Measuring & Protecting Remoteness

Many of us who have explored the wilderness areas of the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park know that the ability to experience remoteness is a rare privilege in New York State. And yet remote areas do exist! As if by historical accident, there are several places within the Adirondack Forest Preserve where it is possible to find oneself more than three miles from the nearest road or snowmobile trail.

These places need to be recognized and protected!

In April 2023, our organization submitted a proposal asking the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) to develop a formal policy to measure and protect remoteness in the Forest Preserve. This is a core part of AWA’s mission and has been part of every major initiative we have undertaken since our founding. During the debate over classification of the Boreas Ponds Tract, AWA was alone among the major environmental groups in calling for the closure of Gulf Brook Road to motorized traffic in order to protect one of the most remote areas of the Park.

Now we are calling upon the APA to better protect remoteness throughout the Adirondacks.

Remoteness is inarguably a rare resource in the Northeastern U.S. One common definition used by the National Forest Service and others is that to be considered “remote,” a location must be at least three miles from the nearest road, snowmobile trail, or motorized body of water. Under that definition, barely 5% of the Adirondack Park is remote—and that doesn’t even factor in administrative roads and disturbance zones.

One of the challenges in protecting remoteness is the lack of a policy to define and measure it. It’s hard to protect something if one can’t measure it or even agree what it is.

The Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP) refers to remoteness multiple times and identifies it as one of the criteria that must be used in land classification. However, the SLMP does not define remoteness, nor does it provide guidance on how to measure it.

That’s why a major campaign for AWA in 2023 (and beyond!) will be to advocate for a formal policy which does both those things. This kind of regional policy making is the responsibility of the APA, and while previously agency staff has done work to quantify and map remoteness, little additional progress has been made to utilize this insight.

That needs to change, and we’ll be calling upon your support throughout the year to help us urge the APA to address remoteness with a robust policy.

AWA’s proposal on remoteness is related to our interest in the current debate over the APA’s interpretation of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP) Wild Forest basic guideline No. 4, the so-called “No Material Increase (NMI)” clause. The requirement to limit road mileage in the SLMP was obviously an intention to preserve remoteness, but the current debate over road mileage mostly ignores the fact that while mileage remains important, it is not always an adequate measure of remoteness, since distance from a road sometimes depends upon the road’s location much more than its length.

A strong policy on remoteness will therefore take spatial location of motorized roads, trails, and lakes into consideration, a point we made in our comments.

As always, we need your support to achieve the goal of a better protected, more remote Adirondack Park. We welcome feedback on our proposal and look forward to engaging you in our campaign to put remoteness front and center in Adirondack preservation.

Read Our Proposal