In May, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an agreement completing the largest acquisition to the Adirondack Park in over 100 years. The purchase adds 69,000 acres of land to the forest preserve. This week the Adirondack Park Agency held its first public hearing on proposed land classifications for the parcel.
The classification package before the Adirondack Park Agency includes the 20,543-acre Boreas Pond tract. It includes a number of water bodies, wetlands and mountains. The state has offered four proposed classifications for the tract, which combine Wilderness and Wild Forest. A number of groups have submitted their own proposals for classification of the lands and had representatives at the first public hearing at the APA headquarters Wednesday in Ray Brook.
Adirondack Wilderness Advocates, which formed in May, has offered a proposal that would create the largest amount of wilderness with over 19,000 acres. Co-founder Brendan Wiltse says he and others feel the APA has presented a limited range of alternatives for classification. “Under the state Environmental Quality Review Act there should be a full range of reasonable alternatives considered and we don't feel that that's occurring at this point. And also the draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement really doesn't compare the impact of the various alternatives. So we have very little information to actually comment on. And those criticisms were levied against the A.P.A. by the folks that are advocating for all wilderness, advocating for wilderness around the ponds and just south and also from the folks that are advocating for more motorized use.”
The Adirondack Council is a member of the BeWildNY Coalition. Council Spokesman John Sheehan says their proposal would offer more than 13,000 acres of wilderness and 6,900 acres of wild forest. “It represents a lot of conversation with local government and with folks in the pure wilderness camp and tries to strike a balance between the two that protects Boreas Ponds and White Lily Pond and the very fragile habitat that exists around them. We think that this protects the ponds and the river from invasive species while at the same time providing reasonable access to the public.”
Protect the Adirondacks Executive Director Peter Bauer spoke at the hearing and says it was a good start with a large contingency of pro-wilderness advocates. “There are a variety of proposals out there, different wilderness proposals, but every proposal agrees that the entire shoreline and at least a mile or a mile and a half buffer south of the Boreas Pond should be classified as wilderness. And then there are different ideas out there for how big that total wilderness area should be but everybody is in agreement that Boreas Ponds needs to be 100 percent wilderness and a motorless area.”
While the wilderness advocates offer those options, the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages says the APA’s first alternative proposal, which maximizes Wild Forest, is the most reasonable. Immediate Past President Bill Farber: “The irony here is everybody has the same interest at the end of the day and that is to protect the Golden Goose. And that is the Forest Preserve. It’s the pond, it’s about protecting it. It's about protecting it invasives free. Everybody's on the same side. This is a unique opportunity because it's a man made impoundment of water that really has an extraordinary viewshed and has infrastructure that's in place that allows us to get people more proximate to the water without doing any environmental harm. Simply utilize what the state bought and paid for: the land, the infrastructure, the recreational opportunity.”
Public hearings will be held across the state through December 7th. Written comments will be accepted until December 30th.