to the summit, which would make things easier for me.
I could follow their route on cross-country skis for at least six miles, then bareboot the trail — now as firm as concrete — to the base of the slide without fear of postholing, and then slap on snowshoes for the final, steep ascent to the top. Which is what I did, making the summit after 5 1/2 hours of moderate exercise (and some huffing and puffing toward the end).
When I got to the top — this was the first “trailless” high peak I’ve climbed in many years — I saw the wooden sign that said “Allen.” And that got me thinking.
For decades, the summits of these trailless peaks (that is, no official trail, though most have herdpaths) were marked by metal canisters, eventually replaced by plastic ones. These canisters contained notebooks, which peak-baggers would sign. It was always fun to read the observations of those who passed before you, and add your own to the mix.
Then, nine years ago, the state demanded their removal. Canisters, the bureaucrats said, were a non-conforming structure. But a wooden sign was OK. The decision outraged dozens of hikers at the time, but the canisters were eventually removed.
So there I was on this beautiful day on this beautiful summit, contemplating the logic of this declaration. I had just traversed the woods, following the snowshoe prints of a dozen hikers, crossing two man-made bridges, along snow-covered dirt roads and trails cleared by man, following trail markers nailed to trees by man, past wooden signs pointing the way, up a route made by thousands of hikers over many decades, to a summit, where a wooden sign told me I had reached the top.
And according to the state, this was a wilderness experience because a canister had been removed.
Looking back a decade, it all seems rather silly. The notebook would have been fun for me to read — although, given the distance I had to traverse to get back to my car before sunset, I barely had time to eat lunch. But the summit was just as thrilling either way.
What can we learn from all this? Well, I’ve always found it silly to say what’s “conforming” and what isn’t in a wilderness. If we don’t want any signs of mankind in the woods, we should not have trails, bridges, markers or anything else.
But if we want to hike safely — and reach a remote site in a reasonable amount of time — we should accept the fact that wilderness can’t be entirely “pure.” We need trails and bridges, markers and arrows, so folks don’t get lost. And those who think such contrivances will ruin a wilderness experience? Go bushwhack something.
All I know is I would not have dared this hike if others had not stamped the route out for me. And I got back to my car by sunset, too. Where I remembered to sign the trailhead register before leaving.
The Adirondack Park Agency has scheduled five public hearings to hear comments on proposals to classify or reclassify about 31,500 acres. The acreage in question is located in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Lewis, Oneida, St. Lawrence, and Warren counties. Included in the proposals is the 17,000 acre Chazy Highlands tract, located in the towns of Ellenberg, Dannemora and Saranac, in Clinton County, which is being recommended for Wild Forest classification. The Tahawus Tract, which includes Henderson Lake in the Town of Newcomb, is also being proposed for addition to the High Peaks Wilderness Area. An inter-active map and detailed descriptions of the proposed classifications are available from the Adirondack Park Agency’s website at http://www.apa.state.ny.us/
The Public hearings will take place at the following locations and dates:
January 25, 2010, 7:00 pm
Newcomb Fire Hall 5635 Route 28N Newcomb, NY
January 27, 2010, 7:00 pm
Park Avenue Building 183 Park Ave Old Forge, NY
January 28, 2010, 7:00 pm
Saranac Town Hall, 3662 Route 3 Saranac, NY
February 2, 2010, 7:00 pm
St. Lawrence County Human Services Center 80 SH 310 Canton, NY
February 5, 2010, 1:00 pm
NYDEC, 625 Broadway Albany, NY
The public is encouraged to attend the hearings and provide comment. The Agency will also accept written comments regarding the classification proposals until March 19, 2010.
Written comments should be submitted to:
Richard E. Weber PO Box 99, Ray Brook, NY 12977
Fax to (518)891-3938 E-mail [email protected]
Photo: Location map for State lands under consideration. Courtesy the APA.
The Adirondack Council has announced that is has filed a lawsuit in the New York State Supreme Court in Albany against the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) over their plan to site snowmobile trails in wild areas.
Last fall the Adirondack Council asked the APA to reject DEC’s proposed snowmobile trail plan saying that it was an attempt to keep wide snowmobile trails deep inside the Forest Preserve rather than move them toward the edge of public lands, closer to existing travel corridors. » Continue Reading.
It’s safe to say Bob Marshall had left a lasting impression and significant legacy by the time of his death at the age of 38. Although he served only briefly in government—in the 1930s he was chief of forestry in the Bureau of Indian Affairs and then head of recreation management in the Forest Service—his ideas about wilderness preservation have had a lasting impact on wild places across the nation. Best known as the founder of the Wilderness Society, Marshall, with his brother George (and their guide Herb Clark) were the first Adirondack 46ers. The book Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, edited by the Adirondack Almanack contributor and Adirondack Explorer editor Phil Brown, presents a variety of Marshall’s writings related to the region. Bob Marshall’s father was Louis Marshall, considered a key player in the founding of the New York State Forest Ranger program and the State Ranger School in Wanakena. Bob Marshall grew up in New York City but spent youthful summers formulating his wilderness ethic in the Adirondacks. Although he was a prolific writer, only eleven of his articles or journals have been published, and so Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks in an important contribution to the history of the Marshalls, wilderness preservation, and the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.
A new book on Teddy Roosevelt by New York Times bestselling historian Douglas Brinkley is described by the publisher as “a sweeping historical narrative and eye-opening look at the pioneering environmental policies of President Theodore Roosevelt, avid bird-watcher, naturalist, and the founding father of America’s conservation movement.” For those interested in the Adirondack region, this new biography helps put TR’s Adirondack experiences into the lager context of wilderness protection and wildlife conservation history.
Brinkley draws on never-before-published materials for his look at the life of what he calls our “naturalist president.” Launching from conservation work as New York State Governor, TR set aside more than 230 million acres of American wild lands between 1901 and 1909, and helped popularize the conservation of wild places. Brinkley’s new book singles out the influential contributions of James Audubon, Charles Darwin, and John Muir in shaping Roosevelt’s view of the natural world. Some of the most interesting parts of the book relate to TR’s relationship with Dr. C. Hart Merriam, who reviewed the future president’s The Summer Birds of the Adirondacks in 1877; Merriam’s own The Mammals of the Adirondacks Region of Northeastern New York, published in 1884, was duly praised by TR.
Merriam and Roosevelt later worked successfully to reverse the declining Adirondack deer population (they brought whitetail from Maine), and to outlaw jack-lighting and hunting deer with dogs and so helped establish the principles of wildlife management by New York State.
During his political stepping-stone term as 33rd Governor of New York (1899-1900) TR made the forests of the state a focus of his policies. He pushed against “the depredations of man,” the recurrent forest fires, and worked to strengthen fish and game laws. Roosevelt provided stewardship of the state’s forests and the Adirondack Park in particular, that led to the most progressive conservation and wilderness protection laws in the country.
TR also worked to replace political hacks on the New York Fisheries, Game, and Forest Commission (forerunner of the DEC), according to Brinkley, and replaced them with highly trained “independent-minded biologists, zoologists, entomologists, foresters, sportsman hunters, algae specialists, trail guides, botanists, and activists for clean rivers.” To help pay the bill he pushed for higher taxes on corporations while also pursuing a progressive politics – what Brinkley calls “an activist reformist agenda.”
The book ranges with Roosevelt to Yellowstone, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Dakota Territory, and the Big Horn Mountains. It does capture Roosevelt’s time in the Adirondacks, but its’ strength is in putting that time into the larger context of Roosevelt’s life as a wilderness conservationist. For example, TR’s opposition to the Utica Electric Light Company’s Adirondack incursions is only mentioned in passing, though Brinkley’s treatment of the relationship between Gifford Pinchot and TR is more developed. An index entry – “Adirondack National Park” – is lightly misused bringing into concern how much Brinkley really appreciates the impact of Roosevelt’s Adirondack experiences (both in-country and in Albany) on his wilderness ethic.
All in all, however, Wilderness Warrior is a well written collection of the strands of Roosevelt’s conservationist ideas, woven into a readable narrative. Considering TR’s role in so many disciplines related to our forests, that’s no mean feat.
All three of Governor David Paterson’s representatives on the Adirondack Park Agency board have reversed votes made in September and opposed designation of the waters of Lows Lake as Wilderness, Primitive, or Canoe. By a 6-4 vote the APA had added most of the waters and bed of Lows Lake to the Five Ponds Wilderness in September. The rest of the lake was classified as Primitive, which would have prohibited motorized use. It was later learned that the tenure of one of the APA commissioners had expired and the vote needed to be retaken – that vote occurred today and ended in a 7-4 reversal of the previous decision. » Continue Reading.
The APA voted this week to classify Lows Lake as Wilderness. You can read more of the Almanack‘s coverage of Lows Lake here, and the Adirondack Daily Enterprise‘s report here, but the following is a press release issued today by the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK):
The Adirondack Park Agency’s landmark decision today to classify Lows Lake as Wilderness will provide added protection to two important wilderness canoe routes. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) has opened the public comment period and will conduct three public hearings on its proposals to classify and reclassify 12,545 acres of state lands and water of the Five Ponds Wilderness Area, Lows Lake Primitive Area, Hitchens Pond Primitive Area, Round Lake Wilderness Area Lows Lake, Hitchens Pond and the Bog River. These areas are located in the northwest part of the Adirondack Park in Hamilton and St. Lawrence Counties. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack Park Agency has announced the release of its 2009 Adirondack Park Official Map. The Map shows the state and private land use plans for the Adirondack Park. This update, the first since 2003, includes recent State land acquisitions and the overall framework for protection of the Adirondack Park’s public and private land resources. The 2009 edition of the Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan Map is available online in a new flash viewer at the APA website at http://www.apa.state.ny.us/gis/index.html. For more information about the Land Use Plan Map contact the APA at 518-891-4050.
Under the State Land Master Plan all state land is classified as one of the following categories: Wilderness, Primitive, Canoe, Wild Forest, Intensive Use, Historic and State Administrative. This plan was developed in cooperation with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and approved by the Governor. The actual management of the Forest Preserve is carried out by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. » Continue Reading.
The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Adirondack Program will be hosting a public gathering in Saranac Lake highlighting recent work. The event will take place Sunday, April 19, 2009 from 4pm to 6pm at the Saranac Laboratory’s John Black Room in Saranac Lake. Program director Zoë Smith will give a brief presentation beginning at 4:30 pm about the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and how the Adirondack Program bridges scientific research and community outreach to achieve wildlife conservation. Afterward, guests will have the opportunity to ask the WCS’s staff experts about Adirondack wildlife and conservation. The event is free and open to the public; refreshments will be served. The Saranac Laboratory is located at 89 Church Street, just around the corner from the Hotel Saranac in downtown Saranac Lake, New York. For more information call (518) 891-8872 or e-mail ([email protected]).
Based in Saranac Lake, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Adirondack Program works to promote healthy human communities and wildlife conservation through a cooperative, information based approach to research, community involvement and outreach. The Wildlife Conservation Society works to save wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. WCS is currently running more than 500 wildlife conservation projects in 60 countries worldwide that work together to change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony.
I received this week from John Sheehan, Director of Communications for The Adirondack Council, the following interesting history and analysis of the recent Nature Conservancy sale and what it means to the history of logging in the backcountry. I’m reprinting it here in its entirety for the information of Adirondack Almanack readers:
When the ATP Group, a private investment company that handles pension funds for the Danish government, made its first major investment in the United States Monday, its purchase of 92,000 acres of commercial forestlands from The Nature Conservancy brought to an end the era of the industrial ownership of the Adirondack Park’s vast, private backcountry. » Continue Reading.
A press release from Neil Woodworth, Executive Director of the Adirondack Mountain Club:
The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) is still reviewing the Department of Environmental Conservation’s proposed amendment to the Bog River Unit Management Plan to allow floatplane use on Lows Lake through 2012. The proposal does contain some positive elements, including a plan to regulate the western part of the lake as Wilderness. But ADK is deeply concerned about the length of this extension in light of the fact this is a Wilderness lake that should have been closed to motorized use years ago. » Continue Reading.
Dubbed “The largest conservation and financial transaction in the history of The Nature Conservancy in New York,” the recent purchase of former Finch and Pruyn wild lands in the heart of the Adirondacks includes more than 80 mountains and over 250 miles of rivers and shorelines (70 lakes and ponds) in the towns of Newcomb, Indian Lake, North Hudson, Minerva, and Long Lake. It also includes the Essex Chain lakes, the Upper (Upper) Hudson Gorge, OK-Slip Falls (itself a natural wonder), the Opalescent River headwaters, and the Boreas Ponds.
In terms of flora and fauna the area includes rare ferns and mosses growing around even rarer limestone outcroppings and includes 95 significant plant species (37 of which are rare in New York and 30 rare or uncommon in the Adirondacks). The area is also home to the Bicknell’s Thrush and the Scarlet Tanager – the purchase was important enough to make to Adirondack Almanack’s list of Seven Natural Wonders. » Continue Reading.
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