So here we are in the final days of the public comment period for the 2016-17 Adirondack Park Land Classification Package. There are dozens of parcels being considered for classification or reclassification, but the one that everyone will be talking about is the 20,758-acre Boreas Ponds Tract.
The towns of North Hudson and Newcomb have hired a PR firm to help promote their proposal to keep the ponds opened to motor vehicle access. Other green groups, representing an older constituency, want Wilderness only if they are allowed to drive to within a mile of the destination. The APA has issued only four alternate maps for the public to review, all of which contemplate road access all the way to the dam at Boreas Ponds. What could be a first-class cross-country ski trail will more likely be sacrificed to snowmobilers.
Adirondack Wilderness Advocates is not the only group calling for a strong Wilderness classification, but we might be the most vocal. We are not a board-driven organization operating on grant money and membership dues. We are private citizens who value our Wilderness Areas, visit them often, and derive strength and perspective from our interactions with these wild landscapes.
Wilderness is not just about scenery. It is about reconnecting with humanity’s primeval past, about parking your car and venturing into a place that humbles us with its vast scale, inspires us to seek new challenges, awes us with its sensuous beauty. In a world of artificiality, humans crave the genuine, the natural, because wilderness is where our species began. Many of us will always heed the call to return.
There have been many new state land purchases in the last twenty years, and many of these have become fine additions to the Wilderness Areas of the Adirondack Park. But Boreas Ponds is different because of the sheer size of the tract, and the fact that it is crossed by no public highways. Although it was once bisected by a powerline, that feature has long since been removed. The northern boundary backs up to the High Peaks, making portions of this property as remote as anyplace in New York—or any eastern state, for that matter. Think West Canada Lake. Think Cold River. That’s what Boreas Ponds could be.
But not if the APA has its way. Americans were already asked to pick between two unpopular options in voting booths this month. Now the APA has presented the public four classification proposals for the Boreas Ponds Tract that range from bad to unacceptable. All four do include some token amount of Wilderness, but none imagine the place as a wild landscape, solitary and secluded.
Instead, the agency has demonstrated more concern for the dams at Boreas Ponds and LaBier Flow than it has for protecting a rare and wild resource. These dams are being used as the pretext for retaining Gulf Brook Road all the way into the heart of the property—not to mention the two interior gravel pits the state plans to use for maintaining the road. Here we have the largest, wildest, remotest new acquisition we may ever see—a place that the State Land Master Plan would clearly define as Wilderness. And yet our public officials are preoccupied with roads, gravel pits, and dams!
So now the moment has come to speak up and make our voices heard. Adirondack Wilderness Advocates will be at each of the hearings, and we will be making the case for a wild Boreas to the best of our ability. But our message will resonate more strongly if it is reflected in the statements of individuals like yourself!
There is a catch, however, because the outcome we would like to see is not one of the current four options being reviewed by APA. Therefore to be effective, our comments—whether we speak up at one of the hearings or send a written comment—must be carefully worded.
When you do speak or send an email, please consider the following main points:
- The four existing alternatives presented by APA are unacceptable because all allow road access to Boreas Ponds, and none satisfy the requirements of the State Land Master Plan to consider classifying the majority of the Boreas Ponds Tract as Wilderness.
- By allowing motor vehicle and snowmobile use of Gulf Brook Road, the agency will be actively eliminating one of the intrinsic Wilderness values currently found at the Boreas Ponds Tract: its sense of remoteness. Motor vehicle use will also threaten the protection of the natural resources on the tract, principally the large value 1 wetland that surrounds the ponds.
- The State Land Master Plan clearly identifies Wilderness as our main priority, not the maintenance of dams, roads, and gravel pits.
- Therefore APA must consider additional alternatives that include not only an expanded Wilderness boundary, but also the maintenance of Gulf Brook Road and the dams at Boreas Ponds and LaBier Flow in accordance with Wilderness guidelines. This means that the roads should be treated as trails, and the dams should be treated no differently than other existing dams in Wilderness Areas throughout the Adirondack Park.
These are the main points that should be included in your comments, because they address the technical details of the APA’s proposals. These are the types of comments that might convince APA staff that there is broad public rejection of the current options, and a need to draft additional options in which Wilderness is the main priority.
If you are planning to speak at one of the hearings, we salute you for your bravery! Plan to arrive up to an hour before the scheduled start of the meeting, because people who intend to speak will probably be asked to add their name to a list. When you are called, you will have three minutes at the microphone. Be respectful, but also be enthusiastic! There is no shame in admitting that Wilderness experiences have been important to your life.
If you are planning to send a written comment, we suggest that you be clear and concise. Wilderness is a topic on which we are all passionate, and you probably have as much to say as we do! But to make sure your main points are being picked up by the people who will be combing through thousands of emails and letters, it will be best if they are summarized in bullet points near the beginning of your comments.
By all means, draw on your own experiences and add your perspective to balance out your oral or written comments, as this will help convey the message that this is a genuine, personal response and not merely a form letter.