A two-year effort by environmentalists resulted in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recently protecting state lands through specific classifications and expanding the High Peaks Wilderness Area.
On March 20, Mr. Cuomo approved the Adirondack Park Agency’s recommended classifications for the Boreas Pond tract’s 20,543 acres. The new classifications recognize 11,412 acres of wilderness, 9,118 acres of wild forest, 11 acres of primitive and 2 acres of state administrative lands. Motor vehicles are prohibited from operating on wilderness lands, so this property is now protected.
“This classification package brings 25,000 acres of new wilderness to the Adirondacks at a time when overcrowding is harming the ecology of the park’s most fragile lands. So the expansion is very welcome,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway. According to a news release, “The state’s compromise package balances the desires expressed by wilderness advocates with those of local officials who wanted greater motorized access to new forest preserve lands.”
In the summer of 2012, the state began buying from the Nature Conservancy land that once belonged to the former Finch-Pruyn paper company: Essex Chain of Lakes/Hudson River, OK Slip Falls and Indian River tract; Thousand Acre Swamp, Benson Road and other noncontiguous tracts; and the MacIntyre East and West tracts. The state also has “traded parcels to acquire the 1,200-acre Casey Brook tract and purchased conservation easements on 92,000 acres of Finch lands that the conservancy sold to a private timber investor,” according to information from the Adirondack Council.
The council and Adirondack Mountain Club led a coalition of conservation groups called BeWildNY to expand the High Peaks Wilderness Area and protect land within the Boreas Pond tract. Representatives of the organization have been negotiating with officials in the towns of Newcomb and North Hudson, both in Essex County, over the use of the Boreas Ponds area.
The groups of BeWildNY wanted to ensure that motorized vehicles were barred from as much land as possible. Officials, on the other hand, wanted to see vehicle access all the way to the ponds, retention of the cabin on the shore of the main pond and bicycle access all the way around them — none of which is permitted in a designated wilderness area.
People representing different constituents cooperated with each other to devise a plan that provided something for everyone. They compromised and kept this issue from going to court, which is an accomplishment in itself.
They all worked together with an eye toward the future. That reflects well on their commitment to make sure everyone’s voices were heard and come up with a proposal that met their needs.
The governor’s action to classify new state lands expanded the High Peaks Wilderness Area to nearly 275,000 acres.
“The expansion would make the High Peaks Wilderness Area the fourth largest east of the Mississippi River, behind only the Boundary Waters Canoe Area of Minnesota (1.09 million acres) and the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Wilderness (1.3 million acres) in Florida’s Everglades National Park,” according to the Adirondack Council’s news release. “The new wilderness would be slightly larger than Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and twice the size of Zion National Park in Utah.”
This development is a huge win for everyone involved. We commend all those who crafted this plan and negotiated with others to make it happen. New Yorkers will be able to enjoy these natural wonders for generations to come.