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Classifications For New Adirondack Lands Approved By Governor

Essex Chain Lakes Tract sign
WAMC/Pat Bradley

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has approved the land classifications recommended by the Adirondack Park Agency for 42,000 acres of land acquired by the state in 2012.

In December, the Adirondack Park Agency approved the “preferred alternative” classification for properties the state obtained from the Nature Conservancy. Wilderness and Primitive designations will protect the Essex Chain of Lakes and the Hudson River Gorge and prohibit motorized access.  A Wild Forest designation between the two areas creates a corridor allowing mountain biking and snowmobile use.

The Adirondack Council supports the new land plan. Spokesman John Sheehan says the Essex Chain of Lakes is one of the largest motor-free areas that has been added to the park.  “This is one of the most sensitive collections of wetlands and water bodies to ever enter the Forest Preserve. We’re very pleased to see that they will remain motor-free. And the 23,000 acre area next to this that contains the Hudson Gorge and Okay Slip falls is very important to the overall recreation plan for this area of the Park.”

Protect The Adirondacks Executive Director Peter Bauer is pleased that more than 15 miles along the Hudson River has been protected and classified as wilderness. But he is disappointed that motorized access will be allowed in the new primitive area corridor.  “We looked at the lands and this opportunity to create, through the Hudson River area and the Essex Chain area,  a new 38,000 acre wilderness. So when you look at what we could have done on the Essex Chain and the Hudson River, it’s a  missed opportunity.”

The Adirondack Council’s John Sheehan says his group also wanted a larger wilderness area, but communities surrounding the lands need motorized access to be economically viable, and the classifications are a reasonable compromise .  “The only motorized traffic that would be allowed would be snowmobiles during one season of the year. The remainder of the time this would be a seamless 33,000 acre motor-free zone. So we think that the plan protects the resource very well.”

There are five communities in the Adirondack Park bordering the newly classified lands: Long Lake, Minerva, Indian Lake, Newcomb and North Hudson. Town of Long Lake Supervisor Clark Seaman says they identified the connector trail as critical and obtained the Primitive Area corridor allowing snowmobiling.  “In order to connect the five communities that surround this parcel, a connector trail was necessary. We hope to open the lands so that the snowmobilers take advantage of these new trails and ultimately stop in the various communities for gas and for refreshments and whatever it is that they need. It all comes down to the local economy and what we can do to improve that.”

The 42,000 acres that have now been added to the Adirondack Park are part of a land deal brokered between the state and the Nature Conservancy to purchase 69,000 acres of former Finch Pruyn land over five years. When the acquisition is complete, it will be the largest addition to the state Forest Preserve in over 100 years.

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