Environmental Groups Concerned Over Boreas Ponds Interim Access Plan

Sep 15, 2016

Earlier this year New York State finalized the purchase of the 20,758-acre Boreas Ponds Tract in the Adirondacks, completing a 69,000-acre acquisition of former Finch Pruyn lands from the Nature Conservancy.  The Department of Environmental Conservation has issued an interim access plan.  But environmental groups are concerned that the plan could compromise eventual classification of the land.

The Interim Access Plan for the Boreas Ponds Tract allows just over 3 miles of motor vehicle access on the Gulf Brook Road; opens over 6 miles of roads to bicycling from Blue Ridge Road to the Boreas Ponds Dam; and allows horse and horse drawn wagons on about 25 miles of seven roadways.  Paddlers will have access to Boreas Pond and other waterways if they carry in their canoes. All of the lands are open to camping if the campsites are more than 150 feet from any roadway or body of water.  The plan also outlines public parking areas.

Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve Managing Partner David Gibson has written to DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos expressing concerns about the interim plan.  Gibson says the agency should not be setting a pattern for use before the land is classified.   “It’s part of our Forest Preserve, but is not yet classified in terms of the state land classification process outlined in the State Land Master Plan. The commissioner of DEC has said this will be a conservative plan that does not foreclose any options for future classification. But when you read the plan you find out that there is no natural resource analysis at all to guide this interim period of maybe many months before there's a classification. And the State Land Master Plan says that natural resource management should come first and recreational use, while important, should come as a second priority.  This interim plan places recreation as the first priority and establishes a pattern of use that is difficult to pull back from.”

Adirondack Wild is a member of BeWild, a coalition of environmental groups that wants the tract classified wilderness.  The Adirondack Council, another member of BeWild, agrees with Gibson’s concerns over the interim plan. Executive Director Willie Janeway notes that their fundamental concern is that the interim plan does not prejudice the ultimate classification of the tract.   “I have not seen significant daylight between the Adirondack Wild and the Adirondack Council concerns with regard to the interim plan for Boreas. That the plan should in no way prejudice or bias future management decisions, that there should be transparency with regards to the science that underpins the decisions they made and people should have an opportunity to comment on that. That there's mountain biking the last mile right to the edge of Boreas Ponds versus stopping it a mile further back. We're concerned about that. Some of the horse use. But the bigger focus really is on the classification decision that is pending.”

The towns surrounding the former Finch Pruyn lands have joined together as the Upper Hudson Recreation Hub to more effectively argue their concerns.  Ron Moore is Supervisor of the Town of North Hudson, which abuts the Boreas Ponds tract.  He notes that the towns have already crafted a plan for final classification that would allow for Wild Forest in the southern section of the tract and Wilderness elsewhere.  Moore says the interim plan does not compromise its potential classification.    “The whole purpose as the governor has stated and the DEC commissioners, both Joe Martens and Basil Seggos, have supported increased tourism through the purchase of these lands and increased recreational opportunities that would result in increased economic benefit. And we feel that this plan supports that mission and it maintains a balanced approach. If this is all wilderness essentially that's going to eliminate the possibility of 90 percent of the people probably that would ever access this property.”