Debate Continues Over Pending Boreas Lands Classification

Mar 14, 2017

The Adirondack Park Agency is reviewing classification options for the recently obtained Boreas Ponds tract in the central Adirondacks.  Many expected the agency’s board to consider final classification during its March meeting and then make a final decision in April. But the board did not discuss the Boreas Ponds classification, spurring further debate over use of the lands near the High Peaks of the Adirondacks.

The Boreas Ponds tract was purchased by New York state in 2016.  In the central Adirondacks, the 20,758 acres include the 320-acre Boreas Ponds, which are currently surrounded by Forest Preserve. The Adirondack Park Agency has not yet classified the lands.

During its February meeting, APA staff gave presentations on classification criteria, environmental and technical issues related to the land’s classification.  During the March board meeting APA Executive Director Terry Martino briefly mentioned continuing work to classify Boreas Ponds.   “Our staff is continuing to work to compile all the material that will be part of the package and to respond to the more than 11,000 public comments we received. As we continue our consultations with the department we look at finalizing the extensive material that we have before us.”

The APA has presented four alternatives, or classification options, for the tract.   The Adirondack Council prefers a wilderness classification that would restrict motorized access.  Some groups want it to include a non-motorized buffer of 7 miles but Council Executive Director Willie Janeway says a 1-mile buffer is acceptable.   “Make sure the Boreas Ponds and the Boreas River to the south get the gold standard of protection as wilderness and compliment that with some investments in local communities, that fits really well with the wilderness protection for the Boreas Ponds.”

The Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board supports the Wild Forest designation in Alternative 1. That option allows some motorized access while retaining an essentially wild character.   Executive Director Fred Monroe notes that there is already significant road infrastructure in the tract due to its past logging history.   “They were all designed and built for 50 ton log trucks and we think they’re well suited for bicycling and also for handicapped access. And the local governments believe that the best help for tourism would be if people can actually access that, which isn’t the case with the wilderness.”

The APA has been criticized for offering only four options for classification of the Boreas lands.  Both the Adirondack Council and the Local Government Review Board agree there ahould be more alternatives.  Willie Janeway says the APA’s plans are too similar.   “There were not true alternatives.  We would have expected a more complete wilderness protection versus some sort-of false partial wilderness plans. Even though we don’t support it we would’ve expected some more complete non-wilderness proposals to cover the full spectrum.  That’s how the process is supposed to work. There has been pretty uniform criticism of that process. But there’s an opportunity for the Park Agency as they take the next step to look at those different alternatives and then zero in on a plan that is supported by the science and the law and we expect them to do that.”

Fred Monroe says the alternatives were too limited.  “Specifically there should have been more options for the MacIntyre East and MacIntyre West properties which are very close to the Boreas Ponds property. All  of those were just one option, just wilderness. We think there should be a whole range of options.”

Other concerns raised as the classification of the Boreas Ponds tract is considered include whether dams in the Boreas Ponds tract are relevant to a wilderness classification.  Some groups have also pointed to what they see as inadequate mapping of old logging roads and believe more detail would reveal moldering bridges, washed out culverts and overgrown roads.

The Agency has said it would try to put out a plan for the Boreas Ponds this spring.